Let them drink tap water: French put bubbles in bubbler


France\’s addiction to bottled sparkling water is up there with its penchant for bike racing, foie gras and Johnny Hallyday.

Now authorities in Paris are attempting to fight back against the national dependence by unveiling a public water fountain that gushes with chilled bubbles.

La Petillante – literally, she who sparkles – is the first drinking fountain in France to inject carbon dioxide into tap water before cooling it and serving it up to passers-by. Inaugurated this week in the Jardin de Reuilly in south-eastern Paris, it is expected to prove a user-friendly means of weaning the French off the bottle.

\’\’Our aim is to boost the image of Paris tap water,\’\’ Philippe Burguiere of Eau de Paris, the capital\’s public water supplier, said.

We want to show that we\’re proud of it, that it\’s totally safe

Locals from the 12th arrondissement queuing to try the water greeted the fountain with enthusiasm.

With the average person drinking 106 litres of still or sparkling last year, France is the eighth-biggest consumer of bottled water in the world, according to figures from the Earth Policy Institute.

Observers warn this habit, which has persevered in many households despite public campaigns to improve the image of \’\’l\’eau de robinet\’\’ (water from the tap), is having pernicious effects on the environment: the country is estimated to have produced more than 262,000 tonnes of plastic waste during 2009.

According to Anne Le Strat, chairman of Eau de Paris, the main thing stopping people from changing is that tap water is still.

\’\’Lots of Parisians have told me that they would consume more [tap] water if it were fizzy,\’\’ she said.

There are signs the French are already taking matters into their own hands: sales of household carbonation machines rocketed last year.

In Italy, 215 of the fountains have been installed.

\”In France, it\’s only an experiment,\” Mr Burguiere said. \”But we will see how people react to it, and we\’ll try to put water fountains in other parks.\”