, March 28, 2008 (ENS) – To mark World Water Day, celebrated on March 22 each year, hundreds of Chicagoland area restaurants participated in the week-long UNICEF Tap Project. The program was started last year to bring attention to the urgent need for clean drinking water and to help supply parts of the world where clean, safe water is a rarity.
During the week that began March 16, nearly 200 city and suburban restaurants and bars invited patrons to donate $1 for tap water usually enjoyed for free. For every dollar raised, a child will have clean drinking water for 40 days.
"Lake Michigan is one of the greatest sources fresh water on the planet. Unlike other parts of the world where clean, safe water is a rare commodity, here in Chicago and throughout Illinois, we are privileged to have access to safe water every day," said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott.
"Some of the best things we can do for future generations are to further protect and restore the country's fresh waterways, continue to make sure the water flowing through our rivers and lakes and into our taps is clean and safe, and continue to urge people to become educated about the scarcity of water through projects like the Chicago Tap Project," said Scott.
According to a study by the National Resources Defense Council, Chicago enjoys some of the best tap water on Earth.
Some of Chicago's most notable chefs – including Rick Tramonto, Carrie Nahabedian, Bruce Sherman, Sarah Stegner, George Bumbaris and Paul Virant – and their restaurants lent their support to make Chicago's Tap Project a success.
"Restaurants are called on weekly to participate in charitable events and the sizeable list of Tap Project participants once again demonstrates the restaurant industry's tradition of giving back," said Sheila O'Grady, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, IRA.
"The IRA supports the mission of UNICEF's Tap Project with Copperblue, Hackney's Printers' Row and Va Pensiero as just a few of our member restaurants involved in this important humanitarian project," O'Grady said.
Tap water is poured at a New York restaurant during the 2007 inaugural Tap Project. (Photo courtesy Tap Project)
The Tap Project was created as part of "Esquire" magazine's December 2006 'Best & Brightest' issue, to raise awareness about a lack of safe drinking water worldwide. The project raised $100,000 in partnership with the US Fund for UNICEF in 2007. The goal is to raise $1 million this year.
Last year, over 300 New York City restaurants, along with thousands of their customers and individual contributors helped to make the inaugural Tap Project a huge success.
This year, it went national. From Dallas, Texas, to Seattle, Washington, more than 2,200 restaurants took part.
More than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water sources and more than 5,000 children die each day due to dehydration and other water-related illnesses, according to United Nations figures.
"Every year, unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation contribute to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman the Tap Project celebration March 20 in New York.
"Increasing access to clean and safe water will not only save young lives, it will also help break the vicious circle of poverty," said Veneman, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture.
"Here in Illinois," said Scott, "we are fortunate to have an adequate supply of safe drinking water in to meet the needs of our population, and when more than 11 million Illinois residents turn on the tap, they can be assured their water meets the federal health standards."
The most recent annual Compliance Report for the more than 6,000 public water supplies in the state showed that 99.9 percent of the population served by these systems received water that met all acute standards set by the federal government.
More than 1,700 of the largest community water systems are subject to extensive monitoring and reporting requirements under the oversight of the Illinois EPA for a variety of potential contaminants.
Illinois EPA will oversee additional federal requirements over the next few years, including new limits on disinfection byproducts and other potential contaminants in source water, which can either be from lakes or rivers, or from groundwater wells.
In addition, although there are no applicable federal standards, Illinois recently expanded monitoring for pharmaceuticals in Illinois waterways after trace amounts were found in sampling done in other states by the Associated Press. Previous sampling done by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2002 also found trace pharmaceuticals in rivers and streams across the country.
Illinois EPA has implemented a recent pilot project with local governments to collect more unused medications for safe disposal.
Illinois citizens can access data on their own community water system online by going to the Illinois EPA website at: www.epa.state.il.us and clicking on the "Environmental Facts Online" button on the right side of the home page.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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