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Drinking Water Safety

I read some older posts on this site recently where someone had posted a question about drinking water in Croatia, and several people responded and said it was very good. Looking at the CDC website (America's Center for Disease Control), there are cautions in place for the water and it is recommended only to drink disinfected or bottled water. I have a trip to Croatia coming up and am a big water drinker and not bottled, so I am concerned about the safety. Does anyone have any experience with becoming ill in Croatia likely due to food or water? It seems a lot of people go there as part of a cruise ship itinerary - were cautions given before going ashore about eating or drinking?

Posted by
2162 posts

I drank the water in Croatia - Dubrovnik, Zagreb - it was fine. And I am cautious about those things - I don't drink it in Mexico and I didn't drink it in Turkey, but Croatia? No problem.

Posted by
5789 posts

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/croatia?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001

Health Information for Travelers to Croatia

All travelers

You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to
any destination

Most travelers

Get travel vaccines and medicines because there is a risk of these
diseases in the country you are visiting.

Hepatitis A

CDC recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis A through
contaminated food or water in Croatia, regardless of where you are
eating or staying.

I would add that Hep A & B vaccinations are probably a good idea even in the States.

Posted by
1584 posts

I didn't get sick but I don't know what the CDC might know. If I need to buy bottled water, I usually by a small bottle of water and a large bottle of water to refill the smaller one when empty. This is my way of not filling up landfills. Also, bottled water is very cheap.

Posted by
5789 posts

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/

Key facts

  • Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness.

  • The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person.

  • Almost everyone recovers fully from hepatitis A with a lifelong immunity. However, a very small proportion of people infected with hepatitis A could die from fulminant hepatitis.

  • The risk of hepatitis A infection is associated with a lack of safe water, and poor sanitation and hygiene (such as dirty hands).

  • Epidemics can be explosive and cause substantial economic loss.

  • A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis A.

  • Safe water supply, food safety, improved sanitation, hand washing and the hepatitis A vaccine are the most effective ways to combat
    the disease.

Posted by
5706 posts

Tap water is safe in Croatia as it is in most of Europe. I have had it many times in Croatia without any illness. The standard coffee in cafes comes with a glass of tap water. They wouldn't offer this if it wasn't safe.

Posted by
261 posts

Keep in mind that most of the time people get sick not because the water is not safe to drink, but because it's different from the water you usually drink, so normally at the beginning of a trip you will feel weird and maybe it will affect a little while you get used to it.
Of course there are other places in which the water is definitely not safe to drink.

Posted by
296 posts

MR - that may be true for some people,
but it is interesting that our CDC has these warnings in place for Croatia, but not for Italy or Portugal for example, or even Slovenia.
And yes, you can be exposed to Hepatitis A anywhere.

Posted by
489 posts

Thanks for asking this question as we will be in Croatia in less than a month. In my research, it looks like Slovenia and Croatia should be okay, but our day in Bosnia they do not recommend the water... curious. If you feel better to be safe than sorry, drink bottled water. But I would think tape water for tooth brushing should be fine.
On a very strange drinking water note: We had a performing group of German students visiting us here in Michigan and they would not drink anything but bottled water and then they examined the labels. Hence, many of these girls got sick and headaches from being dehydrated. Hydration is critical when traveling and over coming jet lag.

Posted by
6795 posts

The recommendation says: ." . . it is recommended only to drink disinfected or bottled water. . ." Most tap water in the US and Europe (although not all) is disinfected. It may not be in smaller towns (in the US either) but likely to be in larger communities. Modern city life requires it.

Posted by
296 posts

Yes but the CDC website clearly states
Do not drink tap or well water. Everywhere I have travelled I drink tap water unless it is truly horrible tasting as recently occurred in France and that was well water at a place I stayed in the country. That was necessary for taste, but my concern here is not getting sick on vacation or after.

Posted by
334 posts

I believe that what's happened is that the CDC is lumping tap and well water into the same category. Also, rather than split hairs over areas of the country, they apply the same rule to the entire country. If you stick to the common tourist destinations, the tap water should be fine. However, I would be careful if you venture out into the country and have well water. (There are places even in the US where I don't drink the well water because while safe, it has a different chemical composition than what I'm used to.)

In short, I had no issues with the water in Croatia. But, if it will give you peace of mind to drink bottled water, do it.

