Lovely and fresh!

Designer and water philosopher Kuno Prey on precious mountain springs, healthy drinking water and Brixen’s sustainable stainless steel bottles

Kuno, why does water play such a fascinating and important role in Brixen?

Brixen has water running through its veins. Water is one of the town’s most valuable assets and you can find it almost everywhere you look. The town sources its water from two mountain springs and the question of which water is best has always been a topic of much debate among locals. That, if nothing else, shows just how important water is to the town – and how proud the people of Brixen are of their water. Here, water is considered to be the elixir and source of life. With its numerous fountains, Brixen is like an open-air museum dedicated to water. Life surrounded and shaped by water is celebrated here – and rightly so.

Brixen is also using its water to promote a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Water is no longer sold in plastic bottles on the Plose, Brixen’s local hiking and skiing area, and plans are already in place for the town to follow suit. You were one of the brains behind this initiative. How exactly were you involved?

We drink around two litres of water every day. And, in Italy, we consume approximately 200 litres of water per person from plastic bottles every year – without even thinking about it. My mission is to change this by raising awareness. A while ago, I organised a water tasting event, where Brixen residents and visitors to the town were invited to sample water from 800 kilometres, 400 kilometres, 200 kilometres and 40 kilometres away. As well as water from Brixen’s own fountains, of course. In other words, water that hadn’t travelled any distance at all. The results were unanimous; absolutely everyone agreed that the water from Brixen tasted the best. It’s just so lovely and fresh! Since then, a lot has changed in Brixen. Various places in the town already sell stainless steel bottles with bamboo lids to help people move away from plastic bottles. Reducing plastic waste by drinking water from fountains is the way forward. After all, this water has no expiry date, does not pollute the environment, and is free, healthy and locally sourced.

How did you become such a water expert?

When I was sixteen, I wanted to be a pilot. But I also had an inescapable desire to be creative, so I ended up becoming a product designer. I started out designing pairs of glasses but went on to create everything from furniture to cooking utensils. Before long, I had built a career working with a number of world-renowned companies. For many years, I held a professorship at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in Germany. Then, after returning to South Tyrol, I founded the Faculty of Design and Art at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. I always told my students that in addition to creating beautiful designs, it was important to be practical and rational. And to always keep nature and our cultural heritage front of mind, including our most precious commodity – water! I have eliminated plastic bottles from my life and only drink water from glass. I’d rather go thirsty than drink it from a plastic bottle.

Where is your favourite place to watch the water in Brixen?

In the town centre, where the Rienz and Eisack rivers meet. The way the water ripples and flows together is so symbolic and beautiful.

We have no choice but to finally truly appreciate our environment and to focus on conserving our natural resources.

Kuno Prey

What’s your vision for Brixen in 2030?

By 2030, it will be impossible for visitors to Brixen not to be touched and inspired by how the town embraces its water. We have no choice but to finally truly appreciate our environment and to focus on conserving our natural resources. In particular, we need to celebrate our unique springs. We must develop a greater awareness of just how plentiful water is in our region – and of how to take care of it responsibly. The number of fish in the sea is declining and there’s plastic everywhere. This needs to change. That’s why, by 2030, water will no longer be available in plastic in Brixen and the surrounding area. And by nowhere, I mean absolutely nowhere. We must turn this vision into a reality – and we need to spread the word! Our small message and our green shoots of change will send out a signal to the rest of the world. And our town will become even more of a pioneer, known internationally for its wonderful relationship with water.

Text: Lenz Koppelstätter
Pictures: Andreas Tauber
Date of publication: 2021

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