Mobile app let’s you find location of your nearest free drinking water fountain
By John Cheng
Here in Hong Kong, around two million plastic bottles are sent to landfills everyday. Yes, that’s right – two million. And it is all because of our fondness for the convenience of bottled water.
It has become a habit for Hong Kong people to grab a bottle of water from one of the city’s many convenience stores whenever they feel thirsty. But seldom have they thought about the environmental problems this may create. With such a rapid increase in waste, it’s no surprise the landfills in Hong Kong will soon be full.
Sensing the urgency of the problem, 38-year-old lawyer Rachel Pang Hoi-yang developed a mobile app called Water for Free to encourage people to bring their own reusable water bottles instead of consuming bottled water. The mobile app shows the locations of more than 700 public water fountains and dispensers throughout Hong Kong, including in parks, sports grounds and universities. Users can easily find the nearest water fountain on the map, and if they discover a new water fountain which is not listed, they can also report the location to the developer of the app.
Pang devoted herself to raising public awareness of the over-consumption of bottled water after an unpleasant experience at the beach at Ma Wan. “My husband and I went there for a walk, but were welcomed by a sea of plastic bottles. It’s terrible!” she says.
Later, Pang came across a water fountain map of London on the Internet and was inspired to work on a Hong Kong version. Pang then asked the Leisure and Cultural Services Department for information on the locations of of water dispensers in Hong Kong, but they refused to give them to her at first. Fortunately, after Pang insisted, she eventually got the locations. And with the help of a friend, she developed the map into an app which is convenient for smartphone users.
To date, the Water for Free app has reached more than 1,000 downloads. Pang is glad to see some of her friends starting to change the habit of consuming bottled water. A friend of hers used to buy bottled water for hiking, but now brings his own water bottles because of this mobile app.
Pang hopes that the consumption of bottled water in Hong Kong can be reduced and more water fountains can be set up to encourage more people to bring their own bottles. “Practices which are environmentally unfriendly are most convenient…but we need to change this situation,”she says.
The Water for Free app is available for free on iOS and Android. For more information, check out the website of the app at http://waterforfree.org/. If you discover a new water fountain, you may also report the location on the website to the app developer. Bring your own bottle starting from today and save the planet.
Edited by Sharon Lee