Can you drink the tap water in Greece? Where does the water come from? Potential health issues, contaminants and issues? What is the best water filter for Greece? What about bottled water in Greece?
“If you pollute clear water with mud, you shall never find to drink.”
Aeschylus, 525-456 BC, Ancient Greek tragedian ‐ Eumenides
Whether you are born in Greece, moving to or visiting Greece as a tourist these are all relevant and important questions.
In this article we will attempt to answer all the questions above and provide some tips and solutions for clean drinking water.
Where does the tap water in Greece come from?
Taken as a whole, Greece has one of the best per capita water supplies in the Mediterranean, but its precipitation varies enormously across the country. While the west is relatively wet and the mountains can get over 2,000mm of rainfall a year, other regions have less than 400mm. The latter is much less than what is needed to satisfy demand.
This imbalance sees areas such as Attica (Athens region), Thessalonica, and the southern Aegean Islands facing long-term water shortages. In parallel there is bigger demand in the south, in particular if we include Crete and other islands which are popular tourism destinations. Climate change is set to make a bad situation worse.
Some 80-85% of freshwater resources are in the form of surface water and the rest is groundwater. Note: Other sources state that groundwater use makes up 42% of the total water supply.
Most of the water in mainland Greece is used for agriculture (87%) followed by tap water supply (10%) and industry (3%).
The two main issues with groundwater is seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers and nitrate pollution from agriculture.
Groundwater over-exploitation and saltwater intrusion in Greece (left). Areas affected by nitrate pollution, due to agricultural activities (>50 mg/L) (right).
Greece is divided in 14 water regions as follows: West Peloponnese, North Peloponnese, East Peloponnese, West Central Greece, Epirus, Attiki, Central Greece and Evia, Thessaly, West Macedonia, Central Macedonia, East Macedonia, Thrace, Crete and Aegean Islands (Source: Ministry of Development, 1987).
Athens (Attiki), where more than a third of the population of Greece lives, is supplied by five different water sources. The main two are Lake Marathon close to the city and Lake Yliki, 60 km northwest of the capital. In addition to this there is the Mornos reservoir 192 km to the west of Athens, the Evinos reservoir completed in 2001 and 105 boreholes in three wellfields that are used only in emergency situations.
Due to the need to pump large quantities of water over long distances and mountains, the water company of Athens is the second-largest electricity customer in Greece. Source: EYDAP
Many of the islands have scarce water supply. Historically the inhabitants of Greek islands have also harvested winter rains from rooftops for use during the summer.
How is the tap water in Greece regulated and treated?
Within the Greek government the Ministry of Environment is in charge of water resources management and the Ministry of Interior is in charge of supervising municipalities which are responsible for providing water and sanitation services. The Greek water regulation follows the EU Drinking Water Directive last updated in 2020.
The condition of the country’s rivers is 64% from moderate to poor. 18% of the territory has been highlighted as nitrogen pollution risk zones (Kampos Imathia, Thessaloniki, Pella, Thessalian Kampos, Kopaida, Strymon basin, Evros). This is primarily due to run-off contaminants that reach aquifers due to industrial and agricultural uses.
Another serious problem is the damaged and outdated water infrastructure. According to some sources as much as 60% of the total water supply is wasted due to leakages. For EYDAP (Athens) about 50% of the pipes are made of asbestos, a material that is now banned as it may cause cancer. About 7000 km of pipes need replacement in the coming years. Source: Proionta Tis Fisis
In response to a public queuery the EU commission stated in a 2008 report that they are not aware of any contamination caused by asbestos-cement pipes as the ones used in Greece. Source: EU Parlament
Finally there is also microbial contamination. According to EYDAP, 10,000 microbial analysis are carried out per year. This may seem like a lot but it is very little for the size of the network.
Is the tap water in Greece safe to drink?
