New York’s Dirtiest Water, Now Conveniently Drinkable

New Yorkers have some of the cleanest water in the world to drink, in contrast to people in most of the world. What happens when you give them access to some less-than-clean water?

Most places in the U.S. have relatively clean drinking water, but dirty water still looms everywhere. And in developing countries, clean water is not nearly as easy to find; 884 million people around the world lack access to clean water, and 3.6 million people die each year from water-related diseases. What better way to highlight this fact on World Water Day than by giving New York City residents, who have access to some of the cleanest water in the country, the opportunity to drink the really, really dirty stuff?


Early this morning, employees of ad agency DDB put cup dispensers next to pipes that are releasing some of the dirtiest water in the city. “We were looking for places where water outlets were pumped out into the streetscape,” explains Matt Eastwood, Chief Creative Officer of DDB NY. Want some delicious water leaking from a subway ceiling? Now you can get a whole cupful.

The dispensers–there are 10 in total– are located in high-traffic areas throughout New York City. One of the dispensers, for example, is located inside the Bergen St. F/G subway stop in Brooklyn.

As you can see in the video above, each cup contains a fact about water (one says “Unsafe drinking water kills more people than war”) along with the web address for Water is Life, an organization that makes $10 reusable straws that filter dirty water.

The dispensers will be up all day. After that, they will remain until someone takes them down. There are no words of caution on the cups about actually drinking the water, so consider this your warning: Don’t drink it.

This was a pro-bono campaign for DDB. “It’s something that we are passionate about. I love doing work that can make the world a better place–it’s a nice change from selling burgers,” says Eastwood. “I’m hoping that [people who discover the campaign] will go to and get involved in some way, or at the very least donate at their website.”

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.