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Drinking Water

gagseymt

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
April 2016
When going on holidays to Spain we have always been told to be weary of the drinking water. I must say that I have not seen or read about the condition of the drinking water. Have pilgrims had any issues, would it be good practice to bring purifying tablets? Do you drink small amounts until your system gets used to it? Any advice please.
 
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wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2012
Some people have no problems with drinking water from fountains, others have, the safest thing to do is buy bottled water which is very cheap in Spain.
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
I drank water from fonts and taps provided it was not labeled as non potable in 2010 on the CF, and again this year on the CI. I don't think you need to treat water yourself, nor do I think you need to buy bottled water, but that is your choice.
 
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Texasguy

And so...we keep on walking ..
Year of past OR future Camino
French Dec in 2013
Por 03- 2015
Ingles 11- 2015
French 12- 2016
Invierno Nov 2018
Kumano 2017
i have never had an issue in the Frances and or the Zportuguese, however, I had friends (4), in different places on the Camino that have gotten some kind of ameba. Once they got to the States they spent a couple of days in the hospital.
Just be careful.

Buen Camino,

Texas guy
 

MichaelSG

Retired member
Year of past OR future Camino
Not enough
I never had a problem in Spain and I only drank water from the taps or fountains for 6 weeks. In Portugal for 5 weeks, we avoided most of the municipal fountains but never needed bottled water. We never had an issue and never added to the billions of tons of plastic trash.
 

waveprof

Enthusiast
Year of past OR future Camino
May-June 2013, Camino Frances
Some of the fountains looked pretty sketchy, but in general the water supply is very good in Spain. We've drunk it for years when in Spain (not on Camino) and had no problems. That said, on Camino we mostly drank from water bottles because a lot of the fountains looked stagnant
 
W

whariwharangi

Guest
When going on holidays to Spain we have always been told to be weary of the drinking water. I must say that I have not seen or read about the condition of the drinking water. Have pilgrims had any issues, would it be good practice to bring purifying tablets? Do you drink small amounts until your system gets used to it? Any advice please.

We get the same advice about travel to Mexico. Its done to promote bars and the consumption of alcohol and has no basis in fact.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2012
Hi @gagseymt , I deduce from other posts that you are from the UK and probably the North West. So, you probably avoid drinking local tap-water because of the high nitrate levels from agricultural run-off, particularly into Ennerdale; high levels of Cryptosporidium in Thirlmere and the long term pollution following the fire at Windscale in 1957 and the series of radiation leaks since. The sewage related phosphate contamination is probably less of a concern unless you swim, sail or fish in any of the lakes but it does increase production costs for United Utilities. though they still charge a hell of a lot less per litre than Lakeland Spring or Willow Water.

No intention to rough you up ;) but I wanted to illustrate that one man's water is another man's water. Too much (different) food, far too much cheap booze and poor personal hygiene created the great British myth of the '60's that French / Spanish / Foreign water wasn't safe to drink. Add in marketing campaigns from the water bottlers and we all end up buying water at a 1000% premium.

You are more likely to become unwell through dehydration on the Camino than from drinking from public water sources. And if you do elect to buy bottled water please dispose of the empty bottle in one of the frequently available recycling points.

Buen, hydrated, camino
 
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Jan_89

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés: July/August 2014

Camino Francés: May/June 2017
I walked Camino Frances and no problem, just in Galicia - sometimes it was hard to find drinking water along road..
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
Have walked two summertime Camino Frances and in the process drank literally gallons/liters of water from the fountains along the Way, as well as tap water from albergues, bars, cafes and hotels. Never had any problems at all. No need for water purification devices or pills.
Not a big fan of the bottled water thing. Adds to the zillions of discarded plastic bottles already out there, and a lot of times the plastic in those bottles contain toxins which you consume.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Generally, water along the Camino Frances is safe to consume. However, and especially during the hot and dry summer months, local wells are stressed. Many of the wells that supply agricultural water as well as the trail-side fountains, especially in heavily agricultural areas, were not drilled very deep. Over the years many wells have become contaminated with various fertilizers and other compounds sprayed on the crops and fields.

