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Water fountains

How can you tell whether the water fountains are drinkable or not? Are there signs?

Along the hiking trails like the panoramic trail in mannichlen, are there water fountains along the way or should I pack extra bottles of water?

Posted by
501 posts

Don’t count on water fountains anywhere, always bring your own water everywhere you go or plan to purchase it at a store. Switzerland is not like the US where there are public drinking fountains everywhere, nor is water free at restaurants. For example, there are zero drinking fountains in the airports, you must buy water there. And no, there are none on the trail from Mannlichen.

Posted by
33128 posts

however when in a populated area and see one of the thousands of troughs with running water, almost all are piped water which is absolutely pure and excellent water that be drunk. It may not have a sign on it if it is normal, but if it is unsafe and not drinkable it will have a sign in the local language telling you so.

Acqua non potabile in Italian

Eau Non Potable in French

Nicht trinkbares Wasser in German but often posted in English.

Posted by
8594 posts

Once potable water is out in the open, like in a basin, trough, or pool, it is no longer considered potable, regardless of the source. Because it is then exposed to birds, mice, insects, people, airborne microbes, etc., all potentially contaminating it. Sometimes old fountains were plumbed with lead pipes, also to be avoided.

Posted by
184 posts

@Nigel has the answer I would give. Not specifically to Switzerland, but to all over Europe, I've filled my water bottles hundreds of times from public water DRINKING fountains (for the lawyers, a fountain with water is very different from a fountain & purposely placed to provide drinking water - eg Rome's Trevi vs Barcelona's Font de Canaletes).

Keep in mind, these aren't normally anything like the drinking fountain we have in the US like in elementary school or a public park. They are often ornamental and/or far more interesting than our regular stainless steel types. We were recently in Barcelona and the Font de Canaletes is a prime example with a touristy touch.

Also, if truly in need of water, a lightweight and simple backpacker essential like a LifeStraw or Katadyn handles sketchy water very well.

Posted by
33128 posts

the fountains of which I speak in Switzerland are often multi purpose - a trough for grazing animals, a bowl for dogs and a stream of fresh water for humans. There is no button to press, it runs all the time. The fountain is continually refreshing itself, the water then runs unto the trough, and continues to the bowl, and then into a drain. The water is not standing water.

Posted by
235 posts

a fountain with water is very different from a fountain purposely place to provide drinking water

This was exactly what I was worried.

As a tourist, I just want to be sure what I put in my mouth is safe. While it may appear obvious to locals, we don't have such things in Australia, so I wasn't sure how to tell which are safe and which are not hence my question.

A fountain with constant running water may be for show (and possibly recycled) and not purposely fit for drinking.

Posted by
1975 posts

In Switzerland the default is that water is drinkable, unless there is a sign (usually a pictogram) that indicates otherwise. So water in fountains in towns etc... is usually drinkable. But fill your bottle from the spout, not the basin.

And you will see that there are fountains everywhere.

Switzerland is blessed of being in an area where there is no water shortage. In Wengen we only consume about 1% of the water the local springs produce, and it is all of excellent quality.

When going sailing on Lake Thun we would refill our drinking bottles just by dipping them in the lake...

Posted by
526 posts

Don’t count on water fountains anywhere

I am really surprised to read this statement! In Wengen - drinkable water right by the train station.
Lauterbrunnen - part way along the Stechelberg/Lauterbrunnen walk
Mürren has a tripple spout one as you walk through the town
Gimmelwald - along the main road through the village
Kleine Scheidegg - on the wall just outside the bathrooms
Interlaken OST train station - on the building, next to the bus stop (one of many options).
Luzern train station - on each platform, about half way down
And on and on…
Get your water from the free flowing spout, as mentioned ( this will be very obvious when you see it, I doubt anyone would be tempted to get their water from the trough).

Posted by
2464 posts

I watch German cycling videos and they are frequently filling their water bottles from fountains, or sometimes even just a pipe coming off a spring ! Interestingly, cemetaries always seem to have a water fountain/spigot. To provide water for flowers I think.