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March 22, 2012

Searching for free drinking water? WeTap can help.

 

One obstacle to carrying our own water bottles can be the difficulty finding water fountains or other sources for refilling those bottles when we’re out in the world. Since today is World Water Day, I thought I would give you a rundown of some of the strategies I use, as well as tell you about an awesome new Android app.

WeTap Water Fountain Mapping App

WeTap is a project developed by Evelyn Wendell, one of the inspiring activists profiled in my upcoming book, in conjunction with the Pacific Institute. One of the project’s goals is to create a database of the world’s water fountains, including their locations and operating conditions, and to provide the information to the public and relevant decision makers. To that end, WeTap has just released the beta version of a brand new Android app that uses Google maps and GPS technology to allow users to search for nearby water fountains and also–and perhaps most importantly–add water fountains to the database.

The app is super easy to use.  To simply search for nearby fountains, you can either use the “Track GPS position” feature to zoom in on your location, or search for a particular address.

 

To add a new fountain, drag the map until the green dot is over the exact location of the fountain, and click “save.”

 

Next, you’ll get a screen allowing you to input a name for the location, notes about it, and the condition of the fountain.

Once the fountain is saved, you should be able to upload a photo, if you wish.  Unfortunately, the photo upload feature is not working for me on my phone.  Perhaps this is one of those beta wrinkles that must be worked out.

What I love about this app is that anyone with an Android phone can use it no matter where they are in the world.  As long as you can find the location on a Google map, you can map and find drinking fountains.  WeTap is only in the first stages of this project and will be working on developing the ability to add fountains via the WeTap website.  They’d also love to develop an iPhone app.  Do you know a developer who’d like to help out this non-profit project?  Please tell the folks at WeTap!

Our participation in this project is very important… not only to help individuals find water fountains but also to let city officials know exactly where all the water fountains are and whether they do or do not work.  We can help play a part in supporting and upgrading our public water infrastructure instead of resorting to bottled water!

Free Soda Fountain Water

Another strategy I use to fill my bottle for free is to use the free water provided at most self-serve soda fountains.  Some fountains have a separate dispenser for water.

 

Other fountains have a little tab attached to one of the other beverages that you push to get plain water without flavoring.  Usually still water will come out of a dispenser for iced tea or other non-carbonated beverage, as Hawaiian blogger Kay discovered at Costco one day.  She was so excited to learn she could get plain water from the soda fountain that she wrote a whole blog post about it and included this helpful image:

When filling my bottle from a self-serve soda fountain, I generally do not ask permission to do it. The store doesn’t charge for water anyway, so I just march right up and start filling. As I see it, I’m relieving the store employees from having to deliberate about whether or not they can allow me to fill my own container. So far, I have not had anyone stop me or even make a comment.

TapIt Water Restaurant Program

While it might be easy to fill up at a self-serve station, getting water from a full serve restaurant can be more challenging. The TapIt Water project encourages restaurants to pledge to refill anyone’s bottle for free, whether they are a customer or not, and is compiling a database of participating restaurants. You can use the mobile website to find water on the go or download the iPhone app.

What are other strategies you use to fill your bottle on the go?  Would you fill from a public restroom sink, for example?  Inquiring minds would like to know.

P.S. Here are some other green bloggers who have posted about water issues today.  Did you write a post for World Water Day?  Feel free to add it to the growing list at the bottom!



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32 comments
News From A Broad
News From A Broad

We shouldn't be drinking from plastic bottles at all. Thanks for this information. I'm going to add the app!

Mark Duncan
Mark Duncan

Well, having suffered once I am extra careful. For some reason, the organisms that flourish in warm water are far worse than food poisoning. It's another reason not to like bottled water—no mandated standards.

Mark Duncan
Mark Duncan

Wash those bottles often, and don't refill disposable bottles (shouldn't have them anyway, right?) Constantly refilling bottles without washing allows germs your lips pick up and transfer into the bottle to breed, multiply, thrive—especially in a nice moderate temperature. Between 40 and 140 degrees is livable for germs, and between 60 and 90 is paradise. A good wash and dry gets rid of the problem.

My Plastic-free Life
My Plastic-free Life

Good reminder, Mark Duncan. I admit I don't wash my travel mug as often as I should.

My Plastic-free Life
My Plastic-free Life

Hi Matter of Trust. Actually, I did include TapIt Water at the bottom of the post already. :-) I just wanted to focus more attention on the Android app this time around because it's brand new.

alvin
alvin

p.s. are theire any spring water fountains around any where in va or richmond

alvin
alvin

i remember ther used to be free spring drinking water all over richmond va what happend to them all i thougt water was suppost to be free for us all isnt their anything in this world left that man cant capitalize on anymore

Rebecca
Rebecca

Here in the UK I noticed a few weeks ago that Lush will let you fill up your water bottle in their shops.

Nicole
Nicole

The Starbucks idea is possibly a good one. When they give me water, it is from their sink tap and I wonder if it is flitered. I know the water into the coffee machine is but is the sink tap water filterd too? Also, there was a girl on Oprah a few years ago that did a science project on culturing ice from fountain machines in many restaurants and the water was full of more microbes than toliet water because they don't clean the machines often or well. So I don't know about that as a source for me. Also, I like the idea of buying less bottled water when travelling (at home it's not a problem) but the reverse osmosis water has the minerals stripped from it and taste horrible. I prefer mineral water and that is hard to find when travelling. Except Rome, which had natural mineral water springs all over the city and we filled out bottles so easily, I miss that. Earlier cultures built where there were natural spings and water was sacred. I think we need to go back to seeing water as sacred.

