Italy: Sparkling water on tap

Anna Momigliano
Rozzano’s sparkling water fountain.

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

ROZZANO, ITALY – In the early morning or at the end of the workday, families can be seen lining up in front of the main public fountain in this small town, ready to fill their bottles. The fountain in Rozzano is a little peculiar: The water is sparkling.

Until a few years ago, this working-class suburb south of Milan was mostly known for gang crime – and thus nicknamed “Roz Angeles.” But now it can claim some fame for a better reason: With other small towns in the Milan area, the city council has launched a project offering sparkling water to its citizens – free of charge.

Sparkling water fountains – case dell’acqua, or “houses of water,” as they are called here – are colorful, houselike constructions with two faucets pumping cool water on demand. One faucet provides regular tap water – and is rarely used. The second pumps CO2 with the water, giving it bubbles, like soda fountains in restaurants. The CO2 is stored in a cryogenic tank.

Sparkling water is considered a basic need in this country. On average, Italian families spend between 250 and 500 euros ($345-$690) every year on bottled water. Usually they buy both sparkling and still, in order to meet the personal tastes of family members and guests.

This also means an impact for the environment: Most popular brands of bottled water commonly sold here in the Milan area are transported from more than 125 miles away, increasing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The economic crisis led many families to stop buying still bottled water, opting instead for tap water (which is generally quite good). But bubble lovers were left with few options – until sparkling water started flowing in the fountains.

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