drinking water

It has been MANY years since my wife and I were stationed in France and now we will return this year. When we were there one strong area of concern was drinking water. Has that improved over the years?

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1183 posts

I've never experienced or heard of a problem drinking tap water anywhere in western or central Europe. Restaurants will offer you mineral water for a price and if you prefer the taste it might be worthwhile (e.g. Pellegrino), but don't spend money on bottled H2O for safety reasons.

Posted by James E.
3243 posts

I'm not going to argue if it is safe to drink the water or not. I can say that I am in the construction industry and I have seen questionable practices in potable water distribution in well respected places like Italy and France. Things like 150 year old lead alloy pipes and water pipes installed below sanitary sewer pipes. Odds are nothing will happen but it doesnt give me a warm fuzzy feeling. New parts of town,fine: the old historic districts, welllllll....... Also of note is that the largest single section of most of the grocery markets is the bottled water section. Someone is buying it for some reason; and not just the tasty (yuck) mineral stuff, but the tasteless stuff as well.

Posted by Tim
Wyckoff, NJ, USA
1092 posts

William, your information is way out of date. Most of these places have newer systems and better quality water than we have in the U.S. can you say, "Infrastructure neglect?" (I live in NJ which has well water muni systems loaded with organic solvents and so on. Yes, I know your concern is really bacteria and parasites, but that's not an issue in the major countries of Europe.) Although I haven't been to places like Kosovo or Montenegro (!), the vast majority of Europe has very safe water. Perhaps you have to think about it at an agroturismo farm or something, but I'd think about that in the U.S. as well!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8335 posts

" Also of note is that the largest single section of most of the grocery markets is the bottled water section." Hmmm...just like the US.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3692 posts

I lived in France with my family in a town a few miles west of Paris from 1960 to 1965 and the tap water was fine then, and ever since.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21472 posts

William, I routinely use tap water everywhere in western Europe including France, and have yet to experience any problems. AFAIK, that sort of thing has to meet E.U. standards now. The only place where I routinely use bottled water is Greece, both because of quality (ie: lead pipes) as well as taste. Happy travels!

Posted by Brendon
Auburn, Washington, USA
513 posts

Hi William, I have been to 12 European countries in Northern and Central Europe aswell as Italy and drank tap water in each country. I take medication that makes me sweat and very thirsty and have to drink water constanstly. I have never been sick or had any problem drinking tap water, I even drank water from a drinking fountain that was connected to the Trevi fountain and I didn't get sick at all.

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
687 posts

I drink a lot of water, and being very picky about dental hygiene I use a lot of water to brush my teeth. So procuring enough bottled water would be a big deal for me. It would not occur to me to worry about tap water in France, where my wife and I have traveled on four separate trips from 2000-present. If you are concerned only about taste - I would not worry about that at all. If you are concerned about health issues even the conservative CDC does not state concerns about drinking water in France. (From a health perspective it buys you nothing to drink bottled water while brushing with water from the tap). I am a major worrier about such things, and we traveled in both Hungary and Czech Republic in 2011 where I filled my water bottle from the tap. Regarding lead pipes I am not a doctor but as a major worrier I would not even worry about that for the length of a vacation.

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
2398 posts

The water supply is now safe everywhere in Western Europe. The bottled water thing is just snobbery to be honest, except in a few places where the tap water has taste issues. (Only place I've bought bottled water to drink in the hotel room is Barcelona, don't know if it's still the same but when I went the tap water was so chlorinated it was barely drinkable.) Lead pipes probably won't give you any health problems over a week or so.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

I have no idea what the situation was 60 years ago, but I've personally enjoyed water straight from the tap all over Europe (including France) just like I do when traveling all over the U.S. It's completely and totally safe. That's all you really need to know as a tourist. Eastern Europe can be a different story. Interesting side note: Even locals in some places with modern and very safe drinking systems prefer bottled water for some odd reason...thinking specifically of Seoul. And the only "strange" water I can recall in Europe is the strong sulfur smell in Iceland when using the hot water tap in the sink or when showering. I still drank cold water from the tap...delicious!

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

Okay, I'll bite. It was fine sixty years ago. And a couple of weeks ago. Going whole hog, I don't know about 1959-1963, 1969, 1971, and maybe 1980. If somebody else will catch those few, we can close this one out.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
447 posts

I will bite. 1967, 1968, 1969. Germany No Floride in the drinking water. Our first born was given floride drops to protect her teeth. We drink the water for three years. We don't glow yet.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11659 posts

I don't drink alcohol. Whenever I go to France, frequently, and I'm in a restaurant I ask for a carafe d'eau (a jug of tap water with maybe a piece of lemon in it) which is served with a smile. Its always fine, I've never had any health problems from it, and I've never stopped doing it. When I am at my hotel I use the glass (oh I'm posh this time) or plastic (not so posh) supplied glass and drink water from the tap. Haven't died from that either. Now it is certainly true that I have have been to nowhere near all of France. We keep going to our favourites and adding a bit more. My experiences have not been in the SW, W, or NW of France nor the Massif Central. The water may be awful there. Dunno. I certainly speak from experience elsewhere.

Posted by Lin
Victoria B.C., Canada
58 posts

Does France have public drinking water fountains the way Italy does?

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8721 posts

They do in Paris Lin. They are not as prevelent as Rome, but there are some around. I drink tap water in europe, and have since the 60s ,its absolutely fine.
Bottled water is tap water most of the time anyways,, but sold to those who think its better, especially nervous types, lol

Posted by Liz
Watertown, MA, USA
26 posts

I find drinking bottled water exceedingly distasteful from an economic and ecological perspective, so I avoid it whenever possible. I have drank tap water all over Western Europe from 1990-2011 and also in Costa Rica and Colombia (although it was AMA in those countries and I only did it in the big cities, where recent overhauls of water treatment systems had been completed). In the US, tap water is more strictly controlled than bottled water, yet people still buy bottled water, because people are, well, idiots. I can only assume the same is true of Europe. I will say that it can be hard to order tap water in Europe in some restaurants, especially if you plan to drink a lot of it with your meal. It's just not the custom. Since I don't drink alcohol, that leaves me with the option of bottled water or diet cola, which is often more expensive than the alcohol!
If others are inclined to try to order tap water, my suggestion is to learn how to say it in the local language. I did that in Prague and Spain, and was successful more often than not in Spain, not so great in Prague (but my Spanish is infinitely better than my Czech).

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5383 posts

Been drinking only tap water in Europe for over 26 years. Healthy as can be. The tap water is usually better than the bottled water. Help save the planet and stop buying bottled water. Complain at restaurants here that don't serve tap water. Write reviews on Trip Advisor for restaurants that refuse to serve you tap water. It is only a money making issue.