Can you drink the tap water in the Canary Islands? Where does the water come from? What are the common contaminants and issues? How is bottled water? What is the best water filter for the Canary Islands?
Whether you were born on one of these beautiful islands, moving to or just visiting it might be good to know about the water quality in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa.
We will try to answer all of these questions and more below. For a short answer jump to the conclusion at the end.
Where does the tap water in the Canary Islands come from?
The water problems in the Canary Islands are closely related to the scarcity of natural resources and the high population density, in addition to the peculiar island orography. That is why water has conditioned the development and distribution of its inhabitants. Throughout history, water resources have diminished or have simply been polluted by the action of man in our economic development.
All of the islands except Fuerteventura had sufficient water to sustain the inhabitants including food production until the 1960s. Starting at the end of the 19th century locals built over 1500 water galleries for agriculture and water consumption using mountain aquifers. Some of them are still in use today. The galleries are present in all the Canary Islands except Fuerteventura of which 65% are located in Tenerife, 24% in Gran Canaria and 10% in La Palma. Of the 106 water mines in Gran Canaria, almost all from Telde (the municipality with the largest quantity) to La Aldea de San Nicolás, only 20% are still in operations today or about 50% of the total water supply.
Today many of the aquifers supplying them have either gone dry, been polluted by salt water or simply don’t provide sufficient amounts of quality water to fulfil any needs.
Most of the tap water found throughout the Canary Islands today is therefore now desalinated sea water.
Desalinated water in the Canary Islands
“The sea was transformed in to a great reservoir.”– D. Manuel Díaz Rijo
The first desalination plant in Europe was installed in Lanzarote in 1964 and that in the last 50 years this autonomous community has been a benchmark in which other parts of the world have been inspired to treat water. According to the Government of the Canary Islands there are 22 that guarantee public supply, although those of a private nature are added to them. Historically it was very expensive but thanks to technology innovations the cost of building and maintaining has gone down in recent years. today the technology used is reverse osmosis, which allows the salt to be removed through membranes.
Desalination saved the life of the Canary Islands, without it we could not receive 16 million tourists a year,
In Gran Canaria, 86% of the water for human consumption is desalinated, and 50% of the total supplied is desalinated. In Tenerife, an island with more water resources, they increasingly depend on desalination: it represents 47% of the consumption in Tenerife’s homes,
One of the reasons why tap water tastes different from bottled water is that, once desalinated, the water must be treated so that it is fully distilled. According to the regulations, it is necessary to add minimum amounts of chlorination to minimize the presence of bacteria. It is also re-treated by remineralization since, in the process, so much salt is removed that it is necessary to balance that water.
Because of the dependency on desalmaron one of the Canary Islands’ challenges is to minimize the energy used. In recent years the canaries have incorporated renewable energy on a larger scale into the entire desalination process and water cycle.
How is the tap water in the Canary Islands regulated and treated?
First of all those responsible for the water are:
- The Spanish Ministry of Health and Consumption with regulation that adheres to the EU safe water act
- The health authorities of Canary Islands.
- The Town Hall of each municipality
- The supplying company / water supplier or in case of some hotels the property
- Each owner of interior facilities within a property
Spanish national legislation and European directives ensure that drinking water is clean and wholesome, removing or reducing the concentration of microbiological and physical-chemical contaminants that can have repercussions for human health. According to the legislation, Royal Decree 140/2003, public bodies guarantee that you can drink tap water in the Canary Islands.
The water of the Canary Islands is also subject to continuous analysis following the guidelines of the Program for Sanitary Surveillance of Water for Human Consumption of the Government of the Canary Islands. Over 100,000 tests are conducted every year.
Water is collected and treated by private and public companies throughout the archipelago. The biggest private water supplier is Canaragua owned by the international company Suez and the Itochu Group. They provide over 280,000 households and businesses with tap water.
Is the tap water in Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and the other islands safe to drink?
Yes, all public tap water in the Canary Islands is drinkable unless the local authorities state otherwise. The tap water adheres to the same strict standards as the water in Germany, Sweden, UK or France. It’s a longstanding myth today that the water is of poor quality or could give you a bad tummy. However, having said this, it often doesn’t taste particularly good and therefore most locals buy bottled water.
