We used to only drink bottled water when we were on vacation. As soon as we crossed the Dutch border, my parents urged us, kids, not to drink from the tap, because we would get sick. That is so ingrained that I am still reluctant to drink water from an unknown tap.
Tap water is 30 to 1.300 times better for the environment than bottled water because of the non-polluting production process of the packaging and simpler transport. Although the purification of the water needs energy as well.
It is also 150 to 500 times cheaper than bottled water. For 1 euro, a Dutch person can daily drink 1,5 litres of water for a year.
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Different kinds of water
Tapwater tastes different in almost every country. Most of the time it is safe. Springwater is bottled groundwater. Depending on the source, mineral water contains all kinds of nutrients.
Is tap water as safe as we think?
The source of Dutch drinking water is groundwater and surface water. According to the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), half of the Dutch groundwater sources contain more foul matter than is permitted. Agriculture, sewerage, industry and old soil contamination cause this pollution.
And the surface water is also polluted. It contains remnants of medicines, pesticides, cosmetics, fire retardants, plastics and nanoparticles. The RIVM considers “it is not good, but it cannot harm our body” (!). Hmm, I wonder.
The European Commission has registered about 10.000 chemicals. According to the Dutch Drinking Water Decree, a water purification company only has to test drinking water for 60 of those 10,000 chemicals.
It won’t be much different in other countries. In my view, the permitted standards are too high and should be lowered.
In Southern Europe and the US, chlorine is added to the water to eliminate pathogens. When we were travelling in the US the first time and ordered Cola in a cafe, it would sometimes taste of chlorine. Yikes. Do they still add tap water to a concentrate, I wonder?
Should tap water be banned?
Spanish tap water is subjected to 5x more tests than bottled water. EU countries must comply with European standards. We can assume that a certain degree of quality is achieved in Europe.
Globally, 88% of diarrheal diseases are the result of an unhealthy water supply and poor sanitation and hygiene.
It seems to me that if the groundwater is polluted, that also applies to mineral water. With the disadvantage that mineral water is not purified. In addition, most mineral water is packaged in plastic bottles that are part of the problem.
So I don’t ban tap water myself. We have a water filter in the basement and we filter the drinking water once more. Unfortunately, it is not tested afterwards, so I have no idea what contamination remains.
Different kinds of Water
When travelling, we regularly come across signs of “Undrinkable water” in the toilet areas in parking lots or on campsites. We filter the water that is drinkable with our Brita jug. That way we don’t have to buy plastic bottles.
In the Netherlands there is one type of water for drinking, showering or flushing the toilet. Other countries have greywater in addition to tap water. That is wastewater – without faecal contamination – which is used, for example, for washing clothes or filling the swimming pool.
This water is extracted from natural or subterranean sources. It is not further treated or purified, so it ends up pure in the bottle. Sometimes it is extracted from the same layer in the ground as tap water.
Natural mineral water
This type of mineral water comes from natural sources that are microbiologically healthy. Mineral water does not have to meet the requirements of tap water.
Mineral water with a low mineral content
This variety is low in magnesium and calcium. It is especially recommended for babies and people with kidney problems.
Water with a high mineral content
This type of mineral water contains a lot of magnesium and calcium. The result is water with a high salt concentration that is not suitable for people with kidney problems.
If the label states that it contains more than 0.02 grams of salt (20 milligrams of sodium) per 100 millilitres, the water contains more salt than there is on average in tap water. One of the few Spanish mineral waters that are packaged in glass is Vichy Catalan. It’s so salty that I don’t want it for that reason.
Water that is low in sodium
This type of water is more recommended for people with kidney problems and problems with high blood pressure. It is also suitable for people with heart or fluid retention problems.
Water that contains a lot of sodium
Unlike water that is low in sodium, this type of water has a high salt content. It is suitable for professional athletes to recover their bodies after competitions.
Water with sulfate
This type of water is also called well water and contains more than 200 mg of sulfate. Despite its unpleasant odour, this type of water has regenerative effects, making it very beneficial for the skin.
As the name implies, iron-rich water contains large amounts of iron. It is recommended for people with anaemia or low iron.
Hard water is water that contains a lot of calcium. It is recommended for children, the elderly and pregnant women. It helps the body absorb calcium.
This type of mineral water can be very helpful as it has laxative effects. It can also combat stress and help to recover muscles after intense physical activities. Some experts also believe that drinking magnesium-rich water can lower cholesterol.
Sparkling spring and mineral water
Carbonated water has a high bicarbonate concentration and is slightly more acidic than non-carbonated water. But it is not so acidic that it is bad for your teeth.
Thanks to the sparkling effect, this type of water is good for digestion. In addition, it can also help combat acid reflux.
Sparkling water is also viewed as a good alternative to soda drinks. If you are exercising it is better to drink plain water. The gas in the water can make you feel bloated, which is far from pleasant when exercising.
In the supermarket, you can also buy flavoured water, for example with lemon, peach or mint. If only a taste aroma has been added, this flavoured water does not provide calories, but when acids, for example, citric acid, are added, it is less good for the teeth.
It’s easy to make flavoured water yourself. Some leaves of a herb. Pieces of lemon or orange. Some drops of essential oil.
Water kefir is a fermented drink and its effect is comparable to regular kefir, which is made from milk. It is a probiotic full of minerals and vitamins, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts.
I made water kefir for a few months because it would help with the bloating that I was suffering from at the time. It is very laborious and because it is a living organism, you cannot leave it for a while. Then the “grains” die.
I liked it. It is slightly sparkling and a great replacement for soda drinks. Because of all the needed work and care, and because it still contains some sugar, let it be less than soda drinks, I gave the kefir grains to a friend after a while.
Is our water safe?
It may be clear that we have to trust our institutions and presume our water is safe to drink. Hopefully, you also see where the vulnerabilities are in our water supply. We can do a lot ourselves to improve the quality:
- Limit the use of medication. Mind you, only as far as it is wise. I do not promote unhealthy decisions;
- Quit using plastic bottled water;
- Use ecological cleaning products;
- Fertilize the kitchen garden organically;
- . . .
Can you add more activities to this list? Tell me in the comment box below.