Tag Archives: tap water

This is the greatest idea ever: Water Bar

One of the Great Crises we face in today’s world is the stability and security of the water supply. In America, most people don’t have any problems getting water, to the extent that we tend to waste it, and few people even know where there water comes from. Every now and then there emerges a startling and troubling problem with water. A river catches fire, a plume of visible pollution observable from space spreads across a lake, or an entire city worth of children are poisoned with the contents of the city water supply.

Works Progress Studio has been engaged for a while in a project called the Water Bar, and they intend to ramp this project up in the near future if they get enough help.

The original water bar is “a collaborative public art project … simply, a bar that serves local tap water.” It consists of a pop up bar that can be easily deployed, serving a wide range of local vintages, and staffed with scientists or other experts on the water supply. That project started in 2014, and has served over 30,000 people in four states.

This video gives you a flavor (or, should I say, a flavorless…).

I asked Works Progress Studio co-founder Shanai Matteson how this all started. She told me that it “… started out as an experiment – what would happen if we opened a bar that only served regular tap water, and asked our community of environmental science researchers, educators, and advocates to be bartenders – not pushing a message, but just casually engaging in conversation.”

“The second iteration of the project,” she continued, “was an installation at an art museum in Arkansas. We built a Water Bar in the museum’s cafe area, and I think a lot of people didn’t even realize it was an artist project – which is fine with us! We hired college students with backgrounds in research, natural resource management, landscape architecture, business… They kept the bar open every day for 5 months, and all of them said that they learned valuable engagement skills, including new ways of talking to people about complicated science topics”

Now, Water Bar has a GoFundMe page to help them to set up a permanent taproom in Minneapolis. Partnering with several neighborhood and environmental organizations, research scientists, and artists, the idea is to create the Water Bar & Public Studio in Northeast Minneapolis, which is a thriving, and growing, art-oriented community. The location will be a hub for neighborhood events addressing art and sustainability, educational programs, and so on.

The water will be free.

Donations will fund the “taproom,” a creative community space, and a public art and sustainability incubator.

When I saw the video, my first thought was to avoid doing this in Flint Michigan. I asked Shanai Matteson about that. She told me, “We’ve actually had a bunch of people suggest we SHOULD do this in Flint, or Detroit. We wouldn’t attempt that unless we were invited there by residents, but even considering the implications really makes the disparity between those communities and others, like Minneapolis, so plain.”

Matteson also pointed out one of the main problems with the culture of water use in the US. “Most of the stories about Flint have focused on the problem – what went wrong, who was responsible – as well as the work of researchers, residents, and activists to finally get people to pay attention. Few of the stories I’ve read mention that almost none of us know where our drinking water comes from. We probably wouldn’t know if our water had high levels of lead, and most of us wouldn’t know who to call or what to do if we suspected a problem. One of our goals with the Water Bar project is to start getting people to see and understand their connection to these life-sustaining systems, and to the political systems involved with maintaining them – or in the case of Flint, gross negligence and a desire to see public infrastructure privatized.”

Matteson is looking forward to developing this project further. “Our dream is for a space that is approachable and welcoming, but also presents really urgent and serious content. We want to work with our community of artists and designers to find creative ways to engage people in water and environment issues, and we want to be a learning laboratory for future science and environment leaders — or for current researchers and advocacy orgs to share their work with new audiences.”

You can learn more about the Water Bar project here, and of course, go here to go fund them.

Should you drink tap water or bottled water?

This is the time of year, spring, when a lot of people switch to drinking bottled water instead of tap water. They do this because in their particular area the tap water seems to “go bad” … usually it is a mild smell or a slightly icky taste. This makes people fear their tap water, so they go to the store and buy bottled water. What has happened in many cases is that the local municipal water supply has done everything it can reasonably do to clean up and make nice the water that comes out of your tap, but there is this slight taste or smell because in the spring, that is what water does in many of our sources, including wells, rivers, and reservoirs. It depends on where you live, and it probably depends on the year as well.

Your municipal water is safe. Tap water always has “stuff” in it that is not H2O, but in the spring, some of that stuff is a bit more detectable than at other times of the year.

People are making two mistakes. 1) Not drinking the tap water because they think it is bad for them. It may be unpleasant, and that may be a reason to not drink it, but it is not bad for you. And, 2) quitting tap water forever, switching to bottled water because they think their water has gone bad forever. Or they just get used to the bottled water and stick with it.

Peter Gleick has a lot of information about Bottled Water, some of which is on his new blog. The total amount of Carbon you are releasing into the atmosphere by drinking a liter of bottled water is something like an order of magnitude greater than for tap water, for example. You just shouldn’t be using bottled water if you have a run of the mill municipal water supply.

Speaking of water, Skeptically Speaking just did a show on the topic:

Drinking Water

This week, we’re looking at the science and the history of the water that makes life and society possible. We’ll speak to law and environment professor James Salzman, about his book Drinking Water: A History. And we’re joined by Juewen Liu, chemistry professor at the University of Waterloo, to talk about his work using DNA to detect water-borne impurities that could make water unsafe.

Click here to get the podcast.

Photo Credit: Lightsurgery via Compfight cc

Other posts of interest:

Also of interest: In Search of Sungudogo: A novel of adventure and mystery, which is also an alternative history of the Skeptics Movement.