“Drink Philly Tap,” a public campaign to educate Philadelphia residents about the quality of their tap water, launches this month. The goals of the campaign are to increase trust in public drinking water, reduce single-use plastic bottles, and educate consumers on the financial costs of drinking bottled water instead of tap water. The project is led by partners ImpactED at the University of Pennsylvania, The Water Center at Penn, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, and the Philadelphia Water Department. The campaign includes an Ambassador program, comprised of 19 Philadelphia community leaders and influencers, a public outreach and education campaign powered by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center field teams, and an engagement plan for employers and professional organizations. Community ambassadors in north and west Philadelphia will promote Philadelphia’s safe drinking water and empower residents with compelling information and knowledge to help them confidently choose to consume tap water over bottled water, both at home and on the go.
Drink Philly Tap Ambassadors will be present at multiple city-wide and neighborhood events for the next several months encouraging community members to take the Tap Water Pledge. The Pledge encourages residents to drink tap water at home instead of bottled water, carry a reusable water bottle outside of their home, and choose tap water when offered bottled water at restaurants or other public places. To date, nearly 3,000 Philadelphians have taken the Pledge in-person and online and more than 13 organizations have signed on as supporters, including the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia and Clean Water Action.
As the city’s water supplier, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) is responsible for supplying clean drinking water for consumption. PWD conducts thousands of water quality tests every year and the results consistently exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. However, public perception of the quality of Philadelphia’s drinking water is low, and does not reflect the consistent quality and reliability of public drinking water services. An annual survey of all Philadelphia residents issued by ImpactED and PWD found that approximately 40 percent of city residents surveyed drink bottled water at home; moreover, lower-income, less educated, minority and female residents drink bottled water at higher rates than their counterparts. Philadelphians who have less disposable income are spending more of their scarce dollars on plastic bottled water. The Drink Philly Tap campaign will work to educate consumers on the benefits of drinking tap: the water is safe and healthy, it costs less than bottled water at less than a penny per gallon, and it reduces plastic litter on our streets and in our rivers and streams.
The environmental benefits of reducing plastic waste are substantial. Production of single-use plastic bottles results in a major carbon footprint between materials and shipping, and once they’ve been used plastic bottles continue to cause harm, either becoming litter on streets, piling up in landfills, or burdening an already over- taxed recycling system. Stormwater runoff washes plastic bottles into storm drains and out into rivers, where it’s one of the most common forms of pollution fished out of the Delaware & Schuylkill Rivers.
One of the reasons commonly cited by Philadelphians for drinking bottled water is concern about lead contamination in tap water due to old infrastructure. While no City-owned pipes contain lead, PWD offers resources to all city residents to address this concern including a free test for lead contamination at home. Call the PWD hotline at 215-685-6300 to schedule an appointment, and visit the Department’s Lead in Drinking Water information page to learn more.
“The negative threat posed by single-use plastics on our environment are well known and well documented,” noted David Masur, Executive Director for the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “And single-use plastic water bottles have become a scourge on our environment. Every Philadelphian has experienced seeing plastic water bottles littering their neighborhoods and streets, or walking through a park or outdoor space and seeing them polluting our environment. This campaign is meant to educate Philadelphians about that threat– and the steps that they can take in their every-day lives to help solve it.”
For more information, including answers to common questions about tap water and tips for enjoying Philly tap water, visit www.drinkphillytap.org.