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PARIS

L’eau de Paris: Why the French capital is launching a tap water campaign

It sounds like a perfume, but the new 'l'eau de Paris' advertising campaign has a much more practical purpose.

L'eau de Paris: Why the French capital is launching a tap water campaign
A man drinks water from a fountain in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. Photo by Dominique FAGET / AFP

If you’re in Paris you might have seen adverts telling you to ‘choose Paris water’ – here’s what it means.

Je choisis l’eau de Paris (I choose Paris water) is plastered all over the city’s advertising boards at the moment, and it references a campaign by the city authorities to make Paris a ‘single-use-plastic free city’ by 2024.

The French government has introduced legislation banning lots of types of single-use plastics, but Paris authorities are aiming to go one better and make the city entirely free of single-use plastics by 2024.

READ ALSO Six things to know about tap water in France

One of the biggest uses of single-use plastics is water bottles – across France 8.7 million plastic bottles of water are sold each year and only half are recycled. Water bottles are among the items most commonly found in the 8 million tonnes of plastic that end up in the oceans each year.

But staying hydrated is also important to health, especially in the summer months, which is why Paris authorities have launched the ‘choose Paris water’ campaign encouraging people to ditch the bottled water and instead drink Paris tap water.

Businesses

Restaurants, bars and cafés are already legally obliged to offer free tap water to customers – to ensure you get tap water and not expensive mineral water ask for une carafe d’eau or un pichet d’eau – but Paris is expanding the tap-water provision to everyone.

If you see a business with a sticker saying ‘Ici, je choisis l’eau de Paris‘ you can enter and ask for a (free) glass of water or to fill up your water bottle.

This isn’t limited to bars and cafés, shops, hairdressers and other businesses are getting involved too.

Water fountains

Paris has an extensive network of water fountains where you can take a drink or fill up your water bottle – some of them even dispense sparkling water.

You can find an interactive map of all the drinking fountains here.

Paris tap water is entirely safe to drink, the only water you shouldn’t drink is that which comes out of the dispensers labelled eau non-potable (non-drinking water) – this is used by the street cleaners to wash down the streets.

Cooling water vapour fountains at the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris. Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

Other water sources

If you want to simply cool off, also keep an eye out for the brumisateurs (foggers) which appear when the weather gets hot and pump out cooling water vapour.

You can also buy little bottles that spray a light mist of water onto your face or hands in order to cool down – look out for them in the pharmacy or supermarket.

Unlike Italy where tourists are frequently fined for trying to cool off in historic fountains, Paris authorities are pretty relaxed about people splashing around in fountains such as the Trocadero when the temperatures soar. 

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ENVIRONMENT

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

Unesco has announced that the Mediterranean - including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes - will be at risk of tsunamis within the next 30 years, and therefore has included it in its tsunami protection program

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

The risk of tsunamis in the Mediterranean Sea is real – on October 16th, 1979, a tsunami, caused by a landslide, hit the coast of Nice and killed a dozen people. More recently, the Greek island of Samos in the Aegean Sea was hit by a tsunami in 2020.

But the climate crisis and rising sea levels mean that experts fear that in the future they will no longer be rare events along the Mediterranean coast.

Unesco has therefore announced that it will be adding thousands of communities to its Tsunami Ready Plan, including the French cities of Marseille and Cannes.

Experts fear that tsunamis in the Mediterranean could reach up to a metre in height and are almost guaranteed in the next 30 years.

According to Unesco’s calculations, “there is a 100% chance” that tsunamies will occur in the Mediterranean “over the next thirty years.” Therefore, the UN organisation has called for public authorities to institute their multistep programme, which would encourage awareness, warning, and prevention mechanisms for at-risk coastal communities. 

The preparedness program seeks to ensure that these cities and towns, like Marseille and Cannes, will have the necessary response mechanisms in place by 2030.

The Tsunami Ready program, which has already been piloted in dozens of communities across the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and was prepared by Unesco experts, establishes twelve indicators to be respected by the communities concerned. This means that Marseille and Cannes will be expected create plans for identifying tsunamis threats and build community awareness and preparation for how to cope with tsunamis.

The twelve readiness indicators are shown in the graphic below:

Communities must meet all 12 indicators, which cover Assessment, Preparedness, and Response, will be recognized as ‘Tsunami Ready’ by the UNESCO/IOC.

Tsunamis are usually caused by seismic activity (78 percent of them) – like the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 that killed over 210,000 people, but 10 percent are also caused by volcanic activity and landslides, like the tsunami that hit the Pacific island of Tonga in January. Meanwhile, the rare 2 percent are caused by meteorological activity.

However, the increased concern for tsunamis along France’s Mediterranean coast is in part due to rising sea levels (resulting from the climate crisis) and the need to better monitor underwater volcanos.

Rising sea levels can lead to an increase in the power of tsunamis – up to tenfold. In some parts of the world, such as Macao, scientists estimate that  tsunamis will have twice their current impact by 2050.

Even a tsunami of 50cm high can do a lot of damage – what sounds like a small flow of water is actually capable of lifting a car and depositing it several dozen meters away.

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