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Where can I find free public drinking water in France?

Many people want to reduce their consumption of bottled water for environmental reasons but with summer approaching, it is important to stay hydrated

There are several ways to locate free public drinking fountains in France Pic: MNStudio / Shutterstock

Reader question: I was wondering do towns in France have official lists of areas where they have public "free" drinking water? I know they have signs saying ‘Eau potable’ in some places. Thanks!

There are several ways to locate free public drinking fountains for a cheaper – and greener – way to stay hydrated when out and about.

Some cities have a list on their websites. For example, you can find Lyon’s at Eau du Grand Lyon’s website.

Apps such as FreeTaps show public drinking fountains and restaurants where owners will give a free glass of water. 

Water-Map, created by the charity Europe Water Project to promote tap water over bottled, has more than 280,000 water points listed on its app, mostly in Europe. 

Both are collaborative apps, depending on input from the public to update information.

Website Eau Cyclisme shows cyclists where they can fill up their water bottles during a ride but can be used by anyone for the same purpose. 

It has 4,300 places listed in France and says most towns have public toilets near their marketplace, mairie or tourist office with drinking water.

More points should be available in the future as a section of the climate change law which came into force on January 1 says establishments open to more than 300 members of the public and already linked to a water supply must provide at least one drinking water fountain per 300 people and make clear where they are.

This should include shopping centres, big supermarkets, museums, airports and railway stations.

In restaurants, tap water is included in the price of a meal so you can ask for this instead of paying for a bottle of mineral water. This has been law since 1967. 

Bistros and cafes must clearly indicate on the menu or a noticeboard that customers can ask for free water.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the water board Eau de Paris has launched an initiative to encourage shops, businesses and restaurants to let people fill up water bottles for free. 

Participating venues will have a sticker in the window: Ici je choisis l’eau de Paris. Je remplis ma gourde.

The aim is to have 500 participating businesses by this month. With its 1,200 drinking points, Paris hopes to be the first city where people can drink water without the need for single-use plastic bottles.

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