Ever found yourself staring at a glass of tap water in a foreign city, wondering if it’s safe to drink? Yeah, been there!
So if you’re planning a trip to Barcelona or even if you’re already here and pondering that very question, you’ve clicked on the right article. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of “should I or shouldn’t I?” moments with tap water around the world – including in Spain.
After all, I live in Spain and have spent oodles of time in Barcelona. Because of this, I’ve definitely done my homework on this topic, including whether or not Barcelona’s tap water is safe to drink.
Whether it’s those decorative fountains around the city that have got you thinking whether or not you should drink from them or reports from Spain of never ending droughts, having information on the deal with tap water in Barcelona is a good thing to know.
And that includes a very helpful tidbit to know to stop overpaying for water in restaurants here!
Is Barcelona Tap Water Safe to Drink?
Yes, the tap water in Barcelona is safe to drink, with the city having some of the highest quality drinking water globally. The Ministerio de Sanidad, which assesses all of Spain’s drinking water, has declared that Barcelona’s tap water aligns with EU and World Health Organization standards.
This means that you can confidently drink water from your home tap in Barcelona without any concern about getting sick.
When you’re out and about on hikes or meandering through parks, you’ll come across drinking fountains dotted throughout public areas. This water is perfectly safe for consumption, and there are even designated taps for dogs so every family member can quench their thirst.
(And if you’re looking for a nearby fountain, there’s a handy app, Fonts BCN, to guide you.)
However, to put it very diplomatically, you might find the taste and odor of Barcelona’s water less appealing. To be less gentle about it, and in my honest opinion: the tap water in Barcelona tastes pretty terrible.
This is mainly due to the chlorine content. Though completely safe for drinking, the presence of chlorine in Barcelona’s tap water due to the water treatment process gives a strong and occasionally off-putting flavor to the water.
In addition to chlorine, the water in Barcelona contains substantial levels of minerals such as potassium and magnesium. This is due to the water’s journey, passing through mineral-rich river rocks before reaching your faucet.
In fact, the water is so hard here that if you stay in Barcelona long term, you may actually notice having hair or skin dryness after some time – and, more often than not, the high mineral content in the tap water is likely to blame.
Nevertheless, the city is home to one of Europe’s most sophisticated water treatment facilities, the estación de tratamiento de agua potable in San Joan Despi, which plays a pivotal role in ensuring the water’s safety for public consumption.
Despite these assurances and stringent regulations, many people in Barcelona still prefer the taste and perceived purity of bottled mineral water over tap.
Alternatives to Tap Water in Barcelona
If you’re not a fan of the taste of Barcelona’s tap water (and, honestly, who is), you might want to consider a water bottle with a filter. I’ve been using a filtered water bottle when I’m on the go here, and it’s been pretty handy.
Specifically, I love this Brita filtered water bottle when I’m in Barcelona. It does a solid job of clearing out that less-than-ideal tap water taste, and it’s insulated too, which means your water stays cool.
Not to mention that it’s BPA-free with a neat built-in straw, which is just icing on the cake!
Now, bottled water is always there if you need it, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Even though many locals choose to use bottled water, as we should all know by now, it’s not the best for our planet (or your pocket, for that matter).
For those planning to stick around in Barcelona for a while, I use this Waterdrop stainless steel faucet filter in my kitchen. It’s not just easy on the eyes (which is important when it’s sitting out on your bench!) but does a great job making the water taste better.
This filter uses a 5-stage system, getting rid of stuff like sediment, a good chunk of chlorine, and even some heavy metals. The result is cleaner and fresher tasting water right from your tap.
About showering, if you’re staying long-term, I’ve noticed a real difference in my hair and skin after installing this Philips Shower Filter. It’s not something tourists will need as you’re not here long enough for this to be a problem.
But, for me, after a few months of living in Valencia (which has a very similar hard water issue to Barcelona), my hair and skin really struggled with dryness.
This filter, with its 3-step system, helps reduce the stuff that might not be too great for your hair and skin. It’s genuinely resulted in a noticeable difference, especially for my hair.