If you are visiting and in doubt, ask: “¿Es potable el agua (de grifo)?” (Is the (tap) water drinkable?).
Check out our water quality database that covers about 75% of the population of the Canary Islands to find out the content of your tap water.
Why does the tap water taste bad?
One of the reasons why tap water tastes very different from tap water in other places or bottled water is because when it is desalinated it needs to be treated so that it is completely distilled. As part of this, the regulations stipulate that minimum amounts of chlorine must be added to minimize the existence of bacteria when it reaches your faucet.
After these treatments have been carried out to ensure that you can drink tap water in the Canary Islands, this water undergoes a remineralization process, removing excess salts so that the water has a more palatable taste.
The easiest way to get great tasting tap water is to get an affordable water filter such as TAPP. Another alternative to make the water taste a bit better is to let it rest for 6-12 hours in a jug to reduce its chlorine taste.
For information about tap water in Canary Islands see the local government information.
What is the tap water like across the different islands?
Tap water in Gran Canaria
85% of the water distributed in Las Palmas comes from desalination. “Here the water used daily by users is produced, not only treated, as in the rest of Spain.” The desalination process results in high quality drinking water, as it is captured from the Atlantic Ocean (free of industrial pollutants and heavy metals), it is subjected to filtration processes and finally to reverse osmosis, freeing it of practically all its salts and the few contaminants it may contain.For these reasons, it has been classified as the third best in Spain according to the Consumer Organization (OCU).
However, it is also one of the least consumed, and changing that contradiction is one of the challenges for Emalsa CEO Mercedes Fernández-Couto. “One of the great concerns and a great challenge is the conception that the water in the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria canal is not drinkable,”
Tap water in Tenerife
“Consuming tap water from homes in Adeje is the most sustainable environmental option, it favors economic savings by being more cheap, quality and healthy, compared to bottled water that favors contamination due to the harmful effect of plastic waste on the environment.”The councilor of the Health and Quality of Life Area of the Adeje City Council, Amada Trujillo Bencomo
In 2020 the government in Anara, Tenerife carried out extraordinary testing to prove to citizens that it’s safe everywhere. The data made public reflect that they collected a total of 1,609 samples obtained in health centers, municipal nurseries, schools, shopping centers, restaurants, cultural spaces and private homes, achieving a result completely suitable for consumption.
Tap water in La Palma
The water that reaches Canarian homes in La Palma, is guaranteed to be drinkable (as emphasized on the bill). This means that it does not generate any problem for human consumption.
Tap water in Fuerteventura
Fuerteventura has a very low annual rainfall and has no rivers (at least not that flow year round) so water is a rare commodity. There are only a couple of reservoirs on the island, and these feed agricultural land, not the Fuerteventura water supply.
All water in Fuerteventura therefore comes from the sea and is desalinated in a number of desalination plants located around the island. Without desalination plants tourism simply couldn’t have happened here.
You can drink the tap water in Fuerteventura as it is safe, however, it does have quite a high amount of chlorine in it so it doesn’t taste too good. It is fine for washing and brushing your teeth though. Bottled water is cheap so buy that to drink.
Tap water in Lanzarote
Because all water on Lanzarote is desalinated it can taste slightly salty. However it is safe to drink if you know it comes straight from the mains. Problem is that many places have aljibes (water storage tanks) for periods when the water is cut off due to high demand. Not all these tanks are well-maintained so therefore a water filter can be a god idea.
Do people trust the quality of the tap water?
“When you shower, your hair is brittle, and what is bad for my hair, it’s bad for my body. This water is not natural, it is from the sea, and it contains many chemicals.”– An employee in a hotel in Las Palmas.
This is a common opinion that you will hear from many locals. It’s true that it tastes different and that the chlorine can be bad for sensitive hair and skin. But there is no evidence that desalinated tap water would be any worse than other public tap water in Europe.
In the future we hope that the taboos around desalinated water will disappear.
Have contaminants such as lead, nitrate, microplastics, PFAS, arsenic, bacteria, pesticides been found in the local tap water?
