wave.jpgAirport and public utility officials this week unveiled two tap water “filling stations” at San Francisco International Airport, part of a citywide effort to curb bottled water consumption in favor of the city’s Hetch Hetchy tap water supply.

Two of the slender blue filling stations, which shoot water straight down into any empty container, have been installed near the food court in United Airlines’ Terminal 3 and in SFO’s International Terminal, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokesman Tyrone Jue said.

The filling stations are the first to be installed in a U.S. airport beyond security checkpoints.

Air passengers at SFO now have access to unlimited free water, Jue said, part of a campaign to steer travelers and Bay Area residents away from consuming bottled water, which has huge negative impacts on the environment.

“Bottled water is perhaps one of the greatest public cons of the 20th Century,” Jue said.
“One billion water bottles are put into California landfills each year,” he said, adding that it takes 1,000 years for the average water bottle to biodegrade.

The SFPUC estimates that in 2009, the U.S. used more than 80 million barrels of oil to manufacture plastic water bottles – which are petroleum-based products – and transport them to consumers, Jue said.

By comparison, the SFPUC’s Hecth Hetchy water supply, which provides water to 2.5 million Bay Area residents, uses gravity to make its way from its source in the Sierras to consumers, powering hydroelectric energy stations along the way.

The public water supply is tested for its quality and purity thousands of times per year, Jue said, and the SFPUC is required to make the results of its tests public.

Bottled water from private companies undergoes only a handful of yearly quality tests, the results of which are not made public, Jue said.

“We’re highlighting the quality and value of our water by making it even more convenient for people,” Jue said.

Fifteen filling stations have been installed at various locations throughout San Francisco, Jue said.

More filling stations are planned for areas throughout SFO that have yet to be determined, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.

Chris Cooney, Bay City News

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