Visiting Berlin you might wonder, if Berlin water is actually safe to drink – if you can drink the water straight from the tap? Long story short: Yes, Berlin water is basically safe to drink. Or at least in most cases it most likely is. In most restaurants, apartments, hotels and hostels you can basically drink the water more or less straight from the tab.
Drinking Water from Berlin Underground
Technically Berlin tap water is taken from the ground – not directly from the river Spree or from any of the many lakes. However indirectly the water does come from the river Spree or from any of the many lakes since Berlin’s ground water is of course fed by those waters. But by seeping into the ground the water is already filtered by the different layers of sand and soil.
Ground water is then pumped up by the local water supplier and then cleaned and processed at the local water supply works. On this process the water quality is checked again and again before it’s then pumped through the pipes. On the website of the Berlin water supplier you can check the local testing results by postal code: Test-Tool – Analysedaten nach PLZ (the page and the test-tool are currently available in German only).
leaded water – water pipes made of lead
Basically the only real problem that may arise is, that the water pipes that are actually located inside the house you’re living in could be made of lead (plumbum). This could lead to a certain lead concentration – which can have negative effects on people’s health. But it is actually not very likely that this is the case. Only houses built before 1973 that were not renovated in the past 10 – 20 years may or may not have water pipes made of lead.
If you still have your doubts you can ‘investigate’ yourself, if the pipes are made of lead: check the actual pipes in the basement, if you happen to have access. Or take a bottle of tapped water for an official test at Berlin’s water supplier Berliner Wasserbetriebe. The test will cost you around 20 Euros – further information in English can be found on the lead-related page of the Website of Berliner Wasserbetriebe: “Lead-Free? Lead Testing Provides Clarity.”
lime concentration of Berlin water
There is no doubt: Berlin water contains a high quantity of lime. This basically does not have any negative effect on the actual quality of the water. But why is there so much lime in the water anyways? Rumors are, that the lime is a leftover of the Second World War. Berlin was bombed to the grounds and the rain washed the lime from the brick hills that were ‘everywhere’.
That is of course not the full truth. While it may or may not be technically possible, the amount of lime in Berlin water is much higher, than any pile of bricks could ever contain. Instead it is very likely that the lime concentration in Berlin water comes from the ice age – layers of lime underneith the city. But I’m also not sure about this theory.
If you want to remove lime from pots, kettles, kitchen sink and bath tub you can use vinegar. It doesn’t have to be the fancy vinegar you would use for preparing salads though. Since the lime problem is a common problem, Berlins supermarkets provide a variety of vinegar products that are meant to be used for cleaning – and for removing lime from all kinds of surfaces.
Bottled Water vs. Tap Water
Bottled water is however very popular. Be it because of the taste, the bubbles or the health myth – or because it is supposed to be more fancy, than tap water: Germans drink water from bottles like never before. In restaurants it used to be almost impossible to get tap water – most probably because restaurateurs would of course prefer to sell a bottle of water or any other drink instead of giving a glass of tap water away for free. This has changed in recent years – and even in bars you may now ask for a glass of tap water without being stared at.
- “Why do the baffling Germans bottle out of drinking tap water?”
by Brian Melican, 2014 (telegraph.co.uk)
- “Berlin’s tap water: How paranoid should you be?”
by Nele Obermueller, 2013 (exberliner.com)