PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Eco-conscious Parisians can now get their sparkling water free and in unlimited supply at a new public drinking fountain installed by city authorities, which aims to wean consumers off bottled water and onto tap.
Unveiled on Tuesday in the Jardin de Reuilly park in the east of the city by publicly owned water company Eau de Paris, the fountain injects carbon dioxide into regular tap water to make it bubbly, and chills it before delivering it to consumers.
Separate faucets also provide a still version of the beverage, both refrigerated and unrefrigerated, and again pumped directly from the city's own public water supply
"Our aim is to boost the image of Paris tap water," said Philippe Burguiere, spokesman for Eau de Paris.
"We want to show that we're proud of it, that it's totally safe, and that it's ecological as there's no oil involved, no waste and no packaging," he said.
The French are the world's eighth biggest consumers of bottled water, downing an average of 128 liters (28 Imp gallons) each of the still or sparkling beverage in 2009, according to statistics from the Earth Policy Institute.
That generated over 262,000 tonnes of plastic waste, while just making the bottles consumed close to 4.5 million barrels of crude oil equivalent.
According to Burguiere, in Paris at least, there's absolutely no need for consumers to buy bottled water.
Half of the city's public water supply comes directly from underground springs located up to 160 km (99.42 miles) away. The other half is pumped from the rivers Seine and Marne then filtered, treated and tested to make it safe for consumption.
For lovers of sparkling water, however, switching to the tap version will still mean a trek to the public park rather than picking up a six-pack from the supermarket, and there's no guarantee that consumers will prove willing.
"This is a first, so we're going to watch how Parisians react and whether there's an uptake. Then we might gradually install others in the busiest parks," said Burguiere.
Editing by Paul Casciato