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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article10 August 2023European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency2 min read

A new solution to an old problem: natural drinking fountains with LIFE WATER WAY

Newly installed drinking water fountains along the Camino of Santiago are proving a hit with long-distance hikers whilst dramatically reducing the use of plastic water bottles. 

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LIFE WATER WAY- a six-year, EUR 761,000 project covering 143 km of the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain – provides drinking water from traditional fountains. 

Walkers can now refill their reusable bottles at 28 new ‘micro-supply points’ - approximately one every six kilometres - fed by wells and natural springs. The fountains use a specially designed purification system to ensure the supply of water is available for pilgrims walking the ‘English Way’.   

‘When you’re short of water, and you see a spring, you don’t know if it’s safe to drink,’ says one thirsty pilgrim interviewed by the project. In the old days, you would drink it anyway, but nowadays, you think twice about it.’ 

LIFE WATER WAY has become a model of responsible water consumption, involving 18 municipalities and water and health experts who devised a sustainable and cost-efficient treatment system for the water fountains. This new water treatment system is expected to recover 100 m3 (about the volume of a one-car garage) of drinking water each year from natural springs. 

Every year, huge numbers of pilgrims walk the popular ‘English Way’. Around 25,000 tread the route in Galicia alone - so it’s not surprising that one of the main achievements of the project has been a striking reduction in the use of disposable bottles. So far, more than one million single-usage disposable half-litre bottles have been saved, preventing 12 tonnes of plastic residues and 841 tonnes of CO2. 

‘As the mayor of a rural community, I’m pleased to have contributed to the recovery of our natural resources, a treasure without which Galicia would not be as we know it,’ says José Antonio Santiso Miramontes, Mayor of Abegondo and President of the Mariñas Coruñesas e Terras do Mandeo Biosphere Reserve.  

‘The Life Water Way is an excellent example of cooperation among different local authorities to offer their citizens a great service,’ agrees Valentín González Formoso, President of the A Coruña Provincial Council. 

 To mark the end of LIFE WATER WAY in June 2023, the project produced a Good Practice Guide for promoting public drinking fountains and organised a technical conference to share the results. The initiative has already attracted interest from countries all over the world hoping to set up similar schemes. 

‘Treated natural springs are the solution for micro-supplying drinking water along routes where it isn’t possible to connect to controlled water supply networks,’ notes Teresa Guiérrez López, Director of Augas de Galicia, a publicly owned water company.  


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