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What's the deal with the Water Bar? It's part saloon, part educational space

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When the Water Bar & Public Studio opens in Minneapolis, you'll be able to saunter up to the saloon's counter and order a free glass of ... tap water.

Yes, that's the main (ingestible) draw of the planned establishment on the city's northeast side. But the brains behind it say it's about connecting people with their water, and getting them engaged in the issues.

Minneapolis says it gets all its drinking water from the Mississippi River – and it takes about 21 billion gallons of the stuff every year.

So what is this water bar exactly?

If all goes as planned, it'll be a storefront that will also serve as a "public art-sustainability incubator" for the community, the GoFundMe for the project says.

They're trying to raise $25,000 (you can donate at the ink above), which will help pay for opening the space and getting the supplies needed to activate it right off the bat, according to the fundraising page. The space will serve water for free, including some "limited edition" pours featuring other local and regional tap waters, and also serve as an arts and creativity hub.

MinnPost did a full interview with the creators of Water Bar, husband-and-wife duo Shanai Matteson and Colin Koecker. They're also the directors of Work Progress Studio.

And what will happen there?

The "water tenders" (think bartender, but serving water instead of booze) are there to direct conversations and set the tone of the projects discussed, the Water Bar website says, then help "facilitate educational exchange" with everyone there. The project then takes all these discussions and thoughts and turns them into real projects, that are then sent to a wider audience "including policy makers, public educators and water resource scientists."

Gov. Mark Dayton has said Minnesota is facing "critical" water issues, and last month held a summit with statewide leaders and community members to talk about how to tackle the problems – including rivers and streams deemed unfit for swimming or fishing, pollution damage that could take decades to clean up, and a troublesome health status for many of the state's wetlands.

When the Water Bar storefront was announced, news outlets quickly picked it up, including Minneapolis Eater, Fox News Insider, People and UPI. There has been some eyebrow-raising though. For example, it was posted in Reddit's "NotTheOnion" subreddit.

But the GoFundMe page notes "local artists, art supporters, environmental advocates, and NE neighborhood residents" have given money to the project, because they "know that we need more spaces where we can come together to talk about things that matter to our lives and communities," such as addressing water and environmental issues and helping foster public projects that will affect the city.

The storefront will be near Central and Lowry Avenues, but a specific opening date hasn't been set.

Pop-up water bars

There have been numerous pop-up versions of this from Matteson and Koecker, including one at the University of Minnesota last month (with a few more scheduled for the Twin Cities area in the coming weeks).

Since launching the pop-up project in 2014, more than 30,000 people in Minnesota, Arkansas, Illinois and North Carolina have been served local tap water at a Water Bar, according to the project's website.

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