If you cut through City Hall's busy Courtyard on Wednesday, April 24, you'll be greeted by a pop-up watering hole that is bound to get people talking—and that's just the point of the new Philly Water Bar.
Pouring nothing but fresh, cold, and local tap water, the colorful lunchtime Philly Water Bar pop-up—open from noon to 1 p.m.—launches a campaign that will stretch through the summer and puts a spotlight on an incredible public asset many take for granted or simply don’t appreciate: Philadelphia’s top-quality drinking water.
Inspired by a similar project pioneered in Minneapolis, Philly Water Bar is offered by the Philadelphia Water Department, in part, as a response to customer surveys that revealed a large percentage of residents primarily drinking bottled water at home in many communities.
“Philly Water Bar takes tap water out of its typically unglamorous kitchen sink environment and brings this extremely sustainable, healthy and affordable drink into a fun, engaging space where conversations that address misperceptions can thrive,” says Deputy Water Department Commissioner Joanne Dahme. “Philly Water Bar lets everyone in on something that should never be a secret: tap water is sexy.”
Dahme says the effort is a fresh way to help people rethink stale notions of public drinking water that may have been passed down from older generations or just come from misunderstandings.
“Philadelphia actually delivers drinking water that’s treated to standards stricter than those required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and we’ve been doing that for nearly 25 years,” says Acting Water Department Commissioner Sarah Stevenson. “But the people we serve, some have heard confusing news reports. They get misleading marketing. Some come here as immigrants from places where water often truly isn’t safe. We want to talk to all of them and show them the facts: in Philadelphia, we can get great, safe water right at home for about a half a penny per gallon.”
Want to spread the love for #PhillyWaterBar?
Share a selfie with your refillable bottle or a glass with #PhillyWaterBar on Instagram or Twitter to have a chance to bar-tend + get free water bottles and swag! To participate on Facebook, tag @PhillyH2O in your photo and invite your friends!
Stevenson will be on hand to officially welcome the Philly Water Bar along with guest water bartender Michael Carroll—Deputy Managing Director for Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia.
Extensive survey results stretching over three years spurred the Water Department, which serves all residents in America’s poorest large city, to act. Information highlighted in City Council’s March 2019 Philly Water Bar and Tap Water Resolution details the issues Philadelphia faces:
- Only 21 percent of Philadelphians who have bachelor's degrees report drinking bottled water most often at home, but half of all Philadelphians with a high school diploma or less primarily drink bottled water at home.
- Just 18 percent of households making more than $150,000 per year drink bottled water most often at home, but more than half of households making less than $20,000 a year dedicate grocery money to stocking the fridge with bottled water at home.
“We learned that residents are buying bottled water for drinking at home at rates that call for us to reach out in a deeper way. We have a duty to make sure people know the facts,” says Tiffany Ledesma, manager of the Water Department’s Public Engagement team. “The challenge might seem daunting, but the good news is that generations of Philadelphians invested in—and continued to invest in—an amazing water system. And that means we already have a solution that can help, and it’s available in every home—safe, affordable, and delicious Philly tap water.”
No-Thirst Thursdays in the City Hall Courtyard
Philly Water Bar will appear at special events and returns to City Hall every Thursday through the summer, weather permitting, from noon to 1 p.m. We'll have compostable cups, but bar patrons are encouraged to bring their favorite reusable bottle.
Get updates: text PWD Events to 468311!
Ledesma joined Water Department staff at the U.S. Water Alliance 2018 One Water Summit to explore how to best use art and culture in connecting people to water resources. While there, she experienced the Minneapolis Water Bar and met with the concept’s originators. They left with the blessing of the nonprofit group, Water Bar & Public Studio, to bring the idea to the City of Woodery Love.
“Water Bar & Public Studio is happy to support the Philadelphia Water Department as they develop and launch the Philly Water Bar,” says Shanai Matteson, an artist who co-founded Water Bar. “We look forward to serving as a model to help increase water literacy and tap water consumption in cities across the country— and continued conversation with you all as you learn from this work!”
In addition to free pours of Philly’s finest, the pop-up bar will also provide information about our recently expanded water bill assistance programs and resources for customers concerned about water quality issues like lead pipes in home plumbing.