SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KCBS/BCN) – Airport and public utility officials this week unveiled two tap water “filling stations” at San Francisco International Airport, part of a citywide effort to curb bottled water consumption in favor of the city’s Hetch Hetchy tap water supply.
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GlobalTap pilot dispenser in Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco. Courtesy IDEO.
More than 1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water. The rest of us have an unlimited flow from the tap. Daniel H. Whitman, a Chicago architect and social entrepreneur who believes that access to water should be a fundamental human right, wants to link these two extremes. In 2008, he formed GlobalTap, a for-profit social enterprise with a dual mission: to sell and install tap-water-refilling stations in public places in North America and Europe, and then to divert revenues from this business to fund badly needed water projects in developing countries. “Water should be free and accessible to everybody,” Whitman says. “Water is not just for privileged people in privileged places.”
GlobalTap’s first phase began in a very privileged place, San Francisco, where a pilot project was launched last year with the installation of a refilling station in Yerba Buena Gardens. Not any ordinary looking water fountain, this one was designed by IDEOwith a slim 5-foot-high steel stem, a thrusting elbow shape and a nozzle that directs a stream of water into the bottle when activated by a button. Its form and mechanism are meant to appeal to the new water-bottle-toting generation as a way to encourage bottle reuse and reduce plastic waste. The palette — blue is currently installed and orange is being contemplated — make the refilling station conspicuous in settings such as parks, lakefronts, bus stops and train stations, among the many urban sites under consideration. “We wanted a bold look that pops out of the background,” says Tasos Karahalios, the GlobalTap project leader in IDEO’s Chicago office.
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