When I visit Dubrovnik, I always refill my water bottle with tap water coming out of Dubrovnik’s many historic fountains. Is it really safe to drink tap water in Croatia?
- Generally speaking, tap water in Croatia is tasty and perfectly safe to drink
- In some areas of Croatia tap water may become unsafe after heavy rains. You will then be advised to boil the water or buy bottled water.
- Unless you want to try some of Croatia’s prised mineral waters, always specify that you want tap water.
Is bottled water necessarily safer than tap water? Isn’t chlorinated water dangerous? Can you drink water right from the Plitvice Lakes? Read on and find out the answers!
1. Generally Speaking, Tap Water In Croatia Is Tasty And Perfectly Safe To Drink
Croatia is one of the richest countries in Europe in water. According to data published by UN FAO, in relation to the total renewable water sources per capita, Croatia is third in Europe (after Norway and Russia) and fifth in quantity of high-quality drinking water.
More than 87% of Croatian households benefit from the public water supply system. The tap water is regularly checked and is safe to use.
The quality of tap water in Croatia is maintained by the Croatian Institute Of Public Health and conforms to all standards regulated by the European Union.
Depending on the hardness (content of dissolved minerals), tap water may have different taste- For example, water in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, is harder than tap water in Split. However, it’s purely subjective which water tastes better.
But The Tap Water Is Chlorinated?!
As for chlorine in drinking water, it is found there in extremely small concentrations, sometimes even too low.
Namely, chlorine should be found in drinking water available to the most distant user, because only the presence of chlorine guarantees the prevention of epidemics linked to dirty water.
In Dalmatia, up to 50 years ago, there were many deadly epidemics linked to the use of polluted water. These epidemics were especially fatal to children. There was no public water supply, so water was brought from all possible places, too often contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.
That is more than a valid reason to disinfect drinking water.
Concerning the alleged dangers of showering with chlorinated water, these claims come from manufacturers of (super-expensive) equipment for the production of de-ionised or distilled drinking water.
They assert that chlorine penetrates the skin during a shower and then it is spread by blood to the vital organs, causing irreparable damage.
If it were true that gases penetrate through the skin into our bloodstream then we would not need lungs but would breathe through skin.
They even say that such water is dangerous to drink. Some may even conduct a misleading test, “proving” that their equipment eliminates impurities from the water, including chlorine.
However, chlorine, as an oxidant reacts extremely quickly with any organic material and is therefore used for disinfection, as it will kill bacteria or viruses composed of organic material. Upon reaching the stomach, it is immediately broken down together with food, digestive juices, etc.
Isn’t It Better To Drink Filtered Water?
Many people think that hard water is not good for you, and that you need to make it “soft” by removing the excess minerals. Is that true?
It is known that calcium and magnesium are necessary for the normal functioning of the human body, and are obtained through food and drink.
Of the total required amount of these metals, between 5 – 20% is obtained through drinking water.
Based on numerous studies conducted worldwide, it is recommended that drinking water contain at least 8 mg / L of magnesium, in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially ischemic heart disease and acute myocardial infarction.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that water used for drinking and food preparation should not be subjected to a softening process. Water with a hardness <75 mg / L of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) has a negative effect on the mineral balance. It is recommended that the calcium concentration be> 70 mg / L and the magnesium concentration> 8 mg / L.
Also, some researchers have found a significant negative relationship between water hardness and mortality from cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, ie calcium from water has a protective effect against cancers of the stomach, colon, pancreas, rectum…
What About Bottled Water?
Billions of people around the world rely on bottled water, because it’s their only reliable source of pure water. However, what about areas where tap water is safe?
The first problem with bottled water is that it is INFINITELY more expensive than tap water. Consumerist society wants to assure us that we need it. Consequently, it’s one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
Then, there is the problem with pollution. Billions of empty bottles end up in rivers and oceans.
But the biggest problem with bottled water, and especially water in PLASTIC bottles, may negatively affect our health.
Tiny particles of plastic, called micro-plastic, were found in 93% of samples of water taken from plastic bottles. Even though most of these particles pass through our body without making any known harm, some 10% of them, smaller than 0.15 millimetres, will enter our lymph system and our kidneys.
When exposed to higher temperatures, plastic bottles release chemicals that can wreak havoc with our hormones.
Karin Michaels, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, suggests that toxins leaching from plastics might be related to disorders in humans such as infertility and cancer.Wikipedia
2. In Some Areas Of Croatia Tap Water May Become Unsafe After Heavy Rains
Because of its geological make-up, dirt quickly ends up in streams and rivers of coastal Croatia.
Torrential downpours or rain cause massive erosion. Since no natural filters, like thick layers of clay, sieve out the impurities, they all eventually make fresh water sources muddy.
These incidents occasionally happen in greater Split area and in Zadar, too. Make sure to ask your landlord or hotel staff about it, because it is not always easy to tell if the water is clear or not.
The KRČIĆ waterfall near Knin in northern Dalmatia becomes active in the rainy period.
In Summer, it usually completely disappears and dries out.
In Autumn, though, heavy rains cause it to start gushing with water that is not necessarily crystal clear, but rich in soil particles washed down from limestone mountain sides.
After a while, though, the sediments settle, and the water becomes clear again.
And this is when you SHOULD buy bottled water, preferably in glass bottles. Alternatively, you can allow the sediment to settle, pour the clean water to a pot and then boil it to kill the bacteria.
But, you may wonder, why don’t they chlorinate the water to make it safe? The answer lies in chemical reaction that would occur between chlorine and massive amounts of organic and inorganic particles dissolved in water. All the quantities of chlorine added would soon be gone. Hence, NO CHLORINATION happens. That is why you should boil the water to make it safe to use, to kill the bacteria!
Drinking Tap Water In Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik had been affected by intermittent episodes of unsafe tap water for years. After every rain, the inhabitants of Dubrovnik would anxiously inspect the appearance of their drinking water and listen to local radio to find out if the water is safe to drink or not.
However, in 2019 Dubrovnik got a new water purification plant. So it appears that the “muddy” days are over now.
This is one more reason to do as I do: Drink water from Dubrovnik’s fountains! (BTW, my wife hates it when I do that!)
3. Unless You Want To Try Some Of Croatia’s Prised Mineral Waters, Always Specify That You Want Tap Water.
Croatia has some great mineral waters.
For instance, in 2019, one of them, JANA, became the first Croatian mineral water to win a gold medal (Gold Quality Award) for product quality at the prestigious international Monde Selection competition.
If you order it in a coffee shop or a restaurant, you can get it in a glass bottle!
As a default, if you order water in restaurant, you will be asked “Sparkling Or Still (Natural) Water?”.
In order to get tap water, you have to specify it. If you do it in a fancier restaurant, expect the expression of disbelief on you waiter’s face. If you are confident and have plenty of self-esteem, give it a try!
There were instances when a restaurant REFUSED to serve tap water. If that happens, there is nothing you can do about it, other than not come to that restaurant again.
Is It Safe To Drink Water From The Plitvice Lakes?
A resolute NO!
Even though the water looks crystal clear, it may not free from bacteria, amoebae, organic matter and possibly even chemical residues.
However, you never know where the vitamins are, do you?