Yes, at least 99.5% of all public tap water in Spain is safe to drink and complies with international water quality standards. But there are issues such as taste, chlorine by-products, microplastics and local pipe contaminants.
Therefore it can be a good idea to use a portable and easy to install water filter in Spain such as TAPP. This has the bonus of saving money and reducing plastic waste.
There is no evidence that bottled water is safer or healthier so whether you live or visit Spain avoid bottled water if you can.
Tap water in Spain
Before Spain joined the EU in 1986, the country was torn by the after effects of the civil war. Subsequently investments in infrastructure including tap water were lagging. Some cities like Madrid, Bilbao, Vigo and A Corunahave excellent tap water but others had limited regulation and sub standard filtration and quality testing.
In the coastal areas such as Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Malaga and Cadiz you will therefore hear a lot of people tell you that they don’t recommend drinking the tap water. One of the reasons is that tourists in the 60s to 80s did not drink the tap water and as Spaniards got wealthier they also switched to bottled water.
Between 1986 and 2008 Spain received 21 billion euro in EU funding for water infrastructure. Today they have some of the most advanced public water filtration and waste water management solutions in the world.
So can I drink the tap water in Spain?
The water companies are obliged to provide frequent water quality reports and alert customers if there is any non-compliance. Therefore there is minimal risk of getting sick from bacteria in water from the tap, public drinking fountains, at restaurants, etc. However, it can happen for people with very sensitive stomachs.
Another challenge is that Spanish water providers (just like most other countries in the world) use chlorine to sterilize tap water. For this reason, there can be a certain chemical taste to the water. It is not dangerous, and you usually get used to it after a while.
If you live near the coast, you may have higher levels of sediment like fine sand as well as more minerals in your tap water. Again, this is not dangerous, but the water may not taste as good.
A more recent problems is microplastics found in more than 80% of all tap water in Europe. The microplastics come from plastics and plastic fibers that break down and leech into the water sources. We don’t know the long term health implications of this but it’s probably not good.
Because of these issues it can be a good idea to get a quality water filter such as TAPP to improve taste and protect from common contaminants.
We will continue to publish research on tap water in Valencia, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Oviedo–Gijón–Avilés, Las Palmas, Murcia–Orihuela, Tenerife, Palma (Mallorca), Granada, Cartagena, Valladolid, San Sebastián, Taragona, Córdoba, Paplona, Santander and other cities over time.
Bottled water in Spain
Bottled water consumption in Spain grew from 74m litres in 1965 to over 5,000m in 2016. That’s from about 74m glass bottles to around 6-8 billion plastic bottles in 2017. This has caused big issues in terms of plastic pollution as only about 30% gets recycled. The rest ends up on landfills and incineration plants.
There is no scientific evidence that bottled water is healthier or safer to drink than tap water. Therefore the main reason to drink bottled water is taste preference.
Unfortunately taste preference for bottled water has a big negative impact on the environment. 80% of Spaniard claim to recycle. In reality that figure is somewhere between 30-50% but putting plastic in the recycle bin is no guarantee that it gets recycled. In fact only about 20% of plastic bottles produced in Spain are made of recycled plastics.
Do I need a water filter in Spain?
Generally the tap water in Spain is safe to drink without a water filter. However, if you don’t like the taste of the water or have concerns about the quality due to local infrastructure, pipes or microplastics then buy an affordable water filter. You can buy water filters in Spain on Amazon, in most home improvement stores and here.
Tap water in Spain: Conclusion
You can safely drink the tap water in Spain unless the local water company states otherwise.
If you don’t like the taste of the water or you’re worried about contamination from the pipes then get a water filter designed for Spain such as TAPP.
Avoid plastic bottled water if you can, as it’s bad for the planet and generally a waste of money.
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