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Old 06-20-2019, 07:17 PM
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Drinking French Water.


Is it true that Frenchmen can drink the water in France, but Americans (and others?) visiting France cannot?

My French teacher in high school told us that. But it is hard to believe.

What biological effect could account for such a thing? Are French people inoculated against its effects in some way? What about French babies? Do they go thru an initiation process with the dirty water?

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Old 06-20-2019, 07:39 PM
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That sounds like the old thing about 'just don't drink the water' told to people travelling abroad.
I have well water and have been drinking it for a couple decades. It's great water for the area. Some people tell me they feel ill drinking it. I offer bottle water to guests. I guess we're immune to it's germiness. I've never been sick from it.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:00 PM
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EU drinking water standards are tough - in most respects tougher than US standards - and enforcement is systematic. If you can drink the water in the US, then you can certainly drink it in France.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:07 PM
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Where exactly in France is this super-contaminated water supposed to be? I haven't heard of people being decimated by bottles of Évian.

It's theoretically possible your friend found some untreated water somewhere, but it's not for drinking and definitely didn't come out of the tap in his or her hotel room in Paris.

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Old 06-20-2019, 08:08 PM
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Condé Nast says the tapwater in France is safe to drink. Of course, drinking out of decorative fountains is a bad idea, and drinking tapwater will get you weird looks from the waitstaff if France is anything like Germany and Austria, but parasitic diseases apparently aren't a big concern in the Metropole.

TripSavvy says the same as does Expatica but I have no idea how reliable they are.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
Is it true that Frenchmen can drink the water in France, but Americans (and others?) visiting France cannot?

My French teacher in high school told us that. But it is hard to believe.
What about Frenchwomen? Can they drink the water in France?
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:18 PM
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Eg Paris water. The untreated river and canal water goes to water the grass, clean the pavement, flush the drains, etc, not to drink.

Meanwhile, the tap water is highly monitored and conforms to rigorous parameters.

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Old 06-20-2019, 09:36 PM
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Eg Paris water. The untreated river and canal water goes to water the grass, clean the pavement, flush the drains, etc, not to drink.

Meanwhile, the tap water is highly monitored and conforms to rigorous parameters.
In other words, don't drink from a garden hose in France. But wouldn't that rule apply to Frenchpersons as well?
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Old 06-21-2019, 02:45 AM
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When I was a child (70s), I was under strict instructions from my parents not to drink the tap water when on holiday in France and Spain, for fear of stomach upsets.

Whether they were being over cautious at the time, I couldn't say (I also was banned from stroking any cats or dogs, for fear of contacting rabies), but the tap water throughout Europe is totally fine to drink. High standards, we can thank the EU for that.

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Old 06-21-2019, 03:03 AM
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Condé Nast says the tapwater in France is safe to drink. Of course, drinking out of decorative fountains is a bad idea, and drinking tapwater will get you weird looks from the waitstaff if France is anything like Germany and Austria, but parasitic diseases apparently aren't a big concern in the Metropole.
It's not; many French restaurants in fact offer "tap?" if you ask for flat water. Even low-end restaurants which offer it from a refrigerated fountain often do so from the pipes and not from a big bottle. Apparently the bottled water lobby isn't as strong in France as in several other European countries.

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In other words, don't drink from a garden hose in France. But wouldn't that rule apply to Frenchpersons as well?
Yeah.

My brother the survivalist recently wanted to come up with some sort of DIY kit so he could set up a rainwater deposit and make sure it was drinkable (location: mountains in southern Saragossa province, Spain). I sent him to the local water authority: they have the skills to run those tests, the mandate to do so, and they're also the people who'd fine his ass flat if his homemade setup managed to send himself or anybody in his house to the hospital. If he just wanted the deposit for watering and showering they'd just need to stamp the building permit and inspect the finished work once.
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Old 06-21-2019, 03:04 AM
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I went to France back in the early 1980's, traveling from Belgium (it was cheaper to fly to there than Paris) all the way down to Clermont-Ferrand and back to Brussels. I had no problems drinking the water anywhere along the way.

