Last week at deLaB‘s Making LA conference, DnA’s Frances Anderton talked with Evelyn Wendel, founder of WeTap, a nonprofit that, said Anderton, that “in one simple idea harnesses public health, public space, conservation and pride in access to potable water.”
Wendel’s goal is to bring people closer to their public water sources, namely, water fountains — in public parks and schools — thereby reducing reliance on single-use plastic bottles and the consumption of sugary sodas that are readily available in vending machines on many school campuses. Mainly, however, she believes access to clean water is a civic asset denied to millions of people worldwide and one that we should honor when we are lucky enough to have it. And now she has released an App to help the cause.
Wendel started WeTap five years ago when, as a “mom,” she became concerned by the lack of public water in schools. Since then she has visited schools and around 50 parks in Los Angeles, tracking the availability of drinking fountains and found many to be out of order or poorly maintained and unappealing — deficiencies that contribute to the “eeew factor” that already dampens many people’s desire to drink from public fountains.
While Wendel’s campaign might seem like a no-brainer, in fact widespread fears of drinking municipal water include the belief the water and/or the pipes are toxic, concern that germs will be passed from one drinker to another, and a distaste for LA’s water.
Wendel argues that increased access combined with improved maintenance and design of fountains as well as the introduction of refill stations can stoke renewed enthusiasm toward civic water.
To that end she has been busy tapping (excuse pun) civic leaders to coalesce around the creation of a Drinking Fountain Program and on May 7th of next year there will be a Tap Water Appreciation Day.
And just this week, WeTap has released a free iPhone and Android App, WeTap Drinking Fountain Finder, on which people can locate a nearby drinking fountain in the US, Europe and many other countries. Not only does the finder pinpoint nearby drinking fountains, but it also informs users if a given fountain is functioning, if it includes access for pets and a refillable water bottle station.
It also invites user participation. If a user spots a water fountain that’s not listed in the app, there’s a crowdsourcing function that makes it easy to add a fountain, its information and a photo to the map. Download your App for free now.
The above screenshot shows what the app looks like and tells the user that a water fountain near Ocean and San Vicente Blvd. in Santa Monica is working, has a good water flow but does not include a refill station or a pet fountain.