A question often asked by foreign visitors when they come to Spain is “Is it okay to drink the tap water here?” The simple answer is yes, you can! Spanish tap water is considered to be 99.5% safe to drink, although the taste may vary somewhat according to the region. If you have concerns about either its safety or taste, a water filter could be the solution. Plus it’ll save you money in the long run.
In terms of quality, there is no scientific proof that bottled mineral water is any better or safer than tap water and so, for most people, the reason for drinking bottled water is because they just prefer the taste – which is fair enough – but filtered tap water tastes just as good as any bottled water and also cuts down on both monetary expense and plastic pollution of our natural environment.
A little background
In the early days of tourism in Spain, which really only got going in the late 1960s, the country’s tap water had a pretty poor reputation with foreign visitors. In the immediate decades following the Spanish Civil War, and then WWII which followed immediately afterwards, there was precious little investment in infrastructure in the country in general, and that included the water supply system. As a result, the taste of tap water wasn’t the best and this led to a perception amongst tourists that the water probably wasn’t the safest either – and so they mainly opted to drink bottled mineral water. Many Spaniards, especially in touristic areas, started following suit and also opting for the bottled stuff.
The EU comes to the rescue
Things changed when Spain joined the European Union in 1986, along with Portugal, as between that year and 2008 Spain received €21 billion in E.U. funding to improve and develop its water supply infrastructure. Today Spain has some of the most advanced public water filtrations and wastewater management solutions in the world and, although Spanish water has higher than average levels of trihalomethane (THM) than many other countries, the modern water supply system ensures that by the time it reaches your tap, it is perfectly safe to drink. Spanish tap water is considered to be 99.5% safe to drink and complies with international water quality standards, although there may still be localized issues with the taste caused by sediments, minerals, local pipe contaminants, or the chlorine that is added to kill off any pathogens, viruses and bacteria that can cause disease.
In more recent years a new problem has arisen in relation to our drinking water worldwide, namely that of microplastics. Decades of dumping plastic waste into the oceans, lakes and rivers of the world by humans have resulted in microplastic pollution. (Really, sometimes it’s astonishing how we humans can be at the same time so intelligent and yet so incredibly stupid!) We now know that much of this dumped plastic waste breaks down into very fine particles which then enter our natural drinking water supplies, rather than decomposing like natural materials would.
Ironically, one huge contributor to microplastic pollution is bottled water. Back in the day when people began to drink bottled water, those bottles were typically made of glass. Now glass has been replaced by cheaper plastic with literally billions of plastic bottles of mineral water being consumed each year. With only about 30% of those plastic bottles currently being recycled, and only 20% of them being made from recycled plastic, the stats are not good at all. The amount of plastic going into our oceans and landfills and eventually into our natural drinking water supply is truly worrying.
Maybe you really want to be kind to the environment but hate the taste of chlorine? While a lot of people hardly even notice the chlorine, there are others who just can’t stand it. Thankfully, there is a solution at hand: water filters. If you are someone who drinks bottled water mostly for the taste, decent water filters will get rid of that chlorine flavour for you and at the same time make your water as safe as possible by removing microplastics, lead, pesticides or any other invisible contaminants that may be hiding in there. Water filters also have the added advantage of potentially saving an average household hundreds of euro per year in the long run compared to buying bottled water – and, of course, they will help reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce. Give us a shout at callCarlos and we can come out and fit water filters that will make your water taste great, ease your environmental and social conscience, and make you feel better about your wallet in the long run too!
Costa Brava water
Apart from taste or microplastics, the water here on the Costa Brava, and coastal Catalunya in general with its location right on the Mediterranean, is quite “hard”. The “hardness” of water refers to the levels of mineralization and an excess of cal, or lime, in your H2O – and we don’t mean the kind of lime you use to make mojitos! This is due to the superabundance of calcium and magnesium, the elements that cause limescale in your household appliances and your shower. You’ll probably have noticed it already or maybe you’ve already had to use a limescale remover – probably on more than one occasion if you live on La Costa Brava. A water filter, or softener, will take care of that for you and so put an end to your spending on anti-cal products – as well as all that bottled drinking water. Filtered “soft” water requires less laundry detergent and leaves your clothes cleaner, and also means your hair will feel softer and cleaner after a shower while using less shampoo. You’ll also be doing your washing machine, dishwasher, tap and shower fittings a big favour! Convinced yet? callCarlos! Sounds like a bit of a no-brainer really!
Update: Drought Alert!
Catalunya is in drought. We have officially been so for 30 months now, and counting, at the time of writing (March 2023) – so, since October 2023, but with the winter of 2022/23 bringing nothing like enough rain, things are getting serious.
There are five status levels for the reservoirs in Catalunya:
Normal – Early Warning – Alert – Exceptionality – Emergency
Obviously “Normal” is where we want to be, but, without going into too much detail here, only one reservoir is operating as “normal” along the Costa Brava, namely the Baix Ter, which covers an area that includes La Bisbal d’Empordà and Torroella de Montgrí. To the north, all the way to France, the Costa Brava is in either “Alert” or “Exceptionality” and to the south, all of the rest of the coast all the way down through Barcelona and beyond, as far as Tarragona, is in “Exceptionality”. This is because reservoirs are running dangerously low on water at around 27%.
The Drought Action Plan was activated in October 2021, but now we’re entering the next level. Altogether, 224 municipalities in Catalunya are now officially in the “Exceptionality”. stage – that’s over 6.5 million people, about 80% of the population.
What does this mean?
It means restrictions on drinking-water usage for industrial, agricultural, and especially recreational purposes. That means no more filling swimming pools or washing the car, no more drinking water being used for street or facade cleaning, or for fountains. It also means sprinklers cannot be used for lawns, or public green areas either, with the bare minimum of water required to keep trees and plants alive being administered using a drop-by-drop system, and only from 08h to 20h – to give just a few examples. For all municipalities in the “Exceptionality” status, the water usage limit, since 6 March ’23, is 230 litres per person per day.
If things continue to worsen the Generalitat may begin to strictly enforce the restrictions on personal water use in homes and start to fine people who exceed their limit of 230 litres. They are not talking about enforcing this just yet, but in the “Exceptionality” stage the fine, if imposed, is 30c per cubic litre above the allowance, rising to 60c per cubic litre should we enter “Emergency” status. Let’s just hope things never get to that stage.
You can find more detailed info on the effects of the drought on the gencat (govt.) website.
A side-effect of the drought is that hydroelectric power production is down by about 35%. Normally, this accounts for about 12% of electric power produced, and in a country where we already pay some of the highest rates in the EU for electricity, we certainly don’t want to see prices increase any further.
The Mediterranean typically tends to experience cycles of heavy rain and drought, like the one we’re in at the moment. Last summer was a very hot one, and the winter just gone brought very little rain. There wasn’t enough “regular” rain, and although there were a few downpours, water collection during these deluges is inadequate. With the land now being so dry, we face an increased risk of wildfires as temperatures rise.