I'd be really shocked if the water has somehow deteriorated since then.
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Old 06-21-2019, 03:12 AM
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It's not; many French restaurants in fact offer "tap?" if you ask for flat water.
I realized OOT that the "it's not" was unclear: it refers to the response from waiters when asking for tap water. In France it's perfectly normal.
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Old 06-21-2019, 03:23 AM
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Not sure about France, and maybe Nava can confirm this, but at least in the Canary Islands we have been advised not to drink tap water.

The reason is not because of bacterial contaminants, but rather that it is desalinated seawater. While safe to drink, it would taste off to our palates as there is still some residual salt present. Local residents certainly drink it as they are used to the taste.
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Old 06-21-2019, 03:26 AM
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But as you say, that's for specific locations such as the Canary and Balearic Islands, where people need to look at photographs to see a river and water is desalinated; and, also as you mention, it actually meets drinking-water standards. France happens to have either inside it or on its borders several of the largest rivers in Europe.

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Old 06-21-2019, 03:29 AM
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Maybe his French teacher was from Corsica?
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Old 06-21-2019, 03:45 AM
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But as you say, that's for specific locations such as the Canary and Balearic Islands, where people need to look at photographs to see a river and water is desalinated; and, also as you mention, it actually meets drinking-water standards. France happens to have either inside it or on its borders several of the largest rivers in Europe.
Yeah, but you would NOT want to drink the Seine without some serious water treatment!

On the other hand, France does have modern water treatment, sanitation, and also some very nice springs that provide water as well.
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Old 06-21-2019, 03:50 AM
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Yeah, but you would NOT want to drink the Seine without some serious water treatment!
Yeah, but it's not going to taste salty and by the time it gets out of the tap it's already had that water treatment. The problem with desalinated tapwater is not that it's unhealthy, but that people are used to the taste of water from calcareous or clay areas.
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:09 AM
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I have drunk tap water all over France, and have lived to tell about it.
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:44 AM
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I've drunk water from the tap in Paris and Chamonix and also other places in the EU. Never a problem.
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Old 06-21-2019, 06:30 AM
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For example: Actual water quality report from SW Paris, updated monthly. Note the lack of detectable levels of harmful bacteria. So it's not exactly Russian roulette drinking it. I don't see that the corresponding New York report is published more than once per year, for comparison.
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Old 06-21-2019, 06:38 AM
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In other words, don't drink from a garden hose in France. But wouldn't that rule apply to Frenchpersons as well?
I'd imagine the vast majority of garden hoses draw their water from the domestic supply that goes to the taps anyway (but you never know what's been festering in the hose itself).
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Old 06-21-2019, 07:01 AM
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In restaurants in the Caribbean, it's pretty common for servers to bring your bottle of water to the table and carefully open the bottle so that you can hear the sound of the seal being broken, thus proving that they haven't simply refilled an empty bottle with tap water.
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Old 06-21-2019, 07:05 AM
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Every locale has unique microbiota. Your body is filled with whatever is in the area you live in. If you travel far from home, you are going to be exposed to different microbiota. This has nothing to do with whether it's France, so don't take your French teacher out of context.

Even if the water quality is excellent in France, and perfectly safe, it is not sterile. Some people will experience diarrhea or other GI symptoms as their digestive system makes the adjustment. This is very common and not a sign of a problem with the water supply. The same thing can happen to French travelers visiting Washington, D.C.

On my first trip to Egypt I was warned not to drink tap water. In a moment of dire thirst without access to bottled water, I did, and I had diarrhea for a week. The locals, of course, drink it every day with no problem. The water supply is safe, my body just freaked out when it encountered bacteria it had never met before.

Some countries have poor sanitation that can cause more serious illness in travelers or people with weakened immune systems, but France is not one of them.
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Old 06-21-2019, 07:12 AM
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At one time 'Perrier Water' was everywhere, even in the House of Commons. Then there was the scandale Perrier benzene which practically wiped them out. I believe that most of the bottled water in the H of C comes from Scotland these days.

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Old 06-21-2019, 07:23 AM
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After about eight years living in Paris (and drinking tap water mainly in coffee, tea and when cooking) I developed kidney stones, but that was probably more to do with diet than anything else.

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Old 06-21-2019, 07:39 AM
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We had really hard water in Alsace- the death of our electric kettle speedily occurred- but it tasted just fine and never made anyone ill.

