Public water fountains are disappearing. Sports stadiums are being built without them. Public parks, schools, and universities are removing them or failing to maintain them. At the same time, bottled water sales are increasing – in part because of the disappearance and lack of confidence in public water and the growing ease of access to commercial bottled water. In 2010, Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, wrote Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water to explore the remarkable story of the explosive growth of bottled water and the growing challenge of maintaining access to safe and affordable tap water. Read More
Evelyn Wendel, a concerned mother and citizen of Los Angeles, coined the name and founded WeTap in 2008 to help reduce consumption of single-use plastic water bottles and increase appreciation and use of public drinking fountains. WeTap was introduced during the 2008 California Governor and First Lady Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference. Evelyn engaged UCLA’s Center for Embedded Network Sensing, and under the direction of Dr. Deborah Estrin, began to develop a way for residents to map public water fountains. Because of WeTap, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is now encouraging its customers to use local drinking fountains through the city.
The Pacific Institute came onto the WeTap project in 2011 to tackle this enormous challenge of expanding public awareness and support for drinking water fountains, through increasing and disseminating information on how to find public drinking fountains, encouraging people to trust and use water fountains and tap water, and increasing the number and quality of fountains in public spaces. WeTap encourages water agencies, cities, institutions, and developers to recognize and take care of the invaluable resource of free, accessible public drinking water fountains and to add new drinking fountains in public spaces.
WeTap continues to add partners from around the world working on similar or related efforts, including the Find-a-Fountain effort in the U.K. and related efforts in Canada and elsewhere, as well as technical and communications expertise, including other valuable early volunteer support from experts at Google. The response is massive and continues to grow! Before the WeTap app had been out a month, it was covered by more than a dozen media reports, and news stories continue. Enthusiastic interest poured in from the public, including universities looking to add water fountains, and innovative water fountain designers contacted us, interested to get involved.
With help from application developer Massimo Di Cosimo in Italy, the next phase of the WeTap app for Android was released in January 2012, where users can both find a fountain and upload a fountain location, and a version for iPhone is on the way. Stay tuned – and stay quenched – using public drinking fountains.