Crowdmapping Skopje’s drinking fountains for sustainable water management

Posted March 22, 2022


World Water Day

Both too much and too little water is a disaster. As populations grow and global temperatures rise, we must accelerate our efforts to manage this vital resource responsibly so that we can build communities that are resilient to both disasterous floods and water scarcity.

On the 22nd of March, World Water Day, we remind ourselves that we need to continue raising awareness and inspiring action towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. The challenge of water and sanitation is global, and of course our communities and cities are facing these issues as well. In our local context, preserving and conserving drinking water resources, reducing the use of plastic, and ensuring that citizens have access to public spaces that allow residents to interact and thrive with others in their community, particularly during the increasingly warm summers, are some of the challenges Skopje’s neighborhoods are facing.

From village wells to city drinking fountains, sources of water have always been community gathering places. In a city rich with fresh groundwater like Skopje, public drinking fountains are a relatively common sight and sometimes of the free-flowing variety that allows drinking water to be wasted. As urban populations increase and put more pressure on water resources, we must take care to manage these resources sustainably so that they do not become a luxury.

Crowdmapping Skopje’s public drinking fountains

To help lay the foundation for the development of a more sustainable network of public drinking fountains, and to encourage residents to use them (responsibly), the UNDP North Macedonia office started a very simple crowdmapping challenge for our colleagues: We set out to geotag, photograph and map as many of Skopje’s public drinking fountains as we could. Using our smartphones, we used every walk and bike ride in our neighborhoods as an opportunity to hunt for more drinking fountains to add to our interactive map – all done after hours by the dedicated colleagues that make up our so-called “Water Team”. After filling the map with many data points during the month of March, ahead of Skopje’s hot summer months, we are now ready to share it with the public and invite others to contribute to this collective effort.

Once we have most of Skopje’s fountains on our map, we will validate the data with the relevant national institutions and fill in any missing data points.

By giving our fellow citizens an easy way to find the nearest fountain where they can refill their reusable bottles, we hope to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles that only create needless plastic waste. We also hope to stir up a conversation about the design of the public drinking fountains by talking about which designs contribute to water preservation, which one are most accessible to humans and animals of all shapes and sizes, and which ones are easiest to use with reusable bottles.

As the mapping process includes a photo of each fountain, we are also compiling a database of the types of fountains that we have in the city, their design, as well as the mechanisms they are using to control the water flow. This data could potentially be useful for our institutions and companies in making more efficient and user-friendly designs for delivering this important public resource. 

We want YOU to join our Water Team!

After close to a month of mapping work all over the city by our Water Team, we decided it was time to share the map of Skopje’s drinking fountains with the public.

Though the map already has many data points, we realize that many of Skopje’s drinking fountains are still missing. We hope to correct this by opening the map to contributions from all interested Skopje residents. If you would like to join the crowdmapping process, all you need to do is follow these four simple steps:

  1. Take a photo of a public drinking fountain.
  2. Tag its location.
  3. Fill out this short form.
  4. We will validate the data point and add it to the interactive map.

For any questions on how to participate, you can contact our UNDP Water Team by emailing lazar.popivanov@undp.org.

Together, we can help create a sustainable future of Skopje’s public drinking water!