Yes, the following restrictions currently exist as of November 2020:
|Nitrate||Puerto de la Cruz Guacimara Esquilón (Tenerife)Puerto de la Cruz La Horca (Tenerife)Ayto La Aldea de San Nicolás Tasartico (Gran Canaria)AC- S. B. Tirajana- ZA Fataga (Gran Canaria)||Tap water should not be consumed by children under 3 or pregnant women|
|Fluoride||El Sauzal (Tenerife)La Matanza (Tenerife)La Victoria de (Tenerife)Acentejo (Tenerife)San Juan de la (Tenerife)Rambla (Tenerife)Mogán (Tenerife)San Bartolomé deTirajana (Tenerife)||Tap water should not be consumed by children under 8 years old|
|Icod de los VinosEl Tanque||Tap water should not be consumed by local population|
Costa Calma (p): Hotel H10 TindayaCosta Calma (p): Hotel Pajara BeachUrbanización Las Gaviotas
Mogan, (Gran Canaria:El Cercado, Tabaibales y Playa de Mogán(p)
|Tap water should not be consumed by local population|
|Trihalometanos (THMs)||San Bartolomé de Tirajana (Gran Canaria)Los Sitios, Fataga yCaserones deFataga||Tap water should not be consumed by local population|
|Chloride and Sodium||Mogan (Gran Canaria):La Charca Arguineguín (p)El Vento|
Valverde (El Hierro):
|Tap water should not be consumed by local population|
Is the tap water in the Canary Islands hard or soft?
The water supply throughout the Canary Islands is generally medium hard. The Canaragua supply network in Teneriffe state that the is medium-low saline content. It can be classified as calcium bicarbonate. The average hardness values are between 40-50 mg / l.
What is the best water filter for Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura and La Palma?
The most common recommendation by plumbers and local “water experts” is to install a reverse osmosis (RO) filter. But the primary reason is because it makes them money. Because unless your tap water has been advertised as not safe to drink by the local authorities then reverse osmosis is a waste of money, water and inconvenient. Most of the tap water in the Canary Islands has already been treated with reverse osmosis.
So what is the best water filter for the Canary Islands?
A high quality faucet filter with multi-stage activated carbon such as TAPP 2 will guarantee clean tasty tap water at a lower cost, with higher flow rate and greater sustainability. TAPP 2 has been locally tested for over 2 years with hundreds of happy customers in the Canaries. In addition to improving the taste it also protects your tap water from 100+ potential contaminants including chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, microplastics and pharmaceuticals and reduces limescale
“Great taste”, “Super convenient” and “I couldn’t believe how much money I saved” is common feedback from customers.
Try it yourself with free delivery across the islands and 45 day money back warranty.
Can you drink tap water in restaurants and from public fountains?
Yes, unless there is a warning you can drink tap water in restaurants and from public fountains without risk.
What about bottled water in the Canary Islands?
A 2008 study by the multinational Philips pointed out that 93% of canaries drank bottled water. Another 2017 study by TAPP Water indicates that the Canary Islands is the autonomous community where the least tap water is drunk: 23% of its citizens drink it. It is followed by the Balearic Islands with 50% of the population and the Valencian Community, with 51%.
The most sold bottled water brands in the canary islands are Firgas (Gran Canaria), Aquabona, Aquaviva, Bezoya, Font Vella, Fuenteide, Evian and Fuente Liviana
Much of the bottled water is shipped by boat from mainland Europe which is terrible for the environment and expensive. Furthermore there is no scientific evidence that the bottled water you drink is healthier than the local tap water. Bottled water is less regulated and has frequently been found to contain considerable amounts of microplastics.
The Canary Islands have a huge problem with plastic pollution of its beaches and shores. As responsible tourists we should avoid contributing to this. Because even if you throw your used bottled in a recycling bin the islands have limited waste management resources which means that most of the plastic waste ends up in landfills.
Conclusion about tap water in the Canary Islands
- Tap water in Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and the other islands is generally safe to drink
- The majority of the tap water in the archipelago now comes from the desalination due to lack of local water sources
- Desalinated tap water combined with chlorine often results in a taste that many people find different or poor
- If you don’t like the taste, get an affordable high quality water quality such as TAPP 2 for great tasting and guaranteed safe drinking water
- Avoid bottled water if you can as it’s bad for your wallet, the planet and not proven to be healthier than tap water
Listen to this text