THEY were once the yuppy accessory of choice, but the days of the plastic water bottle may be numbered. If a national campaign initiated by a group of Sydneysiders is a success, the humble drinking fountain will take its place.
Fountains offering free filtered water have been installed along Manly beach as part of a bid by the local council to slash bottle use and associated litter.
Next week, Manly Mayor Peter Macdonald and the head of the Bottled Water Alliance, Jon Dee, will send letters to councils around Australia urging them to upgrade their own fountains.
As part of the pitch, filtered water company Culligan Australia — which provided free filters for the six Manly bubblers — will offer councils free filter equipment and half-price replacement filters into the future. Companies that provide filtered water in shopfronts or other public areas will also be offered the deal, Culligan general manager Tim Gordon said.
The Bottled Water Alliance, which also includes Culligan, is expecting a good response. Since reports on the new Manly bubblers appeared in Sydney earlier this month, Culligan has been approached by another Sydney council, and two banks have expressed interest in offering filtered water to customers.
Mr Dee has form — he was the head of Planet Ark when it spearheaded the campaign against plastic bags. He concedes water fountains have an image problem — they often don’t work or are thought to be germ-infested — but he says this is why the Alliance is urging councils to upgrade their fountains, even if they don’t embrace filters.
If councils could guarantee that the water quality from fountains is as good or better than the bottled water being sold in that local area, people would be encouraged to use refillable bottles, he said.