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01-12-2021 | Frank Jansen

Can you fill your water bottles across the border?

A question in our mailbox: "I often ride in the border area and I've noticed that some cycling buddies no longer want to fill their water bottles with tap water as soon as we've crossed the Belgian or German border even 1 meter. Is that justified?"

Of course, that's not a stupid question at all, because even in Europe, the quality of tap water is not always great. Not to mention the taste. However, the cyclist's companions are worried about nothing: the tap water from both Germany and Belgium is perfectly drinkable.

The "Verbraucherzentrale" in Germany leaves no room for misunderstanding:

"Tap water is the ideal thirst quencher. It is of very good quality everywhere in Germany. Provided there are no lead pipes in the house, you can drink it without any problems."

The Belgian water company Aquaflanders also publishes plain language on its website:

"Tap water is very strongly controlled, not only by the water companies themselves but also by independent laboratories. Did you know that tap water has to meet 67 quality standards? So drink it without worry."

Chlorine

Tap water, especially in Belgium, can have a chlorine taste. This is true in many European countries; chlorine is added to purify the water. In the Netherlands we use other methods to purify water, such as pumping the water through dunes. That chlorine is not very harmful, according to Aquaflanders.

"Chlorine is used to kill any bacteria in drinking water. (..) Although alternative disinfection methods are sometimes used, adding a little chlorine to the drinking water is often unavoidable. Chlorine has a long-lasting effect. This means that the water remains bacteria-free even during transport from the drinking water reservoir to your tap. However, chlorine can react with other substances and therefore become harmful. The chlorine compounds formed are therefore strictly regulated in the drinking water standards and are safe limits. The concentration of chlorine in drinking water, expressed as Cl2, therefore remains well below the maximum standard of 0.25 mg/l. However, chlorine is already smelled in very low concentrations and this sometimes causes - unjustified - concern. Just enough chlorine is added to keep the water germ-free. This means that we always remain well below the maximum permitted standard of 0.25 mg/l. There is therefore no health risk whatsoever."

And the fountain in France?

If you ride a lot in France, you know it: the village fountain. Almost every village has one. There's even a site that lets you locate the nearest one. What about safety of that drinking water? This water often comes directly from the mountain and is simply drinkable. Because the water flows continuously, there is hardly any contamination. If there is a "non-potable" sign, it means that the quality is not measured. In most cases you can just drink it, although you run a slightly greater risk than when there is no sign.

Cyclists, food and water

Cyclists are sometimes overly cautious about what they eat. We practise a tough sport where there is a considerable strain on the body. Nausea can also be caused by great efforts. Or because you slept badly in the days before. Or because you had a bad breakfast. There are plenty of reasons, but many cyclists tend to attribute it to the water from the fountain or that one candy bar from the provisioning. Consequence is often years of stress to stay in control. But remember, we are healthy, trained athletes who can take a beating. Our bodies don't get upset at the first sign of a bacterium.

Conclusion

In most European countries the quality of our drinking water is exceptionally high. Finally, a tip for those looking for water: cemeteries often have a water tap.

Do you have a question? Mail it to info@cycloworld.cc and we'll investigate.

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