On the other hand, the blue-green water at my University in the US....
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Old 06-21-2019, 09:30 AM
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But as you say, that's for specific locations such as the Canary and Balearic Islands, where people need to look at photographs to see a river and water is desalinated; and, also as you mention, it actually meets drinking-water standards. France happens to have either inside it or on its borders several of the largest rivers in Europe.
Never had problems in France, the tap water just tastes strange.

We were in Malta in April and the hotel said not to drink the tap water, and they provided bottled water. Probably got fed up with guests complaining about the water quality and/or traveler's diarrhea.
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Old 06-21-2019, 09:37 AM
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I imagine scaring foreigners into drinking wine and bottled water is great for the tourist trade.
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Old 06-21-2019, 09:54 AM
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One general difference between tap water in different countries might come from the amount of fluoride added to the water: http://https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wi...r_fluoridation The USA tend to add quite a lot, while European countries tend to use less fluoride.
That said, France is a country that has fluoridated tap water (but with lower concentration than the US, according to Wikipedia). So concerning this aspect, you might not expect any effect to an American visitor. It might be differerent for countries that have no fluoride in their drinking water (like e.g. Germany). If at all, these might be long term effects on e.g. tooth decay or similar.


In France, just be sure you don't drink "Eau de Javel" ("Water from the town of Javel") which is pottasium hypochloride, or bleach...

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Old 06-21-2019, 09:57 AM
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Not sure about France, and maybe Nava can confirm this, but at least in the Canary Islands we have been advised not to drink tap water.

The reason is not because of bacterial contaminants, but rather that it is desalinated seawater. While safe to drink, it would taste off to our palates as there is still some residual salt present. Local residents certainly drink it as they are used to the taste.
Are minerals added to the desalinated seawater, or is it basically just pure distilled water? Because I've heard that distilled water tastes sort of "flat", since we're used to water with minerals in it.
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Old 06-21-2019, 10:16 AM
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When we went to Turkey many years ago, we were staying in a small village on the coast. The water in the taps was (supposedly) bacterially safe, but was so full of minerals that it tasted absolutely foul; so bad that we couldn't even use it for cooking - in the shower, one kept one's mouth firmly closed.

Cooking water, we fetched from a public tap in another village about 5k away and drinking water was in bottles.
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Old 06-21-2019, 11:41 AM
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Well, that's why we mostly drink wine and beer. You know, to be safe.
At least that's what I keep telling my liver doctor. But I know better, I've seen what water does to perfectly good iron over time, I don't want that stuff anywhere near me !
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Old 06-21-2019, 04:54 PM
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Are minerals added to the desalinated seawater, or is it basically just pure distilled water? Because I've heard that distilled water tastes sort of "flat", since we're used to water with minerals in it.
On a small scale, people who come from towns where the water tastes only slightly mineral (Sydney.aus) sometimes find that water in my home town, which is basically rain water (Melbourne.aus) doesn't taste right. I mean, people actually buy mineral water, so some people obviously prefer those flavours in some situations. But in Melbourne nobody minds that our water has no flavour.
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:09 PM
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For example: Actual water quality report from SW Paris, updated monthly. Note the lack of detectable levels of harmful bacteria. So it's not exactly Russian roulette drinking it. I don't see that the corresponding New York report is published more than once per year, for comparison.
I don't know the subject well enough to understand that. Do those 'Microbiologiques' categories include Cryptosporidium and Giardia?
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:48 PM
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I don't know the subject well enough to understand that. Do those 'Microbiologiques' categories include Cryptosporidium and Giardia?
I only see bacteria in the linked report. Doesn't mean they are not testing for other organisms, but interesting that the results are not mentioned. The first link I posted merely says that tap water is the "most highly controlled alimentary product in France", must not contain disease-causing germs or bacteria [among other things], and that Paris water conforms to 56 parameters defined by the public health code, so it should be easy enough to find out exactly what those parameters are; a 2007 decree is mentioned...
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Old 06-21-2019, 06:21 PM
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Well, we once stayed at a dodgy vacation home in France, in a little village in the burgundy region. This was in the early days of the internet, when it was harder to tell if someone was selling you a bill of goods on a vacation rental website.

