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The UNICEF TAP Project Charges Cash for Tap Water to Raise Funds, Awareness

Diners at Francesco's Restaurant in San Francisco, The Spotted Pig in New York City, and at thousands of other restaurants participating in this week's UNICEF TAP Project are in for a surprise: They will be asked to donate $1 for the privilege of drinking tap water with their meals.

The initiative launched in 2007 after David Droga, founder of advertising agency Droga5, was challenged by Esquire to come up with a campaign that would compel consumers to pay for something that they would normally buy for free. Droga approached UNICEF with the TAP Project, which quickly exploded in popularity.

In addition to collecting money from restaurants during World Water Week (March 20 to 26), UNICEF encourages participants to hold TAP parties at home, where participants are asked to donate a dollar for the tap water served with meals.

The program has grown to include several thousand restaurants and 3,000 volunteers—a reflection of the campaign's simplicity and playfulness. Since its inception, TAP has raised $2.5 million. "The issue itself is compelling, but it's a fun campaign," says Caryl Stern, President and CEO of U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "We're not asking for a million dollars, we're asking for a dollar. It's a little tongue in cheek. We're saying have some fun, save some lives."

This year, UNICEF teamed up with six celebrities—Selena Gomez, Adrien Grenier, Dwight Howard, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Robin Williams—each of whom has filled a bottle with tap water from their house and sent it off to UNICEF with a signed card.  Anyone who donates $5 to the tap project will be entered to win the bottles (pictured above).

The TAP Project supports UNICEF's water and sanitation projects around the world. This year, the initiative will focus on Togo, the Central African Republic, and Vietnam. "[Lack of clean water] is an everyday disaster," says Stern. "The cameras aren't there."

Jenara Nerenberg contributed to this story.

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