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Water-Finding App Helps You Locate Urban Oases

Have a thirst that needs quenching, but refuse to buy a bottle of water? This app can lead you to the nearest public drinking fountain.

Water-Finding App Helps You Locate Urban Oases
Dragana Gerasimoski/Shutterstock
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Plastic water bottles are bad. You should not buy them. But sometimes you’re thirsty and re-useable water bottles only work if they can be refilled. Imagine handing out cars but no gas. That’s akin to what we’ve been doing with water bottles. As governments have cut back on public water fountains, it’s gotten harder to find free, clean water in public spaces. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that the annual bottled water consumption for the average American has risen from one gallon in 1980 to 30 gallons today.

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To address that, the WeTap app developed by UCLA gives users the location of drinking fountains using GPS and Google Maps, rates the quality of the faucets, and shares the news with other users. The app relies on the world’s largest database for drinking water sources, as well as crowdsourced data from users. You can also use it report broken water fountains, so that future thirsty travelers don’t try to use it. The app, sadly, is currently only available on Android.

Although it started in California, WeTap is now on its way to mapping the entire United States. You can contribute your spot on the map, or jump into the code yourself: It’s an open-source project developed by UCLA’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing which is also responsible for Biketastic (mapping bike routes) and the Network Naturalist series (tracking invasive and climate change impacts on vegetation).

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About the author

Michael is a science journalist and co-founder of Publet: a platform to build digital publications that work on every device with analytics that drive the bottom line. He writes for FastCompany, The Economist, Foreign Policy and others on science, economics, and the environment. His favorite topics are wicked problems -- and discoveries such as how dung beetles rely on the light of the Milky Way to navigate (and all that says about the human condition on Earth)

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