dimanche 19 février 2012

Oh, eau!

Thirsty in Paris?  Have a drink on Simplicity, Charity, Goodness and Sobriety.

The French are all about their water, especially if it comes in a bottle.  There's a specific brand of bottled water targeted towards whatever ails you.  Fatigued?  Buy the magnesium-enriched one.  Looking to shed some pounds?  Try the one which contains a diuretic.  Need help with digestion?  A certain fizzy brand can take care of that; you even get a choice of bubble-size.  Preparing baby's formula?  Only one brand is trusted by les mamans to be pure.  Even aquariophiles have their preferred water for making sure the fish tank remains at the optimal ph level.

Despite a government campaign reassuring Parisians that their tap water was one of the purest, safest and cleanest in the world, Parisians continue to buy bottled water to the tune of 18 cases per year, on average.  Contrary to Americans who have come to realize that bottled water is one of the biggest rip-offs the marketing companies have ever come up with (not to mention how planet-unfriendly the whole business is), you won't see the French carrying around any reusable, BPA-free bottles.  They continue to be faithful to the big names in the bottled water industry and look with suspicion upon any outlier walking around with a no-brand container.

This cultural resistance to drinking the free stuff has thankfully not led to the demise of the Wallace Fountains you still see around the city.  Put into place by British philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace in the late 19th century, these dark green, cast iron fountains were at that time the only clean water source many Parisians had.  Even now, over a century later, the 67 remaining Wallace fountains continue to supply pure water to the homeless (as well as thirsty tourists) and provide the city with a neat, recognizable, and very-French icon.  Not much has been altered from the original design except that there are no longer tin drinking cups attached to the fountain; these were removed during the 1950s as they were deemed unsanitary.

Originally these fountains ran continuously in a rather symbolic gesture assuring Parisians that they would never lack for clean water again.  But a couple of years ago the municipal water authorities decided to stop the fountains from flowing from mid-November to mid-March, fearing a freeze might damage the water-delivery system.  What these means, of course, is that the homeless (and thirsty tourists) just have to do as the rest of Paris does during the winter months:  buy bottled water.  Or, heaven forbid, drink from the tap.

2 commentaires:

  1. I went back to drinking bottled water after doing extensive research about the shocking amounts of pharmaceuticals in our U.S. tap water, including endocrine disrupting chemicals. I now purchase bottled water that uses reverse osmosis to remove impurities, a process considered "too costly" for public drinking water sources in virtually all U.S. states.

    1. I've often wondered if what the French officials tell us about the purity level of the tap water is actually true. I've been drinking it for 30 years. Now you have me doubting the authorities.