Don’t be fooled by water bottle empires to think that all tap water is completely out of the question, you could be missing out on some delicious, healthy water.
Tap water gets a bad rap, especially in foreign countries, but most Americans have no idea what’s coming out of their own faucet. The Environmental Working Group constantly finds contaminants in the nation’s tap water, the group also points out that some of those harmful substances are not regulated by the EPA.
So with that in mind, lets give you a crash course into some precautions before taking your next sip. And since you’ve heard of the countless of places where water isn’t potable, first, take a look at these cities with reputable, non-fluoridated water systems that could change your mind about your next destination.
International Tap Cities
Vancouver is one of the most livable cities in the world and one of the reasons is in the tap. The potable water originates from rainwater and snow melt from the North Shore and Coquitlam mountains. The city’s recent $600 million watersheds upgrades prevent water contamination from communities, agriculture and industry. The sanitation technology used is highly sophisticated and they are currently claiming to have one of the best tasting tap water in the world.
Cape Town, South Africa
The city was well-known before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Cape Town is the most popular international tourist destination on the African continent. If you needed more reason to buy your plane ticket and head south, it’s good to know that you can drink the water: Cape Town’s tap water supply mostly comes from unpolluted mountain catchments. The treatment facilities and distribution centers also run over 320,000 chemical and biological tests, each year.
For the current status of drinking water throughout South Africa visit the Department of Water Affairs Drinking Water Blue Drop System website.
Germany’s water is safe to drink, in general. Berlin’s water, in particular, stands up to high quality standards. The water is extracted from a 10,000 year old glacial valley under the city. Berlin safeguards their water supply by setting up restricted zones protecting these specified catchment areas.
In Europe, at large, tables don’t get served with tap water. You might get strange looks when you ask for it, especially in German since the word for tap water, Leitungswasser, literally translates to plumbing water. Ask for mineralwasser (still) or ohne kohlensaeure (not carbonated).
The Roman empire was once at the forefront of water works and sewage technology. Today, most of the water in Italy is suitable to drink. The recent earthquake in northern Italy caused expensive damages to the infrastructure so it’s safer to check the local conditions since they vary from region to region.
Rome’s favorite water source can be found all around the city. Over 2,000 nasoni water fountains run 24/7 throughout the city. The aged look of the fountains may be, well, old-looking, but they are regularly checked and the water comes from a reservoir in the Apennine Mountains. The nasoni’s water doesn’t go to waste; it’s recycled for non-potable use.
Now, you can tell your loved ones that you’re going to Amsterdam for the refreshing water – and not the weed. The drinking water is in such good conditions that the city rarely chlorinates the water system and no fluoride is added to the supply. The Netherlands, at large, benchmarks the performance of the government owned, water systems. For the consumer, it means more public information, transparency and accountability in regards to the potable water.
Before you take the next sip:
Bad water kills
You’re not being obsessive for doing research when it comes to your drinking water. Dirty water can kill you (although highly unlikely). If it doesn’t, there’s a list of diseases that you can contract from unsanitary water conditions including hepatitis A, e. coli, typhoid fever and every traveler’s favorite, diarrhea.
Water goes through a lot before it reaches your lips and when it comes to the distance between you and the water plant, the less pipes the better. Your location and how far you are along the line can determine the sanitation and taste of your tap water.
And although most international cities follow safety and sanitation codes, the real culprit in dirty water can be your piping. If you’re in an older, poor maintenance building, the chances of corrosion in the infrastructure are high.
Precautions on the road
Some waters that are perfectly safe to drink have an odd smell that could be discouraging. If you smell metal, the city’s filtration system might be using chlorine to disinfect pipes. If the water smells earthy, it could be Geosmine which is a harmless substance released by algae. An easy way to get rid of the odd smell is by refrigerating your water and adding lemons (they also help your digestive system).
Even if you’re planning to drink bottled water during your foreign stay, do a google search on how potable your destination’s water is. People forget that tap water is used for most iced drinks and that some drinks are diluted in tap water. If the water is not safe to drink, don’t brush your teeth with it either (or at least boil it first).
Since your body will only take in so much water, consider picking up your fruits and veggies intake while on the road. Beers and wines (in moderation, you lush!) are fabulous alternatives when clean water is not accessible. To be as safe as possible, only drink from sealed bottles that you saw open in front of you, and watch out for that glass that could of been washed in tap water.
If you’re hosting for guests, never automatically offer tap water when water is asked for, some might take it as offensive (and some might just think you’re cheap). Instead, mention that you don’t have bottled water and offer an alternative beverage.
For a general idea on whether a country’s water is potable or not, go to canidrinkthewater.org. For more specific information on your destination’s water conditions, contact the local municipal office and check out government resources online.
Have you recently been to a location where the water was noteworthy? Let us know in the comments below.