Image by oddharmonic licensed under Creative Commons.

Are you ever unsure of where to fill up your reusable water bottle, or whether it’s ok to ask a store for water without buying anything? There’s a program you can use for finding free, potable tap water in our region, which is good for both you and the environment.

The TapIt Metro DC app displays an interactive map with hundreds of locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia where free tap water is available. Simply download the app (available for iOS and Android), zoom in on your location, and spot the nearest partner offering fresh water.

This is what the app shows for TapIt participants around Dupont Circle. Image by the author.

Over 750 locations participate in the TapIt Metro DC program, including businesses, city government locations, and federal government locations. The Smithsonian museums are on the list, as are a number of coffee shops and Potbelly sandwich shops. Several local bike stops are as well.

Many (but not all) of the stores that are part of TapIt have stickers like this one in their windows. Image by the author.

Providing free tap water means a cleaner environment and fewer wasted resources

The program is part of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ broader campaign to raise awareness of waste generated by plastic bottles— in particular, the Anacostia River has been “clogged with trash for much of the past century,” and bottles in the water are a big part of the problem— about 80 percent of plastic bottles end up in landfills and waterways, like the Potomac, where they can harm wildlife.

More globally, companies use an estimated 17 million barrels of oil every year to manufacture plastic bottles. The more people use reusable bottles, the fewer chances there are for bottles to add to pollution, and the fewer resources get wasted.

There is, of course, valid reason to wonder about contaminants in the water itself, like lead. The app also shows what kind of water is available at each location. DC Water publishes an interactive map to see whether places you frequently get water from have unsafe pipes as well as a water report about water quality around the city.

Apps like TapIt Metro DC are a great way to take a local approach to a global problem. There are also apps for other issues that arise via everyday use of public space, like finding a public bathroom. Do you know of any other local efforts like this?

Joanne Tang is a Northern Virginia native and a graduate student in public administration and policy, focusing on resiliency and emergency response. She lives in Alexandria and enjoys learning about pretty much everything, including the history of pencils.