Do Locals Drink Tap Water in Barcelona?
Yes, locals in Barcelona drink tap water. However, while the water is deemed safe for consumption according to official standards, the taste and mineral content can deter some residents. For this reason, many residents opt to drink bottled water at home instead.
The unique taste, thanks to chlorine and minerals, means some people are okay with it, while others, not so much. That’s why some locals lean towards filtered or bottled water just for that smoother taste.
Regardless, it’s worth noting that the majority of the city’s inhabitants use tap water for cooking, showering and other household chores without hesitation
Where Does Barcelona’s Water Come From?
Barcelona’s tap water primarily originates from two rivers: the Ter and the Llobregat. Additionally, the city boasts one of Europe’s most substantial desalinization plants, capable of meeting up to 20% of its demand and which was built as a response to the water shortage in 2008.
Unfortunately, however, its operation has been limited due to the high costs associated with running it.
The Llobregat River, contributing the lion’s share of Barcelona’s water, passes through a notably salty region around Súria. This journey infuses the water with significant amounts of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and carbonates.
Interestingly, while Llobregat water is actually palatable before reaching Súria, it becomes notably saltier post this point. Furthermore, pollution from industries and farmlands frequently finds its way into the river.
Thankfully, robust water treatment procedures, including osmosis, effectively eliminate these pollutants and most of the salt. At the same time, the necessary inclusion of high chlorine levels to ensure the water remains contamination-free en route to your tap plays a role in the distinctive taste.
Historically, after the Spanish Civil War and up to the point when Spain joined the European Union in 1986, the country’s water infrastructure received minimal investment. This scenario dramatically shifted post-1986, with Spain benefiting from over 21 billion Euros in EU funding, enabling it to overhaul and upgrade its water infrastructure.
As a result, Spain now boasts one of the best water systems globally. In addition, at the moment, Spain has more than 1,200 artificial dams and reservoirs, the highest in Europe.
Why Does Barcelona’s Tap Water Taste So Bad?
The taste of Barcelona’s tap water is, let’s say, distinct. Much of this taste is attributed to the Llobregat River, which journeys through a particularly salty region near Súria. As a result, the water becomes “hard” due to the absorption of numerous minerals.
Adding to this mineral-laden profile, Barcelona’s drinking water undergoes chlorine treatment. This procedure is crucial for ensuring sanitation and neutralizing potential pathogens. However, it’s this very chlorine that’s believed to add to the water’s distinct taste when drawn directly from the tap.
While it meets regulatory safety standards, its unique flavor often pushes many residents towards bottled water. Interestingly, the taste can actually vary across the city, with some areas also receiving water from the less mineralized River Ter. While this isn’t a health concern, it’s an acquired taste for many.
So, while the tap water in Barcelona is safe, your taste buds might take a moment to adjust.
Water Shortage in Barcelona
Barcelona, like much of Spain, is grappling with a severe water shortage due to an enduring drought. This drought is particularly pronounced in Catalonia, marking it as the worst the region has seen in a century. The immediate impact is evident in Catalonia’s countryside, especially within the agricultural sector, but Barcelona isn’t exempt from its effects either.
This drought situation raises significant concerns for the future. If conditions don’t show improvement, the Catalonia Water Agency might declare an emergency phase for the Llobregat River come September.
Typically, April showers play a pivotal role in replenishing the depleted water reservoirs and wells. However, April 2023 broke records, unfortunately, as the driest month so far, exacerbating the already precarious situation by further depleting water reserves.
Water Restrictions in Barcelona
Barcelona is currently in “Stage 3: Exceptionality” of the drought alert protocol. This stage places significant limitations on water consumption for a variety of services, including maintenance of green spaces, decorative fountains, swimming pools, and street and vehicle cleaning.
These restrictions aren’t limited to personal consumption, as they also encompass public services, like street cleaning and fountain operation. That said, there’s actually been a silver lining for street cleaning services, which have transitioned from 80% groundwater usage to 100%.
Overstepping these water usage limits could lead to hefty fines for municipalities, as stipulated by a law passed by the Catalan government.
