Next time you're thirsty, reach for the tap.

Last weekend my friend and I went camping at Castle Lake, outside Mt. Shasta City. The lake is beautiful. In the morning, it mirrors the mountains. In the afternoon, it invites swimmers. In the evening, it turns bottle green against the sinking sun.

I love that lake.

One morning, we went into the city to replenish our water jugs, because there's no potable water at the campground.

We ate breakfast at a small café that serves 100 percent vegetarian, Mexican food. Yes, it's possible. And it's good.

In the back of the café, there's a movie theater. On Sunday, the World Cup game was showing in Spanish.

I love that café.

So, you understand, with all this love floating around, it was quite a shock when we walked to the water spigot downtown and, from across the street, I read the sign above the fountain: "MT. SHASTA, CITY OF PURE HATER."

Pure hater?

There wasn't any hate in the café. There wasn't any hate at the lake. I kept staring at the sign. Over and over I read: "Pure hater."

What? Where's the love?

I told my friend, who agreed that the sign said the hate was pure.What does that even mean? Is hate better pure? Is it some sort of New Age philosophy that hasn't caught on yet in Ashland? Are crystals involved?

"City of pure hater," yep, that's what it said in big, western-style lettering.

Interesting, I thought, especially because the sign was right in front of the police station. And we weren't in Arizona.

Then, the stoplight changed. As we walked across the street toward the spigot, at once everything became clear. The "H" was a "W." "Hater" was actually "water": "MT. SHASTA, CITY OF PURE WATER."

Oh.

As we filled our bottles, I began to worry that my subconscious was obsessed with haters. Had it been waiting all this time for an opportunity to turn water into hater?

In my defense, the sides of the "W" are straight and the point in the middle only reaches halfway, like an "H."

I'm pretty sure my misreading was a mistake, not a sign that my subconscious is deeply disturbed. Because I love water. I love drinking it and I love swimming, surfing, kayaking and sailing in it. I love water, but I draw the line at bottled water. It's not pure and there's no good reason for it.

In contrast, Mt. Shasta's tap water is extremely pure and delicious for drinking. It's won all kinds of awards.

And Ashland's tap water is nearly as nice. It tastes good right out of the tap. It's convenient, it's cheap and it's eco-cool.

There are too many plastic water bottles piled in landfills. And certain types of plastic bottles, especially those marked 3, 6 and 7 on the bottom, may leak toxic chemicals.

So consider doing yourself and the environment a favor and getting a reusable metal canteen. I carry one in my backpack and I have one sitting on my desk at the Daily Tidings, where I draw water from the tap.

I applaud restaurants, such as Standing Stone Brewing Co., that serve Ashland tap water. And I was glad to see the Ashland Food Cooperative stop selling bottled water in containers smaller than a gallon late last year.

"Our local tap water is cheaper and cleaner than what you'll get in a bottle," the Co-op's blog on the new policy reads.

"Here's something that might deter you from that next single serve bottle of water. Imagine that a quarter of it is oil. Yes. It takes that much oil to create and ship that one bottle for you to drink."

So next time you're thirsty, reach for the tap. Let's try to become a plastic-water-bottle-free city.

And, in the meantime, let's drink to that possibility. We'll have a tap-water party. We'll drink big, cold glasses of Ashland water. We'll put up a sign on the door: "ASHLAND TAP-WATER PARTY, NO PURE HATERS ALLOWED."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.