Eau la la! Parisians get free fizzy water from a park fountain


French capital gets first public fountain dispensing carbonated water in attempt to wean public off bottles

France's addiction to bottled sparkling water is up there with its penchant for bike racing, foie gras and Johnny Hallyday. Now, authorities in Paris are attempting to fight back against the national dependence by unveiling a public water fountain that gushes with chilled bubbles.

La Pétillante – literally, she who sparkles – is the first fountain in France to inject carbon dioxide into tap water before cooling it and serving it up to passers-by. Inaugurated today in the Jardin de Reuilly in south-east Paris, it is expected to prove a user-friendly means of weaning the French off the bottle.

"Our aim is to boost the image of Paris tap water," said Philippe Burguiere of Eau de Paris, the capital's public water supplier. "We want to show that we're proud of it, that it's totally safe."

Today, locals from the 12th arrondissement queuing up to try the water greeted the fountain with enthusiasm. Speaking on television, one woman even paid La Pétillante the ultimate compliment. "I think it's pretty tasty," she said. "A bit like Perrier."

With the average person drinking 28 gallons of still or sparkling last year, France is the eighth biggest consumer of bottled water in the world, according to figures from the Earth Policy Institute. Observers warn that this habit, which has persevered in many households despite public campaigns to improve the image of l'eau de robinet, is having pernicious effects on the environment: the country is estimated to have produced more than 262,000 tonnes of plastic waste during 2009.

According to Anne Le Strat, chairman of Eau de Paris, the main thing stopping people from changing is that tap water – without the use of a soda fountain – is still. "Lots of Parisians have told me that they would consume more [tap] water if it were fizzy," she said. There are signs the French are already taking matters into their own hands: sales of household carbonation machines rocketed last year.

Free of charge and available whenever the Jardin is open – which, in high summer, is 8am until 9.30pm – La Petillante will allow thirsty passers-by to experiment with publicly supplied water.

Housed in a former garden cabin, the fountain pumps water straight from the city's supply and emerges either as still, chilled, with bubbles, or simply still water at room temperature. Authorities said it had cost €75,000 (£63,500) to install.

Already a common feature in Italy, the fountain will be watched closely to see whether the Jardin de Reuilly will be the first of many locations. "This is a first, so we're going to watch how Parisians react and whether there's an uptake. Then we might gradually install others in the busiest parks," said Burguiere.

boost: zwiększać

carbon dioxide: dwutlenek węgla

dispense: wydawać, rozdawać

gush: tryskać

l'eau de robinet (franc.): woda z kranu

penchant: zamiłowanie

pernicious: szkodliwy, zgubny

persevere: trwać (w czymś)

rocket: iść w górę

uptake: zużycie, absorbcja

wean (sb off sth) : odzwyczajać (kogoś od czegoś)

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