Yes, public tap water is safe to drink in most of Greece. The best quality drinking water is found in the big cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, where the majority of the Greek population lives. These cities have good quality water treatment, monitoring and fairly well maintained distribution networks. Source: Lenntech
Tap water in Athens (EYDAP)
Tap water in Athens is provided by EYDAP, the largest water company in Greece. EYDAP’s clientele in the field of water supply, includes about 4,400,000 customers (2,160,000 connections). Source: EYDAP
Urban Water Atlas for Europe 2017 published by the EU rated Athens tap water (provided by EYDAP) with an excellent 10 in terms of the quality of water running in the taps of every household in the city of Athens. Source: CNN
Compared to its population and the old water supply network, Athens does not have serious problems with its water. The main issues are taste due to chlorine and if you live in the center of Athens where the infrastructure is old, you may have to deal with lead. A large part of the water infrastructure also uses asbestos-cement pipes.
Tap water in Thessaloniki (EYATH)
This is the second largest water network in Greece. The water is generally safe to drink with the biggest issue being taste caused by chlorine that is added to the water network in order to disinfect it. In Thessaloniki, the network broke down 3 times in two months at the beginning of 2018), the so-called hyperchlorination occurs, that is, an extra amount of chlorine is added to cover the one that escapes from the damaged network. This means that some areas will receive water with excessive amounts of chlorine.
You can look up the tap water quality in your area free of charge including chlorine, chloride, turbidity, conductivity (TDS), pathogens and more. Source: EYATH
Local advertising promoting tap water in Greece:
Other areas of Greece
In remote areas with small populations where drinking water originates mainly from local groundwater wells. The quality varies a lot with some exposed to nitrates and other agriculture and industry run-off. Many others may remain unidentified, since drinking water quality is not effectively monitored in these areas.
Citizens should have free access to data on the quality of water intended for human consumption. This data is provided in an easily readable and understandable form, apart from the application on the mobile phone or through the website of E.D.E.Y.A.
Water quality on the Greek islands
The biggest deviations from good quality, reflected in excesses of the levels provided by legislation (Directive 98/83/EC), were found in water stressed islands (Cyclades, Corfu, Dodeccanese). Issues include
- water scarcity and thus use of tanks to store water
- water sources frequently affected by marine water intrusion into the aquifers and
- water distribution systems are old, poorly maintained and easily corroded by the high salt content of the water and their contact with the rich in marine aerosols atmosphere.
Inhabitants including tourist destinations therefore, cover partly their needs from rainwater collected in municipal or private reservoirs and/or water produced by desalination.
More recently popular tourist islands such as Crete, Mykonos and Santorini provide safe drinking water at the time of this article. The taste may not be that great though.
Source: Desline 2018
What are potential tap water issues in Greece?
A 2008 study concluded that WHO limits for water contaminants were exceeded in the cases of lead (in 2.7% of the samples analysed), chloride (2.4%) and nickel (2.1%). Ammonium, sodium, fluoride, sulphates, nitrates and conductivity were lower than the upper limits by 2% of the total number of samples analysed.
Other reported tap water issues/incidents in Greece
Chlorine byproducts in drinking water may be cancer causing.
Source: Zougla Greece
Lead in Greek tap water
Lead belongs to the category of heavy metals. In Greece it is observed mainly in areas where the network piping is very old, such as in the center of Thessaloniki and in the historic center of Athens.
Bacteria are now very rare in the water network of cities, but they have not completely disappeared. We find them mainly in houses with water tanks or private wells with water that is not adequately treated by the municipality. Bacteria therefore appear mainly in houses that do not get water from a central water supply network.
Is the tap water hard or soft or maybe somewhere in between?
In general, Northern Greece and mainly Thessaloniki has hard water , Athens and wider Attica are at reasonable levels, while Halkidiki and the islands have very hard water and in summer it is almost brackish.
What is the best water filter for Greece?
In recent years, the increasing pollution of surface and groundwater resources, has resulted in the degradation of tap water and its reputation. It has also led to massive growth of bottled water consumption.
