I have been spending the month of July in Paris, France for a study abroad program, and during my time here, I have been able to observe different water habits of people abroad. My observations are in no way absolute, but I have found several interesting trends in water in Paris that I wanted to share with people to see where we are ahead and where we are behind.
One thing I found funny from day one in Paris is that they have “public port-a-potties” – basically, free toilets that stand alone. They are much more advanced than a port-a-potties, and that brings me to two points. First, as one of their advanced features, they clean the whole toilet stall after each use. I assume its some sort of spray down method, but regardless, the whole thing is soaked when you get in. This seems like it could potentially be a huge waste of water. Enough water is used to flush a toilet, let alone spray down a stall after every use. Perhaps it is simply a mist or water or chemicals – I’ve never stood inside during the automatic cleaning process, and for good reason! However, while the toilets are nice to have, they seem to waste more water than necessary.
The second fact about the public toilets that makes me happy is the inclusion of waterspouts. I didn’t notice at first, but on the back of every one of these toilets, there is a spout where you can refill a water bottle. This allows people to carry around a reusable water bottle or reuse their water bottle and refill it throughout the day. This is the sort of system that is necessary to get people away from bottled water – the ability to refill a bottle conveniently so that when you are thirsty, you can get the water you need. These spouts have been extremely useful to me throughout the past few weeks in Paris, and I am sure countless other people find them just as useful as I do.
However, even with these spouts available, bottled water is still used in great quantities. Many restaurants assume that you would like bottled water (though all restaurants are requires to give carafes of water upon request, which is great!), and many people still order it and purchase it for their homes. There is a large culture of bottled water use in Europe, and it still continues. The bottles do seem to be largely recycled, with facilities in many locations to recycle rather than trash bottles. However, that does not solve the problem.
All in all, water in Paris is in pretty good shape. The tap is drinkable and there are spouts to refill bottles. If you want to choose to not drink bottled water, that option is available, unlike many places in the states where it is impossible. I know this is a single opinion, based primarily off of one city, but I would say water in Europe is doing all right.