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Is tap water healthy, or unhealthy?

Is tap water healthy? Quality, dangers, locations, tests and tips

Is tap water healthy, or not? If this question is on your mind right now, you've come to the right place. The preference for water from the tap helps, Natural resources to spare, Avoid plastic wasteThe aim is to prevent entire regions from drying out, to save money and, last but not least, to save your back. After all, there is no need to lug around heavy crates of drinks for comparatively expensive bottled mineral water.

But apart from the many Advantages of tap water - We hear from time to time about drinking water that is contaminated with pollutants and bacteria. So is it absolutely harmless to health or potentially dangerous?

In this article, I would like to answer this question about what is probably the most important food for us humans. You'll find out all about the quality, possible dangers, where the water is drinkable, how you can test it - and last but not least, whether tap water is healthy and a safe alternative to bottled mineral water. Let's go!

You can find a brief overview here in advance:

  1. Quality and regulations
  2. Dangers
  3. Locations
  4. Testing
  5. Comparison with mineral water
  6. Tips
  7. Closing words

Notice: In our everyday language, tap water is often equated with drinking water. However, not all tap water is suitable for drinking. I would therefore like to make a clear distinction here and only refer to it as drinking water if it is actually drinkable.

Regulations - What is the quality of tap water in Germany?

The official report of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Environment Agency on the quality of water for human consumption, certifies that the tap water of larger drinking water suppliers has a "good to very good quality".

Tap water in Germany is groundwater treated in waterworks, as well as water from rivers, lakes or reservoirs. The quality is subject to the Drinking Water Ordinancewhich has been in force since February 15, 1976 and whose extensions are based on the EU Drinking Water Directives. It is intended to protect us from the adverse effects of water pollution.

"Pure water is the first and most important medicine in the world."

Slovak proverb (more at Water Quotes)

The compliance clearly defined limit values and health orientation values (GOW) for pollution, is subject to the strictest controls by the health authorities. For example, one liter of drinking water must not contain more than 0.01 milligrams (mg) of lead, 2 milligrams of copper, 0.02 milligrams of nickel and 50 milligrams of nitrate.₁ More than 99% of all microbiological and chemical parameters (with the exception of a few pesticide substances) are complied with - and therefore within the respective limits. It can therefore be assumed that the local tap water is healthy and therefore safe to drink.

Hazards - What can contaminate tap water?

Is tap water healthy? Possible dangers

The Drinking Water Ordinance makes water suppliers in Germany responsible for the drinking water quality up to the house connection - however, the tap water must then travel several meters from the connection to the tap via the house's own pipes. Even though lead pipes are no longer permitted, they still exist in many buildings. It is then possible that the tap water may be contaminated with the heavy metal and pose a health risk. Besides Lead are, for example, also residues of Copper, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, nitrates and Nitrite possible. Fortunately, the limit values are clearly formulated here.

Not to be forgotten are possible contamination by drug residues, hormones and, above all, by Bacteria, such as Legionellawhich can cause dangerous pneumonia after ingestion.

Locations - Where can you safely drink tap water?

In which countries can you drink tap water?

In Germany, tap water is generally safe to drink. But what about abroad? Is the water from the tap drinkable in all countries? The answer is as clear as the drinking water in Germany: no! After all, the reliable conditions that we enjoy here are not found everywhere - from water treatment systems and pipelines to quality controls. That's why there are major differences in tap water quality in all countries around the world, which you should be aware of before your next vacation or stay abroad.

Countries where you can drink the tap water

In Central and Northern Europe, tap water is generally considered safe. This means that you can fill up glasses and drinking bottles in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden or Finland, for example, without any worries, unless there are explicit signs to the contrary. 

This also applies in principle to highly developed countries such as Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand and the USA. However, you should always check with locals and the Foreign Office before you take your first sip. In France and Spain, for example, tap water is not safe to drink in certain regions.

Countries where you should avoid tap water

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC for short, an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services) issues a detailed list of countries where you should never drink water from the tap. These include all african, as well as almost all Central and South American (apart from Chile and a few others) and asian (apart from Japan, Saudi Arabia and some others) States.

Good to know: Did you know that around 2.2 billion people worldwide have no access to clean drinking water? What you can do about water scarcityyou can find out in the linked article.

Get tested - How do I know if my tap water is healthy?

Thanks to clear regulations, the quality of drinking water in Germany is generally very good. Nevertheless, the water can still be contaminated, for example because lead pipes contaminate the tap water over the last few meters in the building up to the tap.

Now polluted and unpolluted tap water basically do not differ visually from each other. So how can you find out if your tap water is healthy or unhealthy? Quite simply: man can have it tested by a laboratory. In addition to water hardness, oxygen content and pH value, they will also examine exactly how contaminated the water from your tap may be with heavy metals and bacteria.

Also directly at your local water company you can usually submit a sample and find out more about the drinking water quality in your region.

Is tap water healthier than mineral water?

Which is healthier, tap water or mineral water?

Tap water is therefore generally suitable for drinking. Whether tap water is healthier than bottled mineral water, However, there is no general answer to this question, because there are simply too many factors at play that can have an impact on health.

However, the Quality of drinking water from the tap much more strictly monitoredthan mineral water. Testing the Product test foundation have shown that still mineral water in particular was quite often contaminated. Tap water performed much better, which is why they recommend it and declare it to be "inexpensive, ecological and safe".₃

If you expect purity and want to minimize the risk, you should (at least in Germany) rather turn on the tap than reach for packaged mineral water.

Tips for unique, healthy tap water

Water with lemons and herbs

Even though you can drink and enjoy tap water in many countries around the world, I still have a few valuable tips for you. Tips that minimize the risk of contamination and make drinking tap water even more exciting and better. Here they are:

  • Run: Saving water in the household is basically a good thing. But let the tap water run for at least a short time before you drink it. It is only fresh when it is really cold. In this way, you can prevent contamination with legionella bacteria, for example, which thrive in warm, stagnant water.
  • Maintenance: Ensure regular maintenance and inspection by a sanitary company to prevent contamination,
  • Taste: If your "Kraneberger" tastes too boring, upgrade it. Find out here how to Making tap water more palatable simply by following your heart.
  • Drink bottle: Get a reusable drinking bottle and fill it up before you leave the house. When you're out and about, you can refill it at bakeries and other partners using the Refill app - and avoid plastic bottles.

Do you have any other valuable tips for better, healthier tap water? Then just write me a comment under this article.

Is tap water healthy? It depends!

Even though it is impossible to guarantee completely pollutant-free drinking water in an industrialized nation like Germany, we enjoy a real privilege here. Drinking water quality is very good - and the risk of harmful contaminants in tap water is close to zero. As a rule, we can drink and enjoy the water from the tap without any worries and can even Save money sustainablyprotect the environment and protect your back - while this is not possible in most countries in the world.

Do you have any questions, tips or experiences with tap water health that you would like to share? How is the quality of your drinking water? I look forward to your comment!

Stay healthy,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Do you know what else is healthy? The Forest bathing! You can find out what this is and how exactly it works in the linked article.

₁ Federal Environment Agency: Quality of drinking water from central supply systems (as at: 21.05.2021), available at [19.09.2022].

₂ T. Rohde: World Water Day 2022 - 10 facts about water (as of 23.03.2022), available at [19.09.2022].

₃ DER SPIEGEL GmbH & Co. KG: Germ contamination and residues - Stiftung Warentest advises tap water instead of mineral water (as at: 26.06.2019), available at [19.09.2022].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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