Can you drink the tap water in Barcelona? Why does it taste so bad? What are the possible issues and contaminants? What is the best water filter for Barcelona?
The typical reaction by locals and visitors is: "Have you tasted and smelled it? It can't be good."
So what's the truth? Are there any risks and what can you do to improve quality and taste? In this article we straighten out the facts.
NEW: Check the tap water quality based on your local postcode in Spain: Water Quality Report
Where does the tap water in Barcelona come from?
Tap water in Barcelona comes from two rivers, Ter and Llobregat. In addition to this Barcelona has one of Europe's largest desalinization plants with a capacity of up to 20% of the cities demand. The salt water plant was constructed after water shortage back in 2008 in Barcelona but not used much since it's expensive to operate.
Llobregat, which makes up the majority of the water has high levels of minerals, including potassium, magnesium and carbonates because it crosses an extremely salty region around Súria. If you drink Llobregat water before Súria, it tastes pretty good but it’s very salty afterwards. In addition to this a lot of pollution enters the water from industries and farm land along the river. The water treatment removes all the pollutants and most of the salt with osmosis but that’s an expensive treatment. This combined with high levels of chlorine to protect the water from contamination in the way to your tap is the main reason for the poor taste. Read more about our visit to the water plant.
So can I drink tap water in Barcelona?
Based on the water regulators and general consensus of the scientific community definitely yes.
WWF sums it up in their travel guide: “it's drinkable but not known for its taste."
The main reason it tastes bad is that it's high on mineral content (hard water) and when chlorine is added this gives it a poor taste. One common myth is that hard water which causes limescale causes kidneystones and other health issues. There is no scientific evidence that this is the case.
Many people choose bottled water due to taste preference but as you will find out below this could actually be worse.
According to General de Sanidad (the government agency that looks after the tap water in Spain) and Aigües de Barcelona (the local water company) it's potable (drinkable) according to all international standards including the EU and WHO.
We’ve heard anecdotal evidence that people arriving to Barcelona from places with better water had bad stomachs (light diarrhea) the first couple of months. However there is no scientific research on this but it's possible that it's a problem for people with sensitive stomachs.
What are the potential issues with tap water in Barcelona?
Although the tap water that goes into water network in Barcelona is safe to drink there are still two potential issues:
Microplastics have been found in over 80% of all tap water in Europe. Aigues de Barcelona has acknowledged that there may be microplastics in the local tap water but not how much. Nevertheless, the amount of microplastics is considerably less than bottled water and according to WHO there are no known health risks yet to humans.
2. Pipe corrosion / leeching
Contaminants from pipe corrosion and leeching in your building our house are not tested by the water provider and could potentially cause contamination in your tap water. This includes copper, iron, biofilm and microplastics. Despite common myths about this, it's still uncommon. In the few cases where it does happen it's usually visible as the water will turn brown/yellow when you haven't used the tap for a while.
If you are concerned about your local tap water then the best alternative is an affordable water filter such as EcoPro. The filters cost about 5 Euro per month and will give you better tasting water, save money, provide drinking water from the tap whenever you need and reduce plastic waste.
Is bottled water safer?
It definitely tastes better but there are actually more official reports of people getting sick from bottled water than the tap water. One recent incident from 2016 where thousands of people got sick from contaminated bottled water. Filtered tap water and probably also tap water is safer and healthier than bottled water.
In addition to this the plastic from the bottles may be bad for you and it's horrible for the environment. According to recent research microplastics were found in 93% of all bottled water.
Another issue is that although 80% of Spanish households claim to recycle the reality is that less than 50% of plastic bottles get recycled and less than 20% of new bottles are made out of recycled plastic. Furthermore the production and recycling process are bad for the environment and transportation of bottled water has a high carbon footprint.
Finally bottled water will cost you an average of €280 per year and the hassle of carrying home heavy bottles every week. In conclusion, avoid bottled water if you can.
How Barcelona citizens are saving money with water filters
Over 50,000 households in Barcelona or approximately 3% of the households are using TAPP Water filters today. Learn more about how they are benefitting in the video below.
Where can I buy a water filter for Barcelona?
Thinking that a water filter might be a good idea? You can buy a TAPP water filter for Barcelona on this website, Amazon as well as several stores.
- Tap water in Barcelona is safe and drinkable even if it doesn't taste good
- For great tasting water use an affordable water filter such as EcoPro or EcoPro Compact
- If you are concerned about contaminants or limescale in your tap water then EcoPro will remove over 100+ substances to make your water safer than any bottled water
- Avoid bottled water if you can as it's bad for the planet, your wallet and not healthier
Also read about tap water in Spain including most other cities.