The "gite" was an ancient stone cottage, with lots of centipedes. Both my husband and I drank the water from the faucets there, and both of us came down with bad diarrhea and nausea. I got over it in a couple of days, but he was very sick for a week. We left the gite in a couple of days and went to a modern hotel in Paris, so we could have access to a doctor.

I think it was just a case of getting used to foreign bacteria, as CookingWithGas says. That and I think the plumbing in the little village might not have been as up to date as it could have been.
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Old 06-21-2019, 06:57 PM
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I've drunk loads of tap water and spring water in France and never had an issue. I don't assume they are lying when they report the city water has zero E. Coli and friends.

In the middle of nowhere in a decrepit cottage, who knows? Maybe they were illegally not up to code. Are such places generally safer in the US?

I did once get incredibly, dangerously ill from accidentally drinking untreated agricultural water in the Middle East (not in a city). Typhoid fever is not fun.
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Old 06-21-2019, 07:06 PM
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Back in the 40s and 50s, you were warned not drink the tap water in Europe. I think it wasn't nearly as well controlled as it is now. Your French teacher has absorbed this old meme.
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Old 06-21-2019, 07:17 PM
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My French teacher in high school told us that. But it is hard to believe.
How long ago was high school? Are they old enough to have maybe traveled there sometime in the decade or so after WWII? The French had a couple years in the 1940s where their infrastructure got the Sergeant Hulka treatment in the movie Stripes. ("Blown up, Sir!") There's a realistic chance that the rule of thumb they were stating was based on real water quality issues in chunks of the country during the post-war rebuilding.

Potentially your teacher was merely not up to date instead of wildly off base.
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Old 06-21-2019, 07:45 PM
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Old wifes tales. Or someone mixed France with Egypt. Or water with raw milk.

As for my experience, tap water in EU is in most cases good enough to drink if not specified otherwise. In my (EU) city specifically, they say, tap water can put any bottled water to shame. In fact, large brewery right by the historical center bottles water from its own well and sells it at a price of beer.

Tap water quality really depends on many, many things, like (primary) source: river, rain, well, sea ... then general pipe-works and distance from source to end user, tech used, purification methods (if needed) etc. That said, I can see some France sub region can have somewhat flowed water, but it can not be just generalized this way.

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Old 06-21-2019, 08:33 PM
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When I was a child (70s), I was under strict instructions from my parents not to drink the tap water when on holiday in France and Spain, for fear of stomach upsets.

Whether they were being over cautious at the time, I couldn't say (I also was banned from stroking any cats or dogs, for fear of contacting rabies), but the tap water throughout Europe is totally fine to drink. High standards, we can thank the EU for that.
I was given exactly the same advice (except in the 80s, not the 70s) - don't drink water from the tap and don't touch the dogs in case you get rabies. It was considered common sense at the time that if you are travelling on the continent, you should avoid the tap water; it may be fine for the locals but if you are not used to it you risk getting an upset tummy.
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Old 06-22-2019, 12:56 AM
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How long ago was high school? Are they old enough to have maybe traveled there sometime in the decade or so after WWII? The French had a couple years in the 1940s where their infrastructure got the Sergeant Hulka treatment in the movie Stripes. ("Blown up, Sir!") There's a realistic chance that the rule of thumb they were stating was based on real water quality issues in chunks of the country during the post-war rebuilding.

Potentially your teacher was merely not up to date instead of wildly off base.
I was in HS about 30 years ago. BTW, she brought it up as a reference to a word or phrase we had to learn. eau minerale(-sp?)--mineral water. When you go to France, order the mineral water, in other words.

As many have said, it might have been an outdated reference (frankly I don't even know if she had ever been to France). But as I said, this would have been the early 80's, FWIW.