Some fountains have "not potable" signs. On others you take your chances. As a general rule though, people are not dropping like flies.

However, on the stretch of Meseta from Carrion de los Condes to about Sahagun there have been reported GI illnesses, presumably from drinking from the old fountains that abound along the Camino. So, pilgrims are advised to depart Carrion de los Condes with enough bottled water to make it the next 30 - 40 Km to Sahagun as there are few places with known safe water all year long.

In May 2014, I departed Carrion with 5.5 liters of water. By the time I reached a friend's home in Moratinos 31 Km and over 7 hours later, I was down to half a liter. But, I had been sharing my water with other pilgrims who needed it along the way.

As a general statement, if the water comes from the tap in an albergue, hostal, hotel or cafe/restaurant, it can be presumed to be safe. I am leary of "out in the open" or ancient fountains if I do not know the water source. Many of these free-flowing fountains appear to be springs that run just below fields with grazing farm animals. How do you take your "cowpie?"

Everyone has a tolerance level for naturally occurring spring water. If you are not prone to GI illness or do not have an impaired immune system, I would say go for it. However, if you are like me and either get "jelly belly" easily, or have any medical condition where you must be more careful regarding water sources, DO buy bottled water. It is cheap and readily available. On the other hand, I also carry a generous supply of an antidiarrheal medication, just in case.

PLEASE SAVE THE EMPTY PLASTIC BOTTLES FOR REUSE, OR RECYCLE THEM APPROPRIATELY. Please, do not litter along the Camino.

I hope this helps.
 

JohnMcM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Some, and with luck, some more.
Hi @gagseymt , I deduce from other posts that you are from the UK and probably the North West. So, you probably avoid drinking local tap-water because of the high nitrate levels from agricultural run-off, particularly into Ennerdale; high levels of Cryptosporidium in Thirlmere and the long term pollution following the fire at Windscale in 1957 and the series of radiation leaks since. The sewage related phosphate contamination is probably less of a concern unless you swim, sail or fish in any of the lakes but it does increase production costs for United Utilities. though they still charge a hell of a lot less per litre than Lakeland Spring or Willow Water.

No intention to rough you up ;) but I wanted to illustrate that one man's water is another man's water. Too much (different) food, far too much cheap booze and poor personal hygiene created the great British myth of the '60's that French / Spanish / Foreign water wasn't safe to drink. Add in marketing campaigns from the water bottlers and we all end up buying water at a 1000% premium.

You are more likely to become unwell through dehydration on the Camino than from drinking from public water sources. And if you do elect to buy bottled water please dispose of the empty bottle in one of the frequently available recycling points.

Buen, hydrated, camino

Does this explain why I glow in the dark after walking in the Lake District?:rolleyes::p:confused:
 
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Rebekah Scott

Camino Busybody
Year of past OR future Camino
Many, various, and continuing.
I have lived between Carrion and Sahagun for nine years, and far as I know I have not been ill from water-borne critters in all that time. The business about "bad water on the Meseta" is pure romantic moonshine, IMHO. Pilgrims get gastro problems because they are living in close quarters with other pilgrims who have germs. It sounds a lot more dramatic, saying the water is bad. But if that was true, everyone around here would be sick!
(If you have a bad stomach, try some of the local moonshine. It will kill anything!)
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
When going on holidays to Spain we have always been told to be weary of the drinking water. I must say that I have not seen or read about the condition of the drinking water. Have pilgrims had any issues, would it be good practice to bring purifying tablets? Do you drink small amounts until your system gets used to it? Any advice please.
Oh, my, please don't "purify" water. Tap water in most spanish cities (in most european cities that is!) is drinkable. Not only that - it's "live" water, whereas the water from "water-machines" (don't know how those are called...) is "dead", being stored for days, weeks or even months.
For example: one of the biggest cities in EU with good water is Munich. The only good deed Adolf did - water pipe-line from the Alps! If you taste clorine in it that means it's already purified. If you don't like the taste of it, just put magnesium or..... tablet in it.

