Drink tap-water: Paris fights back against the bottle
Paris city authorities began distributing thousands of specially-designed glass carafes in a campaign to wean the public off bottled mineral water and back onto the tap.
Reacting to polls showing that 51 percent of the two million Parisians buy their drinking water in shops, the city hall and publicly-owned water company Eau de Paris argue that the piped alternative is cheaper, more ecologically sound, and just as healthy.
Hundreds joined a long queue at the esplanade in front of the Hotel de Ville where Parisians could present a coupon downloaded from the Internet or cut from a local newspaper in return for a carafe marked with the Eau de Paris logo and an Eiffel Tower.
"People buy bottled water because of the marketing, and we realised that if we were to win them back to the tap we would have to do some marketing of our own.
It's all about giving Paris water an image and explaining why it is good for you," said Franck Madureira of Eau de Paris.
Some 30,000 carafes -- created by designer Pierre Cardin -- have been manufactured. A third were being handed to the public Tuesday -- which is World Water Day -- and the rest will be distributed to cafes and restaurants.
"People say the taste is better when you buy it, but I think that is rubbish. And this way I get a free carafe," said Jacques-Yves Bezal, who was waiting in line.
Fitting neatly into the door of a fridge and bearing a push-on top, the carafes are to be filled with water from the tap and used instead of a shop-bought bottle.
"Paris water has a mineral and sanitary quality that is just as good as anything you buy in a bottle.
But it is between 100 and 200 times cheaper. It is delivered straight to your home. And there is no packaging," said Anne Le Stat, president of Eau de Paris.
Launching the campaign Monday, the capital's socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe said that he drinks three litres of tap water every day. "It's good for the health. It keeps me in shape," he said.
Around half of the 700,000 cubic metres of drinking water consumed every day in Paris comes from the rivers Seine and Marne, and is treated in three purification plants. The rest comes from artesian wells around the capital.
"If we can tip the balance and get a majority of the population back drinking the tap variety, we will consider the campaign a success," said Madureira.
The remains of a Roman aqueduct are still visible in the south of Paris, but from the Middle Ages most of the capital's water was pumped from the Seine.
Napoleon brought in water by the newly-built Canal de l'Ourcq, but the modern system -- drawing on springs some 150 kilometers (100 miles away) -- was conceived during the city's late 19th century modernisation under Baron Haussmann.
At the same time the city was endowed with its trademark green drinking-fountains, donated by the British philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace.