Push to build more drinking water fountains in public spaces in Germany
Free, clean drinking water in more public spaces across the country - that’s the aim of a new draft law in Germany that seeks to nearly double the number of water fountains in towns and cities in the coming years.
Germany to build more drinking water fountains in public places
In an attempt to better prepare for future bouts of extreme weather like heatwaves - and reduce the consumption of bottled water, which creates unnecessary plastic waste - the federal government wants to make drinking water more readily available for people in towns and cities across Germany.
On Wednesday, the federal cabinet signed off a draft amendment to the Water Resources Act that would make the provision of tap water via public fountains part of the standard water supply, for which public authorities are responsible. In future, therefore, cities and municipalities would be required to set up drinking fountains in parks, pedestrianised areas and shopping centres, where this is technically feasible and meets local needs.
There are currently around 1.300 water fountains scattered across the country, but the government wants to increase this by a further 1.000 over the coming years.
“Access to drinking water must be as easy as possible for everyone in Germany,” said Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, Reuters reports. “In future, extreme weather events such as heatwaves and dry spells will be more frequent and more intense [and] drinking fountains with tap water are one of the basic building blocks of good heat prevention.”
Germany’s taught relationship with tap water
Germany has historically had a standoffish relationship to tap water, with many people preferring to buy and drink bottled water instead of simply turning on the tap, despite German water being clean and safe to drink. Many bars and restaurants in the federal republic still to this day refuse to serve tap water to diners.
Back in 2019, the then Environment Minister Svenja Schulze launched a new 1,3-million-euro programme to help kickstart a tap water turnover, encouraging people to ditch bottled water with public information campaigns and an expansion of the availability of drinking fountains and bottle “refill stations”. In 2020, the EU signed off a Drinking Water Directive that called for better access to drinking water in public places.