In 2019, humble tap water seemed to suddenly become a rising star.
Tap’s flooding of the zeitgeist came, in part, from a global outcry against the ever-growing tide of plastic litter filling our parks, streets, rivers, and oceans. As communities everywhere looked to eliminate plastic, places with good public drinking water like Philadelphia realized that few products seem more unnecessary than bottled water.
Then, there’s climate change.
Beyond reducing the litter we can see in our communities, more and more people are interested in cutting throw-away items like disposable water bottles from their routines because of the carbon footprint that comes with making, distributing and disposing of plastic.
With clean water pumped to every home, tap water in reusable bottles stands out as a great way to reduce the kind of pollution that's causing global warming.
Here at the Philadelphia Water Department, we have touted tap as a sustainable option for years, partnering with events like the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta to provide water and encourage refilling.
But in 2019, we ramped up our efforts to get more people drinking tap, and put more work into reaching people with concerns that go beyond sustainability. We did this in response to customer surveys showing that about 40 percent of Philadelphia residents drink bottled water at home.
And, while our top-quality water is an incredible bargain at just about a half a cent per gallon, residents who can least afford to spend money on single-use bottles are the most likely to do so.
From trust to uncertainty about quality to taste, there are many reasons people choose bottled water.
We realized we can do more to bust myths, provide resources about topics like lead pipes, link customers with our nationally recognized affordability programs, and inform people of these great facts:
- Our water is safe and clean, meeting or beating all state and federal standards.
- It's hundreds of times more affordable than bottled options.
- It’s a healthy, sugar-free drink that reduces waste and pollution.
That is why we launched the Philly Water Bar—a fun pop-up space where you can get a free drink of Philly tap and learn facts about our top-quality water—started new projects with Mural Arts that focus on drinking water, and supported the creation of the Drink Philly Tap Ambassadors program.
Here’s a look at some highlights around tap water from 2019:
Philly Water Bar
Following a debut at City Hall this spring that made big news, the Philly Water Bar poured cold refreshing tap at 30 events and engaged nearly 4,500 people. On top of weekly appearances in the City Hall Courtyard, we took the show on the road and poured water for events in areas where people are the most likely to drink bottled water at home.
“The Philly Water Bar is a vibrant pop-up that allows us to build trust with customers. Just like the best neighborhood bars, we’re all about building relationships," says Tiffany Ledesma, leader of the PWD outreach team and driving force behind the pop-up. "Only here, you’re sampling delicious locally sourced tap water and we’re sharing how affordable, safe and eco-friendly this alternative to bottled water is in our city. We’re lucky to have high quality water in Philly, and our Water Bar is a friendly spot to connect with people and hopefully convert some of the naysayers.”
Here are some favorite moments:
Philly Water Bar at City Hall
Water Bar Norris Square Pop-Up
Water Woman Busting Myths
Want to check out the Philly Water Bar in 2020?
Sign Up for PWD Event Updates!
Drink Philly Tap Ambassadors
Another project to bubble up in 2019 thanks to our research around drinking water habits was the Drink Philly Tap Ambassadors program.
We supported the launch of this program to empower Philadelphia residents with information and knowledge to choose drinking tap water over bottled water. The University of Pennsylvania's ImpactED, the Water Center at Penn, and the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center were our partners in the effort.
Over the course of the year, Drink Philly Tap recruited and trained 19 ambassadors from neighborhoods where many don't drink tap and collected an estimated 10,000 Drink Tap Pledges to date.
Ambassadors put in close to 500 hours of work and engaged +3,460 individuals on the topic of drinking tap water in 2019!
Here are some Tap Ambassador highlights:
Overbrook Night Market
Meeting Commissioner Hayman
Next up: We'll be looking at some of our 2019 infrastructure investments and strategic planning from 2019 so follow @PhillyH2O on social media and sign up for email/sms updates, or check back!