If there was one thing that united Polish people some ten or fifteen years ago, I daresay it was tap water phobia. Tap water was considered to be contaminated, full of chlorine and simply undrinkable (and all the more so when unboiled). There were portable water filters in almost every household. Many people kept plastic jerrycans at home, in which they would carry water from oligocene water wells that could be found all around big cities.
But those times are long gone. We’re witnessing a true revolution in the Poles’ attitude towards tap water. According to the Center for Public Opinion Research (OBOP), in 2009 only one in every ten people drank tap water. In 2016 in Warsaw this number rose to one in every three. There have been a lot of public campaigns to raise awareness of the advantages of Polish tap water. And they are starting to take effect, which is great news.
Drinking water fountains are installed in schools, at playgrounds and in other public places. Municipal water meets all the European Union standards (which are even more rigorous than the WHO guidelines) and is not only tasty, but often healthier than bottled water. For example, the tap water in Kraków contains a total of 365 mg/l of minerals, while low-mineralized mineral water contains 322 mg/l and bottled spring water only 181 mg/l. It is a richer source of magnesium and potassium than the most popular kinds of bottled water. (source: http://prostozkranu.krakow.pl/substancje-mineralne/)
At the same time, Poles are getting more and more ecologically aware and they see the harm that is done to the environment due to high bottled water consumption. Reusable water bottles are gaining popularity. They can be purchased in all shapes and colors and can become a really fashionable accessory.
So, is drinking tap water in Poland safe? Well, to be honest, it depends. If we are talking about municipal water provided by the water company, then the answer is ‘yes’. It is tested carefully and frequently to make sure it meets all the requirements. So if you are visiting a city or town, where buildings are connected to the municipal water supply system, you can just go ahead and drink tap water. But bear in mind that houses in villages and in the countryside often use their own wells to draw water and no one can guarantee that its quality is high enough to let people drink it without boiling, so be careful there.
It is important to point out that at most restaurants you can’t order tap water, so be prepared to pay for bottled water if you want to have some water to your dinner. But this is slowly changing and restaurants and cafes are beginning to serve tap water as well. Currently there’s a public campaign going on to encourage serving tap water. To see a list of places where you can always get free tap water, click here: http://gdzie.pijewodezkranu.org/
At the stage of planning what to take with you on your journey to Poland, don’t forget to put your reusable water bottle on the list. Knowing that you have unlimited access to drinking water will definitely make sightseeing of the beautiful Polish cities like Gdańsk, Warsaw or Kraków even more enjoyable.