Can I Drink Tap Water Safely in Germany?

Can I Drink Tap Water Safely in Germany?

Drinking Water in Germany is a big deal; not many expats seem to drink water from the tap in Germany, even though Germans will tell you it’s perfectly safe to drink. And it is often even of better quality than the water you buy in a bottle.

I used to boil tap water in our kettle for a couple of months until it got clogged with a greyish-white sediment and had to be thrown away. Because then you start thinking about what’s going on in your stomach… 

Annotation by Michael: That’s simple chalk and at worst will make your voice higher like the Wolf und die Sieben Geißlein and you can easily declog your device with something as simple as baking powder or natron.

Only if you live in a very old house which hasn’t been renovated in the last 50-60 years, you should have your water tested and if you are living in Berlin, you can do so for free here I’m certain there is such a possibility in any other bigger or even smaller city. This talk at Creative Mornings Berlin actually shows how you could make a business by filing the Berlin tap water into bottles. It was meant as a joke / marketing stunt / art project but it too an unexpected turn.

In short: you can drink tap water in Germany in 99% of cases. You also don’t really need those fancy water filters. And if you love bubbles, what made my life easier was getting one of those bubble makers for my kitchen. Over are the days when I had to carry 10kg of water bottles up to the 4th floor. But now weiter geht’s mit Jeremy’s experience.

Modern apartments, GP waiting rooms and workplaces often have fancy built-in water filters, with two settings: one for still water, and one for bubbles. Bubbled water (Mineralwasser) is also very popular.

When I’m preparing for a German student to arrive in my classroom and I don’t know what his or her preference for water might be, my default is for bubbles. Germans even drink it in gyms. 

Bottled Water Delivery

So, if you don’t have the fancy filter, you have to buy it bottled. You can get it delivered to your door, (like we do). We get glass bottles that are re-used and you get the deposit back for the bottles on the bill at the door.

We also tip the driver pretty well, being on the third floor with no elevator. There are twelve large bottles in a big plastic crate, and these guys are under huge time pressure for their runs. They’re always breathless by the end of the delivery … which makes understanding their German difficult.

I simply can’t get myself to drink tap water in Germany.

No Delivery? No Problem

A man on a water gun spraying water as a funny metaphor for getting your water delivered in Germany rather than drink tap water in Germany.

The other option is to buy water in plastic bottles at the supermarket, and of course, older people—who are not so internet savvy—usually do this (even though they could probably most benefit from delivery).

We were at Trinkgut this morning, which is a big ‘drinks’ supermarket chain. The Trinkgut near us has a Bäckerei and Bistro attached to it, so we were there buying bread. (The bread in Germany is a revelation … but that’s another story.)

I was putting the trolley back when I noticed an old man, probably in his eighties, maybe born during the war, struggling to lift the first of the three crates of water he’d bought into the back of his tiny hatchback.

There’s no question about it: I should help this guy. My German fiancée is still at the bakery, so I have to get over my initial reluctance to speak German to an old guy in a parking lot. 

You Can Drink Tap Water In Germany

But why make your life easy, right? So here’s how a very German habit brought me to the “Genuss” of a nice encounter in German.

“Kann ich Dir helfen?” I manage. I immediately realise, dammit, should have used Sie. This is the trouble with talking with friends and family all the time. It’s always ‘Du’. I remind myself to do more SmarterGerman teaching using Sie and formal pronouns.

But it’s okay. I’m there to help, after all. He says something in fast natural German, and I pick up ‘danke’ and ‘kaufen’ in it.

Fortunately, he also uses hand gestures, indicating where he’d like the crates to go. I put them in and he’s still talking, but I’ve got no idea what he’s saying. 

Once I get the last crate in, I go to my standard explanation: “Es tut mir leid. Ich lerne Deutsch aber ich spreche noch nicht sehr gut Deutsch.” This usually slows people down, at least.

He smiles, and says (more slowly) “Wo kommst Du her?” So we are good mates already, swapping informal pronouns. I feel better about my initial mistake.

“Ich komme aus Australien,” I say.

“Ach das ist weit weg.”

“Ja Du hast recht,” I manage.

