Cultivating informative and creative outreach, Drink More Tap is an ongoing campaign that bridges art with education, spreading awareness about the benefits of drinking Philly tap: it’s healthy, sustainable, and affordable.
And, with Hispanic Heritage Month running through October 15th, we’re especially proud to highlight Drink More Tap’s focus on building relationships with Philadelphia's Spanish-speaking communities!
“PWD has a track record of using unique communications tools to help send a message to our customers to make sure our initiatives are being understood and heard by the community,” says Maura Jarvis, Community Outreach Specialist with PWD. “Art is a nice interactive engagement tool that we like to use.”
During the summer, El Salvador-born artist Calo Rosa and our very own Water Woman were interviewed by PHL17 about the new public art at Cruz Rec, 6th and Master, and its sister mural at Penrose Rec Center, 12th Street and Susquehanna Avenue:
The sensational PHL17 segment was featured in a recent Water Environment Federation (WEF) spotlight, and Green Philly gave Drink More Tap a shoutout after it was highlighted in our 2019 Water Quality Report/2019 Informe sobre la calidad del agua potable.
Along with local headlines, Drink More Tap was recognized by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), an international nonprofit scientific and educational society comprised of over 4,300 water utilities:
In its Drink More Tap feature, AWWA cites the organization's survey gauging consumer opinions on tap water. Results revealed that “77 percent of Americans say their tap water is excellent or good,” but Black and Hispanic respondents reported a “lower level of satisfaction.”
Drink More Tap was inspired by our own annual customer survey research, which found similar disparities and indicated roughly 40 percent of Philadelphians drink bottled water at home instead of tap. According to survey results, respondents with the least amount of disposable income are spending the most on bottled water.
Going to the Source
The murals were designed by working closely with communities where bottled water consumption is most common.
Cruz Rec was selected for a mural because it serves as a hub of the Ludlow and Olde Kensington neighborhoods—home to a large population of Latino residents.
Groups like Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), a North Philly-based nonprofit, have worked alongside us from the start to ensure we're reaching the people most likely to distrust tap water quality and that we're asking the right questions.
"If the cleanliness of water isn’t the barrier, then what is making it difficult for us to drink our tap water and to save that money?" asks APM's Iliana Dominguez-Franco.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Drink More Tap project manager Tiffany Ledesma was not surprised to see survey results showing that water from the tap is looked upon more skeptically in Black, Hispanic, and immigrant communities.
“Even if customers are told it’s safe water, one’s upbringing, culture, and distrust of government and utilities comes into play, even at that very moment of thirst,” she says. "Where I grew up, we didn’t trust that the water coming out of the faucet was safe. Unfortunately, when you leave your home, that distrust follows you. I didn’t become a tap water convert until I moved to Philadelphia and became informed about the water quality in the city. I then felt confident, drinking it daily, and serving it to family and friends regularly. Tap in Philly is good!”
Ledesama and Rosa discussed Drink More Tap at Cruz in late 2019:
Having also grown up with unreliable water treatment in El Salvador, Rosa doesn't want Philadelphia residents to take 24/7 access to clean water for granted. That's one reason he feels Drink More Tap is an especially worthwhile endeavor.
“We want to make sure that we remember that we are a very important part of the natural process of water and what it does in our city,” says Rosa. “And by drinking tap water, the idea of this is we can collaborate in having a healthy city by consuming less bottled water and reducing waste...This is a good reason to celebrate. At least for my part, I feel like it’s a privilege to drink tap water, and this is a good way to celebrate it.”
For the creative forces behind Drink More Tap, it was key the mural reflected culture both inside and outside of Cruz Rec. Rosa wanted the work to beautify this slice of the neighborhood and unify the community with kaleidoscopic colors, striking shapes, and familiar faces: photos of residents—taken by Rosa—are woven into the design.
Much like a cool and refreshing source of water, the art is drawing people to the recreation centers and starting conversations.
"We can get a lot of people coming in and inquiring about what we have over here just because of the mural," says Cruz Rec Leader Alfredo Betancourt. "That will help us. I think it’s important...It gives the kids and the community something to look forward to as far being included."
During public meetings earlier this year, we presented information about Philly’s top-quality tap to the Cruz community. These conversations helped sketch ideas onto the mural canvas.
While residents expressed a wide range of opinions on local tap, those who partcipated in the mural design process say the effort deepened their understanding, opening their eyes to our city’s safe, accessible water.
“I trust the [water treatment and testing] system that was presented to me the last time we were here, and I’m comfortable with it,” says resident Minerva Velez. “I've never had an issue...I understand the concept of drinking water and the concept of having it available. I want to advocate that ‘Yes, it’s safe.’”
See more in-progress Cruz photos here: