New Apps make it easy to ditch bottled waterMost Americans don’t realize how lucky they are to live in a country where tap water is both clean (for the most part) and still free. In Europe, fresh water supplies have been contaminated for decades, so getting a glass of free ice water with your meal is out of the question. The only alternative is bottled water, which is outrageously expensive. So, why do so many Americans opt for wasteful, costly bottled water instead of the free-flowing hydration that comes from the tap? One word: convenience. Look around your school or local government building and you’ll find that once-common public drinking fountains are going the way of the dinosaur, while machines vending $2 bottles of water are virtually everywhere. “The average American now drinks nearly 30 gallons of commercial bottled water per year, up from 1 gallon in 1980, creating plastic waste and wasting energy,” writes Pacific Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick in a recent article for SF Gate. “One of the reasons for this explosive growth in the sales of bottled water is the disappearance of public drinking water fountains.” While water fountains (or bubblers, as they’re known in certain parts of the country) might be disappearing, they’re not extinct yet. New apps designed to help people crowd source public drinking fountains near the places they work and play can make it easy to avoid bottles and encourage local governments to restore and maintain these sources of free, clean tap water. WeTap is a participatory sensing campaign geared toward identifying, describing and mapping public drinking fountains. With this Android application, you can view a map of nearby drinking water sources as well as rate specific fountains and assist in helping this vital public infrastructure improve. The goal of this application is to support those who have said no to bottled water and help others join the cause. If you like free drinking water but don’t have an Android, fear not: TapIt allows you to access a network of cafés and eateries that are happy to let you refill your reusable bottle with great-tasting tap water. Partner locations are easy to find using the search and mapping features (PC or smartphone) or by downloading the TapIt Water app from the Apple App Store. Both of these resources are cool because they not only match those who want free water with those willing to provide it, but they also create a virtual community of citizens who are making conscious decisions for a sustainable future.