He says something else that I don’t pick up, but my German back-up has just arrived. I introduce her to him, we swap a few final pleasantries, and then we shake hands. His hand is rough like sandpaper, obviously from a lifetime of work.

And sure, this Virus is still around and I’ll try not to touch my face before I get home, and I’ll wash my hands thoroughly too, which I would have done anyway, but I’m sure as heck not going to refuse a handshake from a guy like this.

He happily thumps me on the shoulder and says: “Bleib gesund. Alt wirst Du von alleine…” meaning “Stay healthy. You will get old by yourself.” And he’s quite right, again. I hope I’m nearby next time he needs to load his water, or that he figures out that he actually can drink tap water in Germany.

How good is German tap water?

German tap water is of such high quality that it often surpasses both still and sparkling mineral water in blind taste tests, consistently ranking at the top or equal to mineral waters.

While there are concerns about nitrates and chromium in tap water, an extensive test revealed nitrate levels below the recommended maximum, with chromium traces well below healthy thresholds.

Interestingly, these substances were also found in a significant sample of mineral waters.

Buying Bottled Mineral Water

Despite the high quality of local tap water in Germany, there is a notable consumption of bottled water, with each citizen, on average, consuming around 147 liters of mineral water annually.

German supermarkets offer over 500 different mineral water brands, with prices ranging from 0.20 to 0.70 euros per liter, not necessarily reflecting mineral content. The reality is that minerals in water don’t significantly contribute to the mineral intake for humans.

Despite Germany’s efficient bottle recycling system, the environmental impact of plastic production, transportation, and recycling is considerable, with less than 20% of plastic bottles made from recycled materials.

From a sustainability perspective, drinking tap water is much more environmentally friendly.

Improving the Taste of Tap Water

Many regions in Germany tend to have hard water, which leaves limescale deposits in appliances and can taste unpleasant to some people.

If you don’t want to buy bottled water but you are concerned about contamination or the different taste or smell of tap water, another option is buying a water filter, with leading brands in Germany such as TAPP Water and Brita Water Filter.

If you enjoy bubbly water, consider using a water carbonator like Soda Stream.

Ordering Water at a German Restaurant

Ordering water at a German restaurant can be surprisingly challenging for many tourists. There are two primary types of waters in Germany: “Mit Gas” (Sprudel) and “Ohne Gas” (Still).

Still Water

“Still Wasser” refers to plain, non-carbonated ”normal water”, typically served in a bottle when ordered at restaurants in Germany.

Most places, however, do not generally like to serve tap water and often wouldn’t serve it for free.

Sparkling Water

On the other hand, if you request “Sprudel Wasser” or “Wasser mit Gas,” you will be served carbonated water. It’s important to specify your preference, as if you don’t, you might be automatically given carbonated water, which is more common.

So, if you prefer your water without bubbles, be sure to clearly state, “Still Wasser, Bitte.”

FAQs on drinking water from the tap in Germany

Here, you will find answers to common questions about the quality of tap water in Europe and Germany.

Which country has cleanest tap water?

It is challenging to determine definitively which country has the absolute cleanest tap water, as water quality can vary within regions. However, countries known for their stringent water quality standards and efficient water treatment systems, such as Switzerland, Norway, and Germany, are often praised for having exceptionally clean tap water.

Is it OK to drink tap water in Germany?

Yes, it is generally safe to drink the tap water in Germany. The Drinking Water Ordinance (in German: Trinkwasserverordnung) of the Federal Ministry of Health governs the quality of German water. The country has strict regulations and high standards for water safety and quality, making tap water safe for consumption across most regions and locals frequently drink it without any concerns.

Is it OK to drink the water in Munich?

Yes, drinking tap water in Munich is safe. The city, like the rest of Germany, adheres to rigorous water quality standards, ensuring that tap water is free from contaminants and safe for consumption. Visitors can confidently enjoy tap water in Munich without worrying about any health risks.

Summing Up: Drinking Tap Water in Germany

Despite concerns, tap water in Germany undergoes rigorous testing, with nitrate and chromium levels well within health limits.

While Germans consume a significant amount of bottled water, the eco-friendly choice is tap water. The sustainability factor, along with the taste, makes tap water a preferred choice.

If you’d like to learn more about the German language and people, try out our German language courses at SmarterGerman today.