At the time of writing this article, it’s crucial to note that Catalonia’s water reserves stand at a worrying 20% – just to give you an idea of why this is such a major cause for concern in Barcelona and the wider region and why these restrictions are so needed.
You may not notice this much if you’re just here for a few days, with the possible exception of the Magic Fountain in Montjuïc which, as you can see on the official government site, isn’t able to run until the water restrictions are lifted.
However, you should keep this in mind when visiting Barcelona to do your best to take any possible measures to help with this. Things like taking shorter showers and reusing towels at your hotel are all steps in the right direction.
Can Tourists Drink Tap Water in Barcelona?
Yes, tourists can safely drink the tap water in Barcelona. However, you might find the taste a bit off-putting due to the mineral content and chlorination. While the tap water is completely safe for consumption, its unique flavor might take a bit to get used to.
Barcelona’s tap water undergoes a rigorous purification process, ensuring it meets the safety standards for consumption. The off-taste, attributed to the minerals picked up from the Llobregat River and the added chlorine for purification, is the primary reason many locals and visitors opt for bottled water.
Nevertheless, if you’re traveling on a budget or just want to reduce plastic consumption, you can comfortably drink tap water. As a pro-tip, carrying a filtered water bottle (like my preferred one here) can help improve the taste and make it more palatable for you.
Do Restaurants in Barcelona Serve Tap Water?
If you request water at most restaurants in Barcelona, they’ll typically serve you bottled water. But here’s a little-known fact: by law in Spain, if you specifically ask for tap water, restaurants are obliged to provide it free of charge.
So, yes, you can get tap water in restaurants, but remember, it’ll come with that distinctive taste many find unappealing.
This means that the next time you’re dining out in Barcelona and wish to avoid the extra charge on bottled water, don’t hesitate to specifically request tap water (“agua del grifo”). Just be prepared for that distinct taste, which might contrast with the delicious flavors of your meal.
Can You Brush Your Teeth with Tap Water in Barcelona?
Absolutely! It’s perfectly safe to brush your teeth with tap water in Barcelona. Given that Barcelona’s tap water meets the safety standards for drinking, there’s no need to use bottled water for typical uses like bruising your teeth.
The taste might be different from what you’re used to, but when it comes to oral hygiene, there’s no risk involved.
Can You Ask for Tap Water in Barcelona?
Yes, you can! If you’re at a restaurant in Barcelona and you request tap water, they are legally required to provide it to you at no cost. So, not only can you ask for it, but you can also enjoy it without spending a penny.
While Barcelona’s tap water might not win any taste awards, it’s completely safe to drink. The unique flavor, often attributed to its mineral content and the added chlorine, might not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s absolutely safe for consumption.
So when dining out in the city, feel empowered to request “agua del grifo” without hesitation. Just remember to be specific in your request to ensure you’re not inadvertently served (and billed for) bottled water.
Can You Have Ice in Barcelona?
Yes, you can safely enjoy ice in Barcelona since the tap water used to make it is safe to drink. However, while it’s common to be offered ice with drinks like sodas, it’s not the standard practice to serve water with loads of ice.
This means that if you’re expecting a glass filled with ice like you might get in the US, you might be in for a surprise.
At the same time, if you’re someone who loves their beverages extra chilly, don’t shy away from asking for more ice. Just keep in mind that a chilled drink in Barcelona might not always mean an icy one.
Is Water Free at Restaurants in Barcelona?
If you ask for water at most restaurants in Barcelona, they’ll likely serve you bottled water, which you’ll have to pay for. But if you specifically request tap water, Spanish law mandates that they provide it free of charge. The trade-off, of course, is that you’ll have to adjust to its distinct taste.
Dining in Barcelona is definitely an experience but when it comes to hydrating, you have choices. If you’re looking to save a few euros or reduce plastic consumption, specifically ask for tap water.
After all, who doesn’t enjoy a more sustainable dining experience! Just remember, while it’s safe to drink, the tap water’s flavor might be, shall we say, an acquired taste.