Posted by
1878 posts

You might check in at the travel health office. The CDC said Hungary was a problem too, but my local travel health office said don't worry about it. I went there twice with my wife (Budapest/Sopron) and did not have any problem, but that's a small sample size. I had been immunized against Hep A due to business travel to various places, and my wife got the shot too. Be aware that Hepatitis is not a stomach bug that just causes a couple of days of digestive upset. It's much more serious than a stomach bug. I have heard it's like having the flu for a really extended period, and it can really damage your liver. The mechanism for infection is the same though—food/water. It's not just the water you drink, it's also the water you use to brush your teeth.

Posted by
5789 posts

Ninety percent of Croatia [public] water and 70% of local and private water was safe in test reported through 2000.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12187529

Croat Med J. 2002 Aug;43(4):485-92. Waters in Croatia between practice
and needs: public health challenge. Vitale K1, Marijanović Rajcić M,
Senta A. Author information

Abstract

AIM:

To describe waters monitoring in Croatia and legislation status for
their evaluation, and to present health-relevant data and long-term
analysis of the Drava river water, which is used in drinking water
production.

METHODS:

Survey of databanks of various Croatian institutions related to
waters, and physical and chemical analysis of 13 surface water
pollutants, applying HRN ISO laboratory methods.

RESULTS:

Since 1992 until 2000, water systems had 10% of contaminated samples,
whereas local community and private water sources had 30% of such
samples. Since 1981, 84 waterborne epidemics have been registered,
affecting 7,581 people with predominantly gastrointestinal problems.
The Drava river monitoring revealed that lead, cadmium, and mercury
concentrations have constantly exceeded, whereas nickel and copper
remained within allowed values for the Drava river to be classified
into the second category of surface waters. Both nitrates and nitrites
have been increasing with time, nitrates exceeding and nitrites
remaining within guideline values. Total phosphorus and nitrogen
concentrations also increased with time, still being below allowed
maximum values. Chemical oxygen demand has been decreasing. Alkalinity
has been satisfactory. Salt burden has been increasing. Both drinking
water quality assessment and surface water monitoring in Croatia use
less parameters then recommended by World Health Organization or
signed conventions.

CONCLUSION:

The quality of Drava water has been improving, but still does not
fully conform to the second category of surface water. More parameters
should be used in its monitoring, as recommended by EU conventions and
laws.

Posted by
296 posts

Thanks to everyone for your responses.
All in all the drinking water in Croatia is probably no worse than the drinking water where I work. In recent months the water has been unfit to drink - first because of E. coli and currently unsafe levels of lead. We are told to let the water run for 30 seconds, yet nothing is being done. Michigan you aren't alone.

Posted by
2543 posts

I have been going to Croatia for years and drink the tap water all the time and have never gotten sick. Neither has anyone in my family.

Posted by
28 posts

Just returned from 12 days on the Dalmatian Coast, and we drank water the whole time with no problems. They told us that Croatia ranked No. 5 in the world for cleanest drinking water. I haven't verified that, but we didn't have any problem drinking the water. And we drank a lot. It was hot!

Posted by
6795 posts

Brad, there is no international ranking authority (or objective criteria) to give such a ranking, so it was probably the Croatian tourist office that says so. Since no whole country (except Liechtenstein, maybe) is served by one single water supply, it would be pretty difficult to make any general pronouncement about a whole country like that.

Posted by
5789 posts

Brad,

What "they" told you seems a bit in conflict with the Vitale K1, Marijanović Rajcić M,
Senta A. 2002 paper:

"Since 1992 until 2000, water systems had 10% of contaminated samples,
whereas local community and private water sources had 30% of such
samples."

unless the countrywide water supply drastically improved over the past two decades.

As the cited paper notes, there appears to be a difference in water quality depending on source where local and private water sources (well?) are more likely to be contaminated. Implication is that urban water supplies are safer than village and rural water supplies.

The paper's abstract did not list the nature of contaminates. That said, the CDC notes that Hepatitis A is typically not fatal. And most strains of e. coli are considered harmless though they can be an indicator of water contamination.

Posted by
470 posts

Edgar, I am pretty confident that it has improved since 2000. Don't forget that Yugoslavia disintegrated in the 90's, with the ensuing war having a profound impact on Croatia. After it ended, the country went through a rebuilding period, which was followed by a long and arduous process to join the European Union, which eventually happened in 2013. One of the prerequisites for joining the EU is also the adoption of its vast body of legislation, which includes stringent environmental and sanitation standards.