Jessica Wecker
Jessica Wecker

Re filling your water bottle at restroom taps -- I would if there was a sink anywhere big enough for me to get my bottle under the tap! :)

Jen
Jen

Yeah, I always fill my water bottle at soda fountains. Plus, I get ice. SCORE! I don't ask anybody (people would really ask? Grow some ovaries!).

Irina
Irina

I was so happy to see this post because I've had guilty feelings about water all week. I was in Romania these past few days and went through about 3 water bottles per day. At home, I have a Kleen Kanteen water bottle which I use all the time but it would have been useless here, since whether the water is safe or not is debatable. Regarding water tips, I live in Europe and it can sometimes be challenging to get tap water for free... or even worse, at all. Most staff is encouraged to point to their water bottle selection when you ask for your bottle to be refilled (in places with no self-serve drinking fountains at least.) One thing I've learned over the years is that even in the most uptight restaurants, it is your right to have tap water if you are taking medication. (I don't think this would be any different in North America) It's up to you whether you think this is okay or not but if anyone asks, I say I need to take a pill - then they don't really have a choice. My reasoning is that I'm doing something good and the employees needn't fear their bosses for being kind since I've provided them with a worthy excuse.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Betsy, yes! In fact, I start my book chapter on bottled water with a story about realizing I didn't need to have water by my side every second. Great point.

Betsy (Eco-novice)
Betsy (Eco-novice)

That is a very useful app. And I like the idea of filling up at a soda fountain. It's also good to keep in mind that you don't ALWAYS have to have water on hand. The only time we used bottled water (water in reusable bottles) as a kid was on very long family car trips -- more as a way to ration water so people didn't have to use the bathroom every 2 seconds than anything else. And on hikes. There was no bottle water industry that I was aware of back then (30 yrs ago) - or maybe my parents were too cheap to buy what was normally free. And I don't think we really noticed. I like having water on hand as much as the next person, but I think it's good to know we all survived before without constant access to water in a bottle.

Kirsten
Kirsten

Depending on where you live it's possible there is a Starbucks on every corner and they will fill your water bottle for free!

Reenie
Reenie

I love this, although I am picky about where I drink water. Scientists at the Environmental Working Group tested for hexevalent chromium in water and found it in many cities' water, even water that had been tested and found great to drink. If you don't test for a chemical, you can say its not been found in the water. You can look at EWG.org for results and cities whose water have it. Sources for this would include concrete making facilities, and any old st yle pressure treated wood. What I'd love to see is new water fountains being installed with reverse osmosis filtration systems. That would be really cool. I'd be willing to pay a small amount to have filtered water available at public locations.

Amy
Amy

Here are some of my favorite sites related to bottle water. You can watch the movie Tapped on Hulu for free http://www.hulu.com/watch/192680/tapped Here is the official Tapped movie site http://www.tappedthemovie.com/ They have short excerpts of the movie if you don't have time to watch the whole move. The Story of Bottle Water http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-bottled-water/ Take Back the Tap http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/take-back-the-tap/ EWG Bottled Water Research http://www.ewg.org/health/report/bottledwater--scorecard I LOVE my glass Lifefactory water bottle http://www.lifefactory.com/ Not exactly plastic free, but it has stayed with me longer than any metal bottle and is super easy to clean.

Marie
Marie

I have never ever bought a bottle of bottled water.I would outlaw them if I could. I think our habit of having to have a bottle of water everywhere we go shows that the marketing tricksters are at it(again). I have a water bottle and I take it if I'm going to be gone over a mealtime.Otherwise I can wait till I get home. The rule that you have to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day is not true,it'snot based on any studies.Probably those marketers up to more mischief

Lyndsey
Lyndsey

This morning I heard about some guys who`ve developed a similar app called Quench, although it`s just for Toronto right now. I thought it was brilliant that they included both water fountains and companies that have agreed to fill water bottles for free. I`m really glad to see they`re not the only ones who are doing this! It makes me so happy to know I can find tap water in almost any place I find myself.

Judy
Judy

Chris is right--our water is pretty darn safe overall. But even if it's not perfect, drinking tap water is safer than drinking bottled water with all the BPA and other toxins that leach out of the plastic into the water. I'd rather drink a few microbes from the tap!

Chris
Chris

I believe Jennifer is not well informed. Our tap water in America is some of the cleanest and safest in the world. And if you are trying to live "plastic free" or "freer" you cant use filters or bottled water. I have always drank? drunk? tap water here in USA, I could never see paying money for water that I already pay for at home. We have TAPIT here in Our Natons Capitol and I use it all the time for re-fills. We need to educate the Jennifers about our water supply in the USA, there is no reason to buy bottled or use filters, except in very unusual circumstances.

Jennifer
Jennifer

This is great for people who can't afford to get a big enough water bottle to last through their journey and/or can't get a water filtration system at home (but can oddly afford an iPhone, hmmm) but I wouldn't drink tap water/drinking fountain water if you paid me money. Also, although many restaurants filter their water, not all do. I know Chipotle and Starbucks do but beyond that I wouldn't take a risk without asking. Sadly, our water is too polluted. I love that you're avoiding plastics and I've preordered your book and will continue to phase out more and more but I think it's important to avoid other toxins as well and tap water is full of them.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Amy, except for the Hulu site (which is really goo to know about), your list looks like the list in my book chapter on bottled water!

milla van
milla van

@Chris  I suggest you go and check your city water content!!! 

milla van
milla van

@Jennifer Some  people have not checked the city report on the water!

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