Rumors keep coming up that tap water is not as good as bottled water, is of poor quality or even unhealthy. Instead of tap water, it is better to drink “natural” water from the supermarket. A – at least in our part of the world – quite absurd advice, because the water quality in Austria is usually 1A. However, old pipes or contaminated groundwater from the well can very well cause health problems. So we looked at what to look out for when consuming tap water.
- What is tap water?
- Composition of tap water
- Tap water from the tap is drinking water.
- Environmental protection with tap water
- Water supply at the own well
- If in doubt: contact the Federal Ministry for Health and Consumer Protection
- Conclusion: tap water is healthy, as is bottled water
Even if the corporations try to convince us with extensive advertising that mineral water is the “healthier” form of drinking water than tap water, this is not the case with us in the vast majority of cases. And the consequences of unchecked water consumption in the supermarket are an enormous problem for our environment – keyword plastic waste. Nevertheless, almost all means are tried to bring the delicious liquid to the woman and the man for a lot of money.
In addition, new trends are constantly being pushed. The youngest is “raw water”: More and more Americans swear by this unsterilized, unfiltered, and untreated water, which is supposed to be so much healthier than tap water. And scenarios like the one in the US city of Flint in Michigan, where the entire drinking water supply has been poisoned with lead, are only additional incentives not to trust the water from the domestic tap. But there is no reason for that, at least in Europe.
What is tap water?
Whether in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland: tap water in the DA-CH region must meet certain rules. This means that the water is regularly checked and tested before it can be fed into the water supply – for germs, pollutants, mineral content, and micro-bacterial substances that could harm humans or animals.
In Austria, these rules are laid down by the Federal Ministry for Labor, Social Affairs, Health, and Consumer Protection. This office also regularly checks various bottled waters and compares information on mineral water, table water, and tap water. The result: tap water is often the test winner.
Composition of tap water
In German-speaking countries, the word “tap water” is often used synonymously with “drinking water,” which is correct for the water from the domestic tap and showerhead. Drinking water must meet the following criteria:
• Must be suitable for the consumption and preparation of food and beverages.
• It must be used for personal hygiene and body cleaning.
• Must safely clean objects that come into contact with food – such as glasses, dishes, and cutlery.
• It must also be possible to safely clean objects that come into contact with the human body over a long period of time. For example, clothing and laundry.
In order to be able to ensure this, the respective institutions have to regularly test for pollutants such as lead, arsenic, fluoride, and various bacteria. In addition, in Austria, where the tap water consists largely of groundwater, the groundwater supply must be specially protected.
Tap water from the tap is drinking water
In Austria, but also in Germany and Switzerland, the controls of the water supply and the protection of the groundwater are so strictly regulated that tap water can be consumed directly without worry.
But if you don’t trust the tap or the pipes’ hygiene, for example, you can bring the tap water to a boil in a kettle, let it cool down, and then consume it. Because all bacteria that could arise in water pipes in private areas usually die at temperatures above 70 ° C. However, this tactic is obsolete within the DA-CH region and in most parts of Europe, as the common regulations ensure that you can drink your water safely at all times.
Environmental protection with tap water
The online portal netdoktor.at has published an interesting article that shows how much better the consumption of tap water is for the environment than water from a PET bottle. According to this, every person saves 63 kilowatt-hours of electricity with just 100 liters of water from the tap instead of the PET bottle, produces 2.4 kilograms less waste and saves eleven liters of water, around three kilograms of raw materials, and almost nine kilograms in CO2 emissions. So anyone who consumes the recommended amount of three liters of water a day saves over 100 kilograms of CO2 emissions over the year.
A considerable amount for environmental protection. And the tap water not only protects the environment but also your wallet – a double benefit. Thanks to sparkling water or modern kitchen fittings, you don’t have to do without the invigorating tingling of carbon dioxide even with tap water.
Water supply at the own well
The Austrian water network is 76,000 km long, and supplies around 90 percent of the population with clean and tested drinking water from groundwater and spring water. Around one million people, the remaining ten percent provide themselves with the water they need – from home springs or their own wells. Groundwater is also used here – but a few factors should be considered here:
Do not consume stagnant water
Water that has been in the pipe for a long time or is in a body of still water (for example, a well) should not be consumed directly but rather boiled. With the tap, you can also have the option of running the cold water for a few seconds before filling your glass with it.
Do a visual test
As soon as the water is discolored or there are foreign bodies in it, you should refrain from consuming it. After a long vacation, for example, it can often happen that the water from the tap is reddish-brown in color. In this case, dirt or rust has come off the pipe. After a few minutes at the latest, the water should have its normal color again and can be consumed.
Check the water quality again and again
Not all pollutants in water can be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, it is advisable, especially for self-sufficient people, to regularly analyze the tap water from the domestic spring or the well with a quick drinking water test. These test kits are available for a few euros in many hardware stores and well-known online marketplaces.
If in doubt: contact the Federal Ministry for Health and Consumer Protection
If there are doubts about the edibility of your own spring or well water, the Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection (BMSGK) can help on its website and, if necessary, send an expert who analyzes the water in detail. Since wells and springs are supplied from the groundwater, the country is naturally keen to check and guarantee the quality constantly.
Conclusion: tap water is healthy – so is bottled water
Ultimately, it is up to you whether you want to drink water from the tap or from the bottle. In times of Sodastream & Co, everyone can produce their own sparkling water and, especially in Austria, the ground and spring water has a quality that many bottled glasses of water cannot match.
Nevertheless, there are also EU-wide guidelines for bottled water, regardless of whether it is the own brand from the discounters or the branded water from the Caribbean, which stipulates what can and should not be in the water. So there are no differences here. Even when preparing baby food, it is safe to use tap water over mineral water.
By the way: the marketing promise of the added minerals in the water is usually just that – a promise. The body excretes most of the minerals unused.
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