Innovative Infrastructure: New Stations Expand Drinking Water Access, Curb Plastic Waste

Infrastructure Week 2016: Drinking Water Stations

When people hear the word “infrastructure,” they think about roads, bridges and (if we’re lucky!) pipes.

But for Infrastructure Week 2016, we’re looking at elements of Philadelphia’s water system that might not come to mind when you think about infrastructure. (So far, we’ve looked at the thousands of new green tools created through the Green City, Clean Waters program and the 75,000+ storm drains found on city streets.)

Today, we’re looking at a brand-new kind of infrastructure that rethinks an old standard—the water fountain.

As Philadelphia celebrates the 90th Stotesbury Cup Regatta, the world's largest high school regatta, Philadelphia Water will unveil a new network of four eye-catching public water stations located along Kelly Drive.

Joining us at the May 20 ribbon cutting will be an all-star cast of public drinking water advocates, including Philadelphia Water Commissioner Debra McCarty, Philadelphia Managing Director Michael DiBerardinis, the Schuylkill Navy River Stewards Committee, representatives from Parks & Recreation and our very own Spokesdog, Fishtown’s Shorty.

Even Water Woman—a powerful defender of Philly’s waterways and water infrastructure who first put on her spandex suit in the 1990s—will be coming out of retirement for this one. (Thanks to a steady diet of Philadelphia’s tap water, she hasn’t aged a day.)

For those not familiar with water stations, which are sometimes called water kiosks and are popular in cities like Los Angles, these free tap water purveyors are not your grandfather’s water fountain.

Stretching from East Falls to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the bright blue-and-yellow water stations are designed to make filling reusable bottles easy, and even feature a special bowl for four-legged friends getting their exercise along what USA Today calls “America’s Best Urban Trail.”

As a central piece of the #DrinkTapPHL movement that began in 2015 with a reusable bottle give-away, this network of modern water stations increases access to public drinking water while combatting pervasive litter from plastic bottles, one of the most common trash items found during cleanups along the Schuylkill River. #DrinkTapPHL highlights public drinking water as an affordable, healthy and litter-free option that comes with a much smaller carbon footprint when compared to packaged drinks like bottled water, sports drinks and soda.

Our partners at the Schuylkill Navy River Stewards Committee, which picked up over 8,000 plastic bottles left along the river last year, have been vocal advocates for the water stations and inspired Boathouse Row clubs to ban disposable bottles last year.

"The rowing community is thrilled to be partnering with Philadelphia Water and Parks &Recreation in piloting this new program, a key element of our Litter-Free Schuylkill campaign," says Alan Robinson, chair of the committee. "The feedback we've received to date is amazing. Everyone I've spoken with— rowers, runners, bicyclists, families out for a walk in the park—is thrilled. Philadelphia is leading the way in providing fresh, high quality and free drinking water while reducing the waste and litter generated from single use plastic bottles."

We invite you to join us at 2:30 p.m. on Friday at the Grandstands on Kelly Drive (by the Kelly Statue). You can take photos with Shorty and Water Woman while taking a pledge to break the disposable bottle habit and start using refillable bottles.

It’s the smart choice for your wallet, your health and the health of our planet!

Note: Due to Stotesbury preparations, Kelly Drive will be closed to traffic and all parking except for essential staff. We have provided offsite reserved parking at 3665 Midvale Avenue, East Falls, Philadelphia – just north of the regatta venue. A Trolley Works shuttle will take all guests to and from the parking lot to the reception tent and area starting at 1 pm;