With new innovative water purification technology filtered water there is a solution. High quality filtered water is better and healthier than bottled water. Source: Itrofi.gr
TAPP filters work by forcing water to pass through several stages including activated carbon that absorbs the various harmful substances that may be present in the water. This makes the water taste great, safer for human consumption and reduces issues such as limescale. Source: Diatrofi 2018
TAPP 2 is especially designed for Mediterranean countries that usually have hard water with high mineral content that requires significant amounts of chlorine to be added. The 5-stage filter filters chlorine, microplastics, heavy metals including lead, asbestos, limescale, nitrate, pesticides, industrial chemicals such as PFAS and 70+ other contaminants. At the same time it retains the minerals such as magnesium, calcium, bicarbonates, sodium and potassium that are good for your health.
For most parts of Greece a high quality activated carbon filter such as TAPP 2 is an ideal fit.
We are currently shortlisting distribution and retail partners for Greece. Contact us if you are interested in becoming a reseller.
In the meantime you can purchase TAPP 2 from tappwater.com with free delivery.
Can you drink tap water in restaurants and from public fountains?
Yes, you can generally drink tap water in restaurants, cafes, bars and restaurants in the major cities and tourist destinations. Ask for it and if they refuse to serve you, then at least you tried.
What about bottled water in Greece?
A recent report by the Commission on drinking water in European countries shows that Greece is high in the ranking of countries that prefer tap water over bottled water and more specifically 177 liters of tap water are consumed every day, a number that brings it 4th in the relevant ranking. This is behind only Italy (243 liters), Bulgaria (191 liters) and Croatia (182 liters). Source: Insider.gr
In the European Union all food businesses producing bottled water are subject to Regulation 852/2004 / EC on food hygiene. In theory this means that bottled water should be safe to drink.
Unfortunately this is often not the case. A recent study identified the following issues with bottled water in Greece:
- There is no legislation that specifies what should be written on the label.
- Physicochemical characteristics are not mentioned.
- The average of the sampling measurements of the previous year is not mentioned, but three and five years ago.
- Waters with anonymous labels circulate on islands and outside Attica.
- The temperature below 18° C is not observed for storage. Bottles are often stored at ambient temperatures of 30° to 38° Celsius.
- In many supermarkets the storage areas are close to refrigerators and refrigeration machines with the result that the water is heated.
At least one in ten bottled water contains microorganisms that are dangerous to health. The main reason for the problematic quality is its unacceptable storage conditions. In the studies of the Universities of Thrace and Patras, which were carried out from 1995 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2008, and during which approximately 1,700 bottles of water circulated on the market were examined, pseudomonads, coliforms and colonies of microorganisms were identified.
Bottled water is not recommended for use in infant formula because it may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulfate.
Bottled water must have the following indications on its packaging:
- • Name of sale of the product.
- • Name of water intake source.
- • Place of exploitation of the source.
- • Chemical analysis of the composition. Although most bottled water don’t specify the minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Bicarbonate, Sulphates, Sodium, Chloride, etc
- • Treatments that may be carried out during the bottling process.
- • Quantity of content (volume).
- • Best before date (day / month / year).
- • Production batch.
- • Conditions of storing and use of the product.
- • Name or trade name of manufacturer.
Unfortunately most bottled water brands are missing this information despite regulation.
The fact is that bottled water is bad for the planet, your wallet and unlikely beneficial to your health. Here’s a good overview translated to Greek by the EU.
Conclusion about tap water in Greece
- Many areas of Greece face water shortages so be responsible with your water usage
- The tap water in the major cities of Greece and tourist destinations is drinkable but doesn’t always taste great due to chlorination
- Possible tap water contaminants in Greece include microplastics, lead, asbestos and nitrate
- If you worry about contaminants or don’t like the taste then the best water filter for Greece is TAPP 2
- Bottled water in Greece may be unhealthier than tap water and definitely worse than filtered tap water
- Bottled water is bad for your wallet, health and the planet. Avoid it if you can.
Have questions, comments or feedback. Please e-mail us as we are constantly updating the information on our website to ensure it’s accurate.