Here's a novel way to get city dwellers off the bottle - the bottled water, that is. Local water utility Eau de Paris has constructed a public fountain in the Reuilly Gardens that has chilled and sparkling water coming from multiple taps - and any time the park is open, the water is completely free. The new fountain is named "The Sparkling" (La fontaine Pétillante) and it is part of Eau de Paris' overall attempts to convince Parisians their normal tap water tastes great.
Apparently, the concept of free public water fountains that give out sparkling (carbonated) water isn't exactly new. The Sparkling is the first such fountain in France, but Italy was the originator of the idea, and fountains like this one are also seen in Milan, including at three IKEA stores.
The water authority TASM of Milan's municipalities started building what it calls "Houses of Water" - with sparkling, cold, and room temperature water from fountain taps - and now has 24 small local town councils participating. The water authority estimates that the water kiosks will divert 5.5 million water bottles from ending up in the landfill! That high number is due to the fact that only about a tenth of plastic bottles are being recycled.
Italians are apparently the largest consumers of bottled water in the world - in 2006 the consumption of bottled H2O was half a liter per person per day, and that figure has continued to rise. The water houses are a step back to a time when most citizens got their water for free at the town pump.
The concept is great, and I hope to see something like this in the U.S., where the number of public water fountains and "bubblers" seem to be going the same way as public phone booths. What would be really nice? To see a few of these free fizzy water fountains in public airports, where a captive audience is forced to buy overpriced bottled waters and sodas and the bubblers are few and far between.
Read some of the best posts on fountains and bottled water at TreeHugger:
London Restoring Water Fountains, Giving Citizens Free Drinking Water
New York Takes a Big Step Toward Banning Bottled Water
Collapsible Water Bottle Squishes to 30% of Original Size
NYC's Water-on-the-Go Program Celebrates Summer With Independence from Bottled Water