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Why don't Poles drink tap water?

Why don't Poles drink tap water?

Image source: © canva
Marta Grzeszczuk,
28.02.2024 13:00

We spend almost PLN 7 billion annually on bottled water. Is that reasonable? And what facts do Poles miss about tap water?

A report published by NielsenIQ on Poles' purchasing habits in 2023 has been widely commented on due to the dominance of alcohol over other food products. Unfortunately, this is not the only concerning statistic in the document.

Poles spend seven bn a year on water in plastic bottles

Recently, Janusz Piechocinski, a leading provider of statistics on X, shared data from a NilsenIQ report that presented our country's total expenditure on food products, excluding alcohol. According to the report, mineral water secured the third spot with PLN 6.9 billion. However, it's essential to note that the report's description of mineral water as a food product is not entirely accurate. It would be more appropriate to describe it simply as bottled water.

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What do we pay for when we buy "mineral water"?

According to the website hurtidetal.pl, the Żywiec Zdrój brand, owned by the French company Danone, holds the largest share of the Polish market in 2021. The standard still water of this brand is spring water, which means it is sourced from deep-water sources but has a low mineral content. The manufacturer claims a litre of Żywiec Zdrój water contains 54 mg of calcium and less than 9 mg of magnesium.

As reported by tvn24.pl, tap water in the Tricity (the cities of Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia) contains nearly 100 mg of calcium and 10 mg of magnesium per litre, while "krakowianka," the tap water in Krakow, contains 88 mg of magnesium and 10 mg of calcium per litre. Warsaw's tap water has 66 mg of calcium and 10 mg of magnesium per litre.

Cisowianka, produced by Nałęczów Zdrój Sp. z o.o. is medium mineralised water and is the second most popular one. Each litre of Cisowianka contains 130 mg of calcium and almost 22 mg of magnesium. However, is it worth paying 200 times more for Cisowianka than tap water? Especially when grocery expenses are consuming an increasing proportion of our household budgets?

According to the Food and Nutrition Institute guidelines, an adult requires 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and a daily magnesium intake of 350 mg is recommended for men and 265 mg for women. Drinking slightly more mineralised water than tap water is not essential to ensure you get enough minerals.

Why don't Poles drink tap water?

Poles' aversion to tap water may be because, in the past, chlorinated tap water most simply tasted and smelled terrible. Thirty years ago, it was recommended to boil it for drinking. The appearance of bottled water in shops in the 1990s sparked an enthusiasm that has not subsided to this day. As oees.pl wrote: "Since then, both the technology used by water supply companies and pipelines have changed. This qualitative leap can be seen precisely in Poland, where the infrastructure gap separating the country from other countries of the old European Union has been bridged within a decade. Most municipalities, using EU support, have taken care to modernise their water treatment plants and water supply networks during this time."

According to oees.pl, many Poles have a dislike for tap water, which may be due to its taste and smell in the past when it was commonly chlorinated. As a result, 30 years ago, it was recommended to boil it before drinking. Therefore, the introduction of bottled water in the 1990s caused a significant change, with people turning to buying it instantly. The popularity of bottled water has not subsided to this day.

Since then, water treatment technology and pipelines have improved significantly. In Poland, the gap in infrastructure between the country and other old European Union member states has been bridged within a decade. With the help of EU funding, most municipalities have modernised their water treatment plants and water supply networks, resulting in a significant qualitative leap in the country's water supply.

The quality of tap water has improved significantly. However, the sales of bottled water do not reflect this. Despite public campaigns in many cities encouraging people to switch to tap water, Polish men and women continue to purchase bottled water passionately. 1.5-litre bottles account for 65% of water sold in shops, and 98% of water in Poland is sold in plastic, generating 110,000 tonnes of waste annually. Most of the information on plastic, including its recycled origin or whether it is harmful to the environment, is mostly just greenwashing.

Due to the rising cost of food products, many people are opting for cheaper brands, even when it comes to bottled water. It is worth checking the labels of these brands to ensure that we are not overpaying for water of inferior quality in plastic bottles when we can simply pour high-quality water from the tap.

Source: hurtidetal.pl, oees.pl, tvn24.pl

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