I loved dining out in London, but I always remember that awkward moment when I would ask the waiter or waitress for water and they would in turn ask, “Still or sparkling?” I would always answer, a bit under my breath and with slight embarrassment, “Just tap water please.” I often felt like I was being a cheap Plebian by opting for free tap water instead of buying the “fancy” bottled water.
People who live in the UK, US, or other developed countries are tremendously lucky to have access to clean, healthy, high quality potable water straight from the tap at an affordable price. This is a privilege that many people in the world don’t enjoy. So why shouldn’t you drink it? Indeed, I feel like having access to drinking water, especially in public places, is a service that should be provided to citizens (and to the environment… think of all that wasted plastic).
And that’s one thing I love about being back in the US. There are drinking fountains (aka “water fountains”) all over the place – in schools, in parks, in malls, in libraries, in airports, in stations – where you can quench your thirst for free. While drinking fountains seem to be on the rise in the UK, they aren’t nearly as prevalent as in the US. For example, the first water fountain installed in Hyde Park in more than 30 years was in 2009! And that is one of the most famous parks in London that must receive thousands of visitors per day. Yet it had no public drinking fountain. And now it has… one.
When I eat at a restaurant in the US, there is definitely no shame in asking for tap water to drink. Indeed, I don’t even have to ask for it – glasses of water are usually brought to your table as soon as you sit down! And of course it’s complimentary.
Tap water is 1,000 to 2,000 times cheaper than bottled water. In fact, bottled water is about three times more expensive per liter than gas. As a point of comparison, with the $2 that you spend on an (inexpensive) 1-liter bottle of water, you could buy 1,000 gallons of tap water. And, you wouldn’t be throwing a plastic bottle in the trash can after you slaked your thirst. Now there’s some food (water?) for thought.