Is drinking tap water healthy drinking water in germany in check

Is it safe to drink tap water in Germany??Is drinking tap water healthy drinking water in germany in check

First there is the question: Where does tap water in Germany come from?? The answer: about 70% of drinking water comes from groundwater and spring water, with the rest coming from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, or wells near rivers and lakes (bank filtrates). It is analyzed in the waterworks and – if necessary – treated. Then it reaches our house connection via the pipelines of the water suppliers. Up to this point, the drinking water ordinance also applies.

Only from our house connection we are ourselves – resp. homeowners:inside – responsible for the quality of tap water. To have your tap water tested to rule out possible contamination, however, is fairly uncomplicated and inexpensive. You can find providers for this in our article Testing tap water.

However, harmful substances may already be present in the extracted water – for example, in groundwater. One of the culprits is conventional agriculture: Harmful pesticides and fertilizers such as nitrates end up in rivers and lakes or seep into the soil and further into the groundwater. Therefore, we have relatively high levels of nitrate in the groundwater.

More toxins enter the water cycle through chemicals or drug residues from our wastewater. For consumers: Old medicines should not be flushed down the toilet.

Today harmless – tomorrow nitrate in the tap water?

However, this does not mean that our tap water is a health hazard by any means. "There is absolutely no reason to fear anything when drinking tap water. It is well studied and safe," says Jurgen Steinert of oko-Test.

Thanks to drinking water regulations, waterworks filter out pollutants and carry out strict controls before the water is fed into our supply system. The amount of pollutants in our tap water will then be so low that it will most likely have no effect on our health.

But: This could change. If we continue to add too many pollutants and nitrates to our wastewater, Germany's waters and groundwater will become increasingly enriched with pollutants that can then find their way into drinking water, until at some point alarming limits are exceeded. Nitrate comes mainly from manure and slurry applied to fields, as well as from mineral fertilizers used to grow fruits and vegetables.

As recently as June 2021, Germany was again reprimanded by the EU Commission for its fertilizer ordinance. Because our groundwater is still too heavily polluted by nitrate. According to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), the nitrate limit (50 mg/l) is exceeded every year at about one in six measuring points. This was also the case with the most recent readings, which are from 2019. There are now new fines in the offing from the European Court of Justice for Germany because we continue to continuously violate the EU Nitrate Directive.

Tap water can therefore theoretically contain pollutants. But if you think you're better off with mineral water, you're usually wrong.

Despite their name, mineral waters do not necessarily contain more minerals than tap water, nor are they automatically healthy. As with drinking water, the mineral content of the water depends on the region it comes from. Even more curious: Since 1980, not even a minimum amount of minerals must be contained in 'mineral water.

So if you drink mineral water for its mineral content, you have to start looking pretty closely. In addition, a balanced diet usually already covers the mineral requirement. "The primary task of beverages is to supply the body with the nutrient water," the German Nutrition Society (DGE) also writes to us. The conscious (!) Selection of a mineral water could make "a supplementary contribution" to meeting mineral needs.

As Stiftung Warentest (most recently in 2019) Tap water tested, all samples were within all limits for contaminants. Although the testers:inside found small traces of various substances. But: "No water is harmful to health."The test also showed that drinking water also contains minerals. However, there are also big regional differences here.

Also Mineral water scores well in tests Tap water is mostly good and mostly complies with the legal requirements (which are, however, less strict than those of the Drinking Water Ordinance). Nevertheless, laboratories continue to find residues of pollutants in tap water. "The main contaminants that can be found in some mineral waters are pesticide metabolites – degradation products of pesticides – and uranium," explains Jurgen Steinert from oko-Test.

Both oko-Test and Stiftung Warentest repeatedly complain that there are problems with the "original purity" of mineral waters. In 2021, for example, Stiftung Warentest found the designation "natural mineral water" to be questionable for some products and criticized above-ground impurities. In the mineral water test of 2021, for example, oko-Test found chromate and pesticide residues.

Bottled mineral water: questionable in comparison

Curiously, even expensive designer waters with health advertising promises may contain more pollutants than plain tap water, because the specifications of the Mineral and Table Water Ordinance are not as strict as those of the Drinking Water Ordinance.

Bottled water should also be rejected for reasons of sustainability: the bottles are often transported over hundreds of kilometers, causing large amounts of climate-damaging CO2 emissions.

The plastic bottles themselves are also an immense problem. Although the majority are deposit bottles and recyclable. However, this does not mean that they can be reused. Around 60 percent of water bottles sold are disposable (as of 2019). After a single use, they are shredded and melted down at high energy cost. However, this does not always result in new bottles.

PET bottles also have the same basic problems as all plastic packaging: First, they are usually produced on the basis of the scarce and climate-damaging raw material petroleum. Secondly, if they accidentally end up in the environment or in bodies of water, they virtually do not degrade there, but instead break down into microplastics and pose a danger to ecosystems. Tap water, on the other hand, is available at home in virtually no packaging. Can also take it with you in durable refillable drinking bottles.

Drinking tap water in Germany? Yes!

The bottom line is this: We are most likely not harming our health if we drink tap water in Germany. Bottled water is many times more expensive for us, more harmful to the environment – and therefore in most cases superfluous in this country. 1. Get some nice glass carafes for your home kitchen. Get into the habit of drinking tap water. Get some nice glass carafes for the kitchen at home. Get used to tap water. 2. If you love sparkling water, you can get a water bubbler – so you get sparkling tap water at the touch of a button for almost nothing. 3. For the office and on the way use BPA-free drinking bottles, which are available in different designs (light and robust for example as stainless steel drinking bottles). 4. Say in the restaurant that you want to drink tap water – and point out in case of problems that you will also pay for it. Projects like Atip:tap support restaurants serving water from the tap. 5. On the road with the drinking water app of the German Association for Energy and Water Management e.V. (BDEW) every user can find the nearest drinking water well.

Have your own water tested? Various service providers offer to analyze water samples for you (in cooperation with a laboratory). You will receive a test kit with which you take a sample at home and then send it to the laboratory, which will report back with an analysis. The costs start at about 40,-. A provider is wassertest-online.en**.

Stiftung Warentest: Tap water healthier than mineral water
BPA-free water bottles: These 5 are recommended
Drinking water: So much is healthy

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