When you visit a fancy restaurant, it's common for the waiter to ask whether you'd prefer sparkling or still water. In Paris, now you can get that choice at some of the water fountains.
In a bid to reduce the use of bottled water – and its considerable impact on the environment– the city's publicly owned water company, Eau de Paris, is trying to make the tap water more palatable for the French.
That effort began this week with the introduction of special fountains at the Jardin de Reuilly park that inject the tap water with carbon dioxide to make it fizzy. Faucets with regular tap water are still available.
It's an untried strategy for combating the use of bottled water, which has drawn the ire of environmentalists due to the high carbon footprint that comes from manufacturing the bottles and the fact that they frequently end up in landfills after one use.
Governments and communities have previously experimented with banning or taxing bottled water, but Paris seems to be the first municipality to bring bottle-quality water to their taps as a means of positive reinforcement.
Still, it's unlikely that the program will have an immediate impact on bottled water use among the French, who on average imbibe nearly 40 gallons of the stuff a year, according to the Earth Policy Institute. For the moment, the modified fountains are installed only in the one park, and the company has no immediate plans to expand the program until after they've seen the the reception for the new fountains.
While no cities in the U.S. have installed similar systems in their drinking fountains, it is possible to quench your thirst for sparkling water without destroying the environment. Natura Water is an on-site water purification system used by some restaurants that filters, chills and carbonates tap water - all of the bubbles, none of the guilt.