The Water Hostage Release project

The Water Hostage Release Project started as an actual, practical, change-of-habit physical gesture, on November 12th, 2010. I was in Montréal on sabbatical leave, living on Rue Laurier very near the mountain. My main goal for the sabbatical was to write a book on Post-Structuralist Ethics (which I eventually did), but I was so easily sidetracked. My girlfriend, Helge and I would go for a walk almost every day up the mountain.

Up on the Mont Royal mountain was where I began The Water Hostage Release Project. 

Something that had ALWAYS bugged me was bottled water. I understand the need for bottled water where tap water is not potable. I also know individuals who, for a variety of health reasons, can only drink bottled water. Fine. But what about the rest of us chumps? If our tap water is potable, we are living the high life compared to zillions of people on the planet; many even in the same province as us. You need water? Fill a recyclable bottle and drink up, buddy.

Exponentially worse, though, is when someone buys a bottle of bottled water, has a sip or two, and throws it away, with the cap on! When I see that I think that we are indeed on the way to the deserved apocalyse. Plastic + potable water that is not, actually, consumed. Rather, it is discarded, stuck inside its little plastic coffin, where, until it is bulldozed on a mountain of garbage at a landfill, the perfectly perfect drinking water will be held hostage. Have you ever had that thought? Have you ever been emboldened beyond just having that misanthropic de-ecological blast of dismay, to do something? I did. It was November 12th, 2010. I had made a solemn pledge to myself that, embarassment and awkwardness notwithstanding... any time I found an abandoned water bottle with drinking water hostaged in it, I would: a) record the data of position, bottling company and amount of water "held" hostage; b) release it back into the water table only when I had found a place that made sense; c) carry the empty plastic bottle until I found a blue recycling bin or box.

It was a very awkward totally personal ecological activist project.

Better than doing nothing, is what I firmly believed. (And still do). So... from 2010 until June 28th, 2019, I kept it up. I had a little booklet. I made notes. Here are some of the notes:

"Saturday, November 26th, 2010. 1:26pm. Corner of Rue Champagneur and Saint Viateur. Evian 500mL bottle. ~ 100mL in bottle. Poured it out on the lawn of people with Christmas lights and red berries in a silver urn."

"Saturday, December 3rd, 2010. Bibliothéque Robert Bourassa. A big NAYA 500mL bottle. Teenagers who were studying, evacuated the study room and left it on the table. ~ 150mL left in it. I poured it outside under a bush."

"January 7th, 2010. Cinéma du Parc. There is a full, unopened bottle of water (500mL, ESKA) at my feet, in the dark. I drank it."


Spring 2011. Fast-forward to Berlin, Summer 2019. I had been keeping up my ridiculous private pledge. My friend, Karine Bonneval, was curating an art show around the theme of WATER at gRUND, in Wedding. She asked me if I had any piece that I could contribute? I indeed did: my secret Water Release efforts. Her invitation gave me an opportunity to TALLY my notes. Also, to share my "PROTOCOL" with the public, should anyone share my crankiness about hostaged bottled water. What shocked the hell out of me was the number. At that point, by sheer randomness (i.e. I didn't go out of my way to hunt for these bottles; I just dealt with them as I encountered them on my regular goings-about on foot or bike)... I had freed: 2,682LITRES. Yes, friends! Upwards of 3000 LITRES of perfectly drinkable water. 

Berlin Total

This was a, um, watershed moment for me. I realized two things: a) that peeny weeny idiosyncratic ecological gestures, over time, added up; b) if I could get others on board, we would be "freeing" gigantic quantities of water back into the ecological life of water. I think at that moment I became a Water Witch!

By the end of that same year, the Fall of 2019, I had added another 600L of water to the tally, largely because I collected hundreds and hundreds of abandoned REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLES from "Lost and FOUND" sites around town... all of the contained drinking water. That brought the total to 3,626.5 LITRES."

In the three years that followed, I took photos of, and recorded the data about, over 500 "hostage releases". Let's say that each one is minimum 100mL (and often 300mL) that means another 50-100 Litres. So, a conservative number to post as the JUMPING OFF POINT for the now-live Eau'dometer that anyone in the world can contribute to, is 3,700 Litres. Let's go!

All you need to do is download the SURVEY 123 App to your phone (see below for a QR code and instructions). When you see an abandoned bottle of drinking water, click on the app, "continue without signing in" and follow the simple directions. When you SEND the data, it will add to the live, rolling count of the main “eau’dometer” ALL THE WATER FORMERLY HELD HOSTAGE, NOW FREE to be WATER AGAIN! 

ART = you can be creative about where you pour the happily released water! 
SOIL = needs moisture to germinate seeds! 
COLLECTIVE = 60% water on the inside of our bodies + the rest is circulating amongst us: insects + plants + clouds + the aquifer + all creatures need this water moving through...