Spartanburg Asks Residents to Choose Tap

Spartanburg Water’s “Choose Tap” initiative is a three-pronged effort to encourage residents to drink tap water: It’s about the environment, it’s about health, and it’s about awareness of an often-overlooked resource. And it’s a simple request.

Partnering with Spartanburg’s Way to Wellville was a good fit forSpartanburg Water, with two of the focus areas finding overlap—obesity prevention and community pride—and Choose Tap is the result of that partnership, focusing on those two things.

 “The simple idea,” says Chad Lawson, communications manager for Spartanburg Water, “is this: Drink more water, and drink tap water. It’s cheaper, it’s environmentally friendly, and it supports your community.” Lawson wants Spartanburg Water customers to think about and be proud of their city’s water.

With cities like Flint, Michigan dominating the news because of dangerous water quality and infrastructure issues, Spartanburg Water wants to assure their customers that their water exceeds industry standards for safety and quality, with some 250 tests run daily to constantly monitor the water. “Spartanburg Water owns a system of three interconnected reservoirs and two major water treatment facilities,” according to the web site, and the watershed for the water sources lies entirely within Spartanburg and Greenville Counties, reducing the possibility for unknown risk factors.

In talking about the environmental impact of choosing tap water over bottled water, Lawson refers to the “water footprint”—the amount of water that used to produce a product—of a single bottle of water: It takes three times the amount of water in the bottle to produce the bottle. In terms of the economic impact on a household, the cost of 50 8-ounce glasses of water is right around a penny—making it 1,000 times cheaper than bottled water.

The health impact is two-fold. Hydration is important all the time, but especially in the summer months, and with that in mind, Spartanburg Water has installed water bottle filling stations downtown at Morgan Square and in Spartanburg High School, after meeting with student council representatives to get their input as to the best locations. For large city events such as the Criterium bike race and Red, White, and Boom, a mobile, six-tap water-dispensing unit called Choose Tap Oasis can tap into a water line to provide drinking water in two temperatures—chilled and natural temperature. At those events, if event-goers don’t have their own bottles, free bottles are available in exchange for a signed Choose Tap pledge—and, Lawson says, they’ve had more than 2,000 signed pledges at those events.

The other potential health impact is in the area of obesity prevention: not simply choosing to drink tap water instead of bottled water, but replacing high-calorie, sugar-filled drinks with water. Replacing one soda per day with water will cut approximately 1,050 calories per week, which can really add up over the course of a year. Way to Wellville’s obesity goals over five years are to reduce childhood obesity by 3% and adult obesity by 5%, and switching to tap water has the potential to go a long way towards meeting that goal.

Lawson comes back to the phrase “meeting people where they are” several times in the course of a conversation with him. Making this small decision that has a big environmental, economic, and community impact is something anybody can do.

Photos courtesy of Spartanburg Water.

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Duncan, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at