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San Francisco International Airport will ban the sale of water in plastic bottles starting on Aug. 20 as part of an ongoing effort to eliminate single-use plastic used or sold on municipal property. The airport is owned by the city and county of San Francisco.

The new ordinance states: "Effective August 20, water to be sold in recyclable aluminum, glass or BPI-certified compostable bottles. The policy applies to purified water, mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water, and electrolyte-enhanced water, but does not include flavored beverages such as sodas, teas, or juices."

For many travelers, grabbing a water bottle from a shop or vending machine after clearing security is part of the travel routine. Staying hydrated in the dehydrating atmosphere of an airplane is absolutely critical, and frequent fliers have learned not to rely on irregular passes of the in-flight beverage cart to prevent thirst.

Here's what fliers should know about the upcoming changes, and how you'll be able to stay hydrated on upcoming flights:

Aluminum cans or bottles as well as glass bottles of water will replace single-use plastic water bottles on sale at airport concessionaires. That sounds reasonable, but canned water can be impractical because you have to drink it all at once since there is no screw cap or lid. Then there's the heavy weight of glass bottles along with the fear of glass shattering inside your carry on or onboard an airplane. Best option: Buy water in a recyclable aluminum bottle and keep it for future trips.

Much of the paper boxed water you've likely seen in stores cannot be sold at the airport either. According to SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel, many of these boxes do not align with the city's rules about compostability because they are lined with plastic or foil.

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However, we found Menlo Park-based Drop Water on SFO's list of approved alternatives. The company sells plain water in 100 percent compostable water bottles filled on demand from kiosks and hopes to set up shop at the airport soon.

"We don't have any kiosks at SFO yet, although we are an approved vendor there and hope to place kiosks now that the plastic bottle ban is going into effect," a company representative told SFGate. "We do have kiosks in both terminals at Mineta San Jose Airport, so SFO seems like a natural next step." The representative said no contracts had yet been signed, so there is no timeline of when and where the first kiosk would be installed.

Compostable Drop Water bottles are filled on demand at airport kiosks Photo: Drop Water
Photo: Drop Water

Compostable Drop Water bottles are filled on demand at airport kiosks

SFO's airline lounges are also subject to the ban, according to Yakel. Several airline lounges currently provide plastic water bottles to fliers to take with them as they leave. For example, United Airlines' business class Polaris Lounge has coolers stocked with Dasani plastic water bottles for fliers to grab as they wish. Yakel said the ban does not apply to water served on-board the aircraft.

Bottom line: If you want to stay hydrated when flying, bring your own reusable water bottle. The airport has installed numerous "hydration stations" located in every terminal where fliers can fill up for free. (See this for locations and info.)

SFO even boasts about the purity of its water: "San Francisco tap water—pristine Sierra snowmelt that comes from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir located in Yosemite National Park and from within two protected local watersheds in the Bay Area—is some of the purest, safest and best tasting water in the world."

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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission. You can reach Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.