Water quality – are you wondering what awaits you when you travel?

Jakość wody

The holiday travel season is approaching, including those abroad. Before leaving, we usually check the validity of our documents, recommended attractions or the weather forecast for the place we are staying. Meanwhile, I encourage you to check one more thing – whether it is safe to use tap water locally.

Did you know:

  • Where can one obtain reliable information about the quality of tap water in the world?
  • Why can tap water vary in quality in different parts of the world?

It’s worth being aware of this before you develop unpleasant travel memories.

Tap water quality in European Union countries

It should be recognized that residents of European Union member states have access to water of very good quality.

These conditions are regulated by the applicable legislative act, i.e. Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) 2020/2184 of December 16, 2020. On the quality of water intended for human consumption. This document sets minimum requirements for microbiological, chemical and indicator parameters for water intended for human consumption. Member states were required to implement updates to the parameters indicated therein in national legislation by January 12, 2023.

The directive allows only duly justified derogations for new water supply areas, provided that safety for human health is absolutely maintained. A tolerance period of six years was set for the new member states to comply with its requirements, starting from the date of the country’s accession to the European Union.

So when traveling to EU countries, we can assume with high probability that tap water will be safe for us.

Adaptation of the provisions of the Directive in national law

At the time of preparation of this publication, Poland’s existing legal acts governing drinking water quality requirements are in force, namely:

  • Law of June 7, 2001. On collective water supply and collective sewage disposal (Journal of Laws of 2020, item 2028),
  • Order of the Minister of Health dated December 7, 2017. On the quality of water intended for human consumption (Journal of Laws of 2017, item 2294).

At the moment, work is still underway to amend the above-mentioned law and executive act, with the aim of transposing Community law into the national legal order.

What about non-EU countries?

The condition of tap water quality varies and depends on a number of factors, most notably:

  • The degree of technology development and the local economic situation,
  • access to water intakes, including from the point of view of their quality,
  • The availability of water and sewage systems.

Water quality – where to check what kind of water we may have to deal with when traveling

I refer you to the website address of the U.S. government’s Communicable Disease Prevention Agency (CDC), where data has been collected on all aspects of health in the context of travel.

On the CDC‘s website, after searching for your destination (it’s worth reading all the information gathered there, of course), I recommend reading the point: Eat and drink safely(eat and drink safely). There, information is provided on whether it is safe to use tap water in the country we are traveling to.

And importantly, if the water is rated unfit for consumption, you should also not use it to rinse your teeth after brushing (and take it into your mouth while bathing), make ice cubes from it for drinks, and wash fruits or vegetables eaten raw.

And how does the CDC rate tap water quality in countries considered to be the most popular travel destinations for Poles?

According to available data, the most attractive foreign holiday destinations for Poles in recent years have been Greece, Egypt, Spain and Bulgaria, followed by Cyprus, Tunisia and Malta.

According to the data on the aforementioned CDC website, it is possible to consume tap water in Greece, Spain and Malta (being careful about the source of the water intake), while the rest of the countries on the above list are advised to use bottled water only. This is an easy way to take care of your own comfort and safety.

But no matter where we are, let’s be guided by our own organoleptically tested assessment of water. If we have concerns about its visual condition, unacceptable smell or taste – let’s not use such water for our and our loved ones’ peace of mind.

Anna Michalowska. Trained as a water technologist, environmental engineer and hydrologist. For the past 16-odd years, he has been professionally involved in soil and water balance measures for linear investments. On a daily basis, he faces around-water challenges at the stages of project design, implementation and maintenance. She is the author of the blog You Are Water www.jesteswoda.pl and www.facebook.com/jesteswoda where she covers topics related to conscious water management and inspires water conservation on a daily basis. She has authored numerous articles on water and wastewater management for educational portals and trade journals.

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