Ultreia!
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
The whole bit about locals being more tolerant of any bacteria in the local water source is a myth. I lived and worked in Afghanistan for five years. The only water we consumed was bottled water, and water in our camps from wells, but had been treated. We never consumed local water. It was not potable. The local Afghans we worked with consumed a lot of bottled water when in our camps. We brought up to them our belief that they were able to drink their local water and not get sick. They quickly told us that they get sick all the time from their local water, as do their children especially.
You don't develop any real tolerance to drinking bacteria filled water. They just dealt with it. Getting sick was just part of life. I guess that's why they would have so many children in their family units.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
The whole bit about locals being more tolerant of any bacteria in the local water source is a myth. I lived and worked in Afghanistan for five years. The only water we consumed was bottled water, and water in our camps from wells, but had been treated. We never consumed local water. It was not potable. The local Afghans we worked with consumed a lot of bottled water when in our camps. We brought up to them our belief that they were able to drink their local water and not get sick. They quickly told us that they get sick all the time from their local water, as do their children especially.
You don't develop any real tolerance to drinking bacteria filled water. They just dealt with it. Getting sick was just part of life. I guess that's why they would have so many children in their family units.
Afghanistan vs. Spain.................................
???
 
M

Mark Lee

Guest
Afghanistan vs. Spain.................................
???
Certainly Spain is much more modern, progressive and overall safer that Afghanistan, but non-potable water filled with bacteria is non-potable water filled with bacteria no matter where you are. I was addressing any belief that locals would not get sick off of contaminated water. That they can drink from the fountains (or other local water sources), but foreign peregrinos can't.
In other words the local water in Spain is safe.
 
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KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Certainly Spain is much more modern, progressive and overall safer that Afghanistan, but non-potable water filled with bacteria is non-potable water filled with bacteria no matter where you are. I was addressing any belief that locals would not get sick off of contaminated water. That they can drink from the fountains (or other local water sources), but foreign peregrinos can't.
In other words the local water in Spain is safe.
Well, I guess it's not about the locals rather pilgs from other countries (overseas also or especially), which might not "liked" it. I haven't heard any complaints from pigrims drinking "aqua potable" so far. And I always drink a tap water through out EU (even if it tastes awful, which sometimes does, - remember: magnesium tablets etc.), same in Spain. Although I'm kind of spoiled with water coming from the Alpine creeks and so, I cherish live water over dead one. Enjoy, whatever you choose ;)
 

marbuck

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Condom to Pamplona April 2016.
Le Puy to Condom France - April-May 2015.
Roncesvalles to Santiago April - May 2014
Finisterre to Muxia May 2014
We drank water from drink fountains, bars and accommodation, we never bought a bottle of water and we were not sick for any of our 42 days of walking.

Just do your maths. If 200,000 pilgrims a year bought at least two bottles of water a day for the full 34 days, that would adds up to 13,6000,000 plastic bottles that would be discarded each year on the Camino. It's enough to stop you ever buying bottled of water again.
 

Patch

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
St Jean to Santiago and Porto to Santiago
Hi, water out of a tap is perfectly OK in any western European country. But I would suggest you take few water purification tablets in your first aid kit just in case all you have is stream or other suspect source as they weigh nothing.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
I had no problems with the drinking water on the CF. I would try to remember to fill my water bottles before I left the albergue and usually had enough water to last through the day. I bought bottled water occasionally and refilled/reused the plastic bottles for several weeks.
If I needed a refill during the day, I would not use fountains that were labeled non-potable, of course. The bars along the way were willing to let me refill with their tap water.
There was that one bar, however, which would only sell me a 2-liter bottle of water. Way too big to carry but it was very hot and it was the only game in town. I was stuck! Oh, well, I told myself I helped the local economy.
 