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Old 06-22-2019, 03:04 AM
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I don't know the subject well enough to understand that. Do those 'Microbiologiques' categories include Cryptosporidium and Giardia?
Yes, but the testing protocol and report focus on those bugs which are known to be trouble more frequently. They also check for stuff such as algae, which also do not get reported routinely. Note that this is also common in other kinds of analytical reports: the immense majority of Certificates of Analysis sent by factories to their clients do not include half the parameters being measured on the product itself.
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Old 06-22-2019, 05:02 AM
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For example: Actual water quality report from SW Paris, updated monthly. Note the lack of detectable levels of harmful bacteria. So it's not exactly Russian roulette drinking it. I don't see that the corresponding New York report is published more than once per year, for comparison.
To add to that, New York tap water can be quite the Russian roulette:
https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/n...f-neglect.html

Or maybe pigeon roulette is the better term 🤔?
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Old 06-22-2019, 08:40 AM
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I have drunk tap water all over France, and have lived to tell about it.
Moi aussi.
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Old 06-22-2019, 10:29 AM
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I don't recall anyone getting sick* on my school trip to France, and we were certainly not told to drink only bottled water, nor were we doing so. That would have been over fifty 11 and 12 year olds, plus assorted teachers, in the early '90s, in a fairly rural area.


*Aside from some teachers- and the coach driver- getting hangovers.
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Old 06-23-2019, 01:47 AM
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Back in the 40s and 50s, you were warned not drink the tap water in Europe. I think it wasn't nearly as well controlled as it is now. Your French teacher has absorbed this old meme.
Certainly in the 90's tap water wasn't safe to drink in all of 'Europe'. I was warned off by the locals, but it was too late. I expect that is still the case in many places: I've been told that London some places have signs warning people not drink the tap water, not because the tap water is unsafe, but because the business can't guarantee that it meets EU standards for drinking water. I think that in some places tap water still not the same as drinking water, and in some of those places, it will make you sick.

Paris is parhaps the worlds biggest tourist city. I thik the tap water is mostly safe to drink there. or else lots of Americans would still be getting sick. I haven't heard that is the case.

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Old 06-23-2019, 02:50 AM
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Here in Krakow, and I think throughout all of Poland, even the poorest, most frugal elderly locals buy bottled water, a holdover from Communist days, when the tap water was in fact, not fit for drinking.

It helps that bottled water is incredibly, unbelievably cheap here (starting at something like 15 cents per 2 liter bottle, when you buy 6 at once, and that is for a popular, "upscale" brand) and so it is something that will not break the bank of even those on an extremely limited budget.

On the other hand, I virtually never buy bottled water, and think Krakow tap water is excellent, and I drink many glasses each & every single day, and have never tasted "off" flavors or had any kinds of stomach issues.

Europe is too large to make any sweeping generalizations about. For example, Austrian (Vienna) & German (Munich, Dresden, Berlin, etc.) tap water tastes wonderful to me, even though I don't think most locals drink it, but even I won't drink tap water in cities in Italy, Portugal, Spain or Greece, but for all I know, in smaller towns or rural areas, it is just fine.
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Old 06-23-2019, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Royal Nonesutch View Post
Here in Krakow, and I think throughout all of Poland, even the poorest, most frugal elderly locals buy bottled water, a holdover from Communist days, when the tap water was in fact, not fit for drinking.



It helps that bottled water is incredibly, unbelievably cheap here (starting at something like 15 cents per 2 liter bottle, when you buy 6 at once, and that is for a popular, "upscale" brand) and so it is something that will not break the bank of even those on an extremely limited budget.



On the other hand, I virtually never buy bottled water, and think Krakow tap water is excellent, and I drink many glasses each & every single day, and have never tasted "off" flavors or had any kinds of stomach issues.



Europe is too large to make any sweeping generalizations about. For example, Austrian (Vienna) & German (Munich, Dresden, Berlin, etc.) tap water tastes wonderful to me, even though I don't think most locals drink it, but even I won't drink tap water in cities in Italy, Portugal, Spain or Greece, but for all I know, in smaller towns or rural areas, it is just fine.


The EU on the other hand is a great place to make sweeping generalizations about.

Your chances of a tap anywhere in the EU not clearly marked “not for drinking” with unsafe water approach zero.

Whatever people claim; the EU really rocks for regulating and funding stuff like that.
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Old 06-23-2019, 03:21 PM
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Bottled water


By the way, a lot of bottled water is not distilled water or anything like that. It comes from springs or underground sources just like a lot of tap water. For example, one would have to be pretty thoroughly stupid to buy bottled water in Evian, though you could go to the public fountain and fill up a few jugs if you prefer it in a container.

In other words, what comes in a bottle isn't necessarily more pure than what comes out of the tap, especially when both of them are subject to the same rigorous controls.
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