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tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
When going on holidays to Spain we have always been told to be weary of the drinking water. I must say that I have not seen or read about the condition of the drinking water. Have pilgrims had any issues, would it be good practice to bring purifying tablets? Do you drink small amounts until your system gets used to it? Any advice please.
The only thing I can say about the water is to repeat what a hospitalero told me in Vianna. Fill up from a fountain and not from a tap. The water is perfectly safe but in some cities it tastes awful due to heavier than normal chlorination. Some places in Spain go a wee bit overboard with water safety. In the few places where the water is not safe to drink it is marked as non potable.
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
When going on holidays to Spain we have always been told to be weary of the drinking water. I must say that I have not seen or read about the condition of the drinking water. Have pilgrims had any issues, would it be good practice to bring purifying tablets? Do you drink small amounts until your system gets used to it? Any advice please.
definitely not. i would carry my own water and refill at my hostel/hotel/albergue tap where the water is tasty, treated and quality; or buy fresh at any of the dozens of supermarkets. i would avoid public drinking fountains no matter what they say, it's just not worth the gamble and after several years of austerity measures across spain...
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
When going on holidays to Spain we have always been told to be weary of the drinking water. I must say that I have not seen or read about the condition of the drinking water. Have pilgrims had any issues, would it be good practice to bring purifying tablets? Do you drink small amounts until your system gets used to it? Any advice please.
just wondering... and i do not want to start a spanish drinking water debate, wherever in spain were you on vacation that you would have to be cautious of the drinking water??? and who would recommend that?
 

dougfitz

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
The only thing I can say about the water is to repeat what a hospitalero told me in Vianna. Fill up from a fountain and not from a tap. The water is perfectly safe but in some cities it tastes awful due to heavier than normal chlorination. Some places in Spain go a wee bit overboard with water safety. In the few places where the water is not safe to drink it is marked as non potable.
As an aesthetic issue, water taste is less important to me than other water quality issues. If there is a choice, treated tap water would be preferable to me to using a font of unknown provenance.

If taste issues really make water unpalatable, an old technique is to add a squeeze of lemon juice or flavour the water with a cordial powder or rehydration salts.
 
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KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
... or buy fresh at any of the dozens of supermarkets. i would avoid public drinking fountains no matter what they say, it's just not worth the gamble and after several years of austerity measures across spain...

Oh, come on... I'm from the country that has very good tap water (from the Alps) and I've found Spanish tap & fuente water quite good. Maybe there was a little bit overdose of chlorine sometimes in tap water, but you can just put a magnesium tablet (very good for prevention of cramps) or similar in it and there you have it. Whereas bottled water is actually "dead water", being bottled for god knows how long, in what place (darkened???), transported over and over again. Well, for me bottled water isn't really water, it's just a liquid.

And do remember that Spain, even most rural parts of it, is "modern" country if that means "agua potable". They have very good drinkable water indeed!

One more on behalf of bottled water... We have made (national broadcaster that is) research containing 7 most popular bottled waters and 7 examples of tap water from different cities. The best bottled water was worse on all criteria than the "worst" tap water... Don't know for your part of the world, but I think you can't judge the rest by your standards always.

Ultreia!
 

jefferyonthecamino

http://www.barrerabooks.com/ - Guidebooks
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Oh, come on... I'm from the country that has very good tap water (from the Alps) and I've found Spanish tap & fuente water quite good. Maybe there was a little bit overdose of chlorine sometimes in tap water, but you can just put a magnesium tablet (very good for prevention of cramps) or similar in it and there you have it. Whereas bottled water is actually "dead water", being bottled for god knows how long, in what place (darkened???), transported over and over again. Well, for me bottled water isn't really water, it's just a liquid.

And do remember that Spain, even most rural parts of it, is "modern" country if that means "agua potable". They have very good drinkable water indeed!

One more on behalf of bottled water... We have made (national broadcaster that is) research containing 7 most popular bottled waters and 7 examples of tap water from different cities. The best bottled water was worse on all criteria than the "worst" tap water... Don't know for your part of the world, but I think you can't judge the rest by your standards always.

Ultreia!
i can't agree more with all of the above. and for the record, i am from spain and a spaniard.

that said, tap water anywhere in spain is quality (although not so nice on the coasts) and does not require any sort of additional treatment. as for public outdoor fountains etc., i just do not trust the local authorities right now for testing and quality control, cutbacks and austerity measures take their toll on most public services and public fountains are hardly a priority.

as for bottled water, once again i cannot agree more. however, god bless the stuff when you are travelling in other countries that cannot/do not provide safe tap water.
 

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