Have you just arrived in Istanbul? Are you curious about the safety of Istanbul’s tap water? Well, in most cases, you can indeed consider it safe to drink.
is tap water safe to drink in Istanbul? Although Istanbul’s tap water is typically safe for consumption, you’ll quickly notice that locals often avoid drinking it. If you happen to inquire about it, you might even hear from a resident that the tap water in Istanbul is not potable.
So, what’s the reason behind this discrepancy? To put it simply, the water quality within the municipal system is generally good, but occasionally, it can become contaminated as it passes through individual pipes or water storage tanks in buildings.
In our guide, we will provide you with comprehensive information about Istanbul’s tap water and offer tips on how to ensure it’s suitable for drinking!
How safe is the tap water in Istanbul?
According to ISKI, the Istanbul Water and Sewage Administration, the tap water in Istanbul consistently meets and even exceeds the standards set by various international organizations such as the European Community (EC), World Health Organization (WHO), USA Environment Protection Agency (EPA), and Turkish Standards Institute (TSE) in terms of quality, taste, and safety for human consumption.
Before it reaches your tap, Istanbul’s tap water undergoes pretreatment to ensure its safety for drinking. While the source water is initially fresh, the age of the pipes in many buildings and the presence of rusty water tanks can sometimes lead to contamination of the otherwise potable water. Istanbul’s rich history, spanning over a thousand years, means that a significant portion of its plumbing and piping systems are quite old.
In the end, the safety and quality of tap water in Istanbul can vary depending on the specific building you are staying in. For instance, if you are in Sultanahmet, a historic area in Istanbul, the tap water quality may not be as high as in more modern neighborhoods.
During our visit to Istanbul, we stayed in Sultanahmet, and our host recommended drinking only from their filtered water tap. Without the added filtration system, they personally wouldn’t consume the tap water. This caution is particularly relevant for travelers who may not be accustomed to the local tap water quality. Drinking tap water immediately upon arrival could potentially lead to stomach upset.
However, in general, with decent internal plumbing (which is the case in most places in Istanbul), the tap water is safe for drinking. Many households and buildings are equipped with water filtration systems, with reverse osmosis filters being one of the most common types.
History of Istanbul’s tap water
The perception that Istanbul’s tap water is undrinkable can also be attributed to its troubled history. Just a decade ago, Istanbul’s tap water was considered one of the worst in the world. It had a distinct sulfur odor, a cloudy appearance, and an unpleasant taste. Consuming this water without boiling it first could lead to serious gastrointestinal problems and diarrhea.
However, in the past 20 years, Turkey has invested significant resources in establishing a safe and potable tap water system for its residents. Today, the quality of Istanbul’s tap water can rival that of other European countries.
The Turkish government has also made substantial efforts to promote the excellent quality of its tap water. Despite these improvements, there are still many locals who are accustomed to the old habits or have been traumatized by the previous terrible tap water quality. This is why a majority of locals may not recommend drinking tap water, as their perceptions and memories of poor water quality from the past continue to influence their attitudes toward it.
Taste of tap water in Istanbul
The taste of tap water in Istanbul is indeed a significant factor that discourages many people from drinking it. Since a substantial portion of Istanbul’s water supply comes from dams, chlorine is often used in the water treatment process, which can impart a chemical taste to the water. Additionally, due to potential long retention times in pipes and old storage tanks, Istanbul’s tap water can accumulate minerals that give it a hard or unpleasant taste.
Your personal experience with the strong chemical taste of Istanbul’s tap water is a common one. It’s not uncommon for visitors to mistake this taste for non-potability until they are informed otherwise by locals.
Moreover, you mentioned feeling consistently dehydrated despite drinking tap water in Istanbul, even in hot weather. This sensation might be related to the high mineral content in the tap water. Some individuals find that water with a high mineral concentration can have a less hydrating effect than water with fewer minerals. This could explain why you felt more immediately hydrated when drinking bottled water.
It’s interesting to note that even for making one of their beloved beverages, Turkish tea (çay), locals often prefer to use bottled water. This preference arises from the belief that tap water does not produce the desired taste for a perfect cup of tea. Tea is indeed a significant part of Turkish culture, and the choice of water for brewing it reflects the importance placed on taste and quality in tea preparation.
How is the bottled water in Istanbul?
For those who have concerns about the safety or taste of tap water in Istanbul, opting for bottled water is a reliable alternative. Istanbul offers a variety of high-quality bottled water brands, including still and sparkling options.
A study conducted by the Turkish government in 2018 assessed the quality of bottled water throughout Turkey and identified Buzdağı as having the best bottled water quality in the country. This particular brand was noted for its excellent pH balance, a perfect mineral composition, and minimal to no pollutants.
However, it’s worth mentioning that while Buzdağı is recognized for its quality, Erikli is the brand that enjoys the greatest popularity among Istanbul’s locals. Both of these bottled water brands, along with many others available, are excellent choices for those who prefer to avoid tap water.
In your own experience, you found that various brands of bottled water in Istanbul were of high quality, further affirming the availability of safe and satisfying alternatives to tap water for residents and visitors alike.
Filtered water in Istanbul
Using a water filter is a common method for locals in Istanbul to ensure the safety and quality of tap water. In luxury hotels, it’s likely that all taps have built-in water filtration systems. However, in more budget-friendly accommodations, you might find that only specific taps are equipped with filtration systems. It’s crucial to ask your host or accommodation provider about the availability of filtered tap water before consuming it.
The typical filtration systems used for tap water in Istanbul include reverse osmosis and activated carbon filters. These systems effectively remove odor, chemicals, contaminants, bacteria, and minerals from the water, resulting in high-quality, purified water. However, it’s important to note that this process can also eliminate beneficial minerals from the water, which may have potential long-term health implications.
For extended stays in Istanbul or if you plan to travel to areas where tap water quality is uncertain, purchasing bottled water is a recommended option. This ensures that you consistently have access to safe and reliable drinking water.
Another useful item to consider is a portable water filter bottle, such as the Grayl Geopress water filter bottle. These bottles provide a convenient and portable way to filter tap water and make it safe for drinking. This can be especially valuable if you’re traveling throughout Turkey for an extended period, as water quality may vary from place to place.
In summary, while tap water in Istanbul is generally safe, using water filters or opting for bottled water can offer added peace of mind and convenience, especially for travelers concerned about water quality or those planning longer stays.
Tap water in Istanbul FAQS
You can obtain information about drinking tap water in Istanbul and answers to commonly asked questions on the topic. Is it safe to drink tap water in Istanbul? Can it be used for cooking? Does tap water have certification? Is it of the same quality as European standards? Here are the answers.
Can you brush your teeth with tap water in Istanbul?
While many locals in Istanbul choose not to drink tap water, it is safe to use tap water for brushing your teeth. When brushing your teeth with tap water, you are only ingesting a small amount of water, which is not sufficient to cause any harm to your body.
Can you cook with tap water in Istanbul?
Yes, it is safe to cook with tap water. The tap water in Istanbul is generally very clean, even good enough to drink straight from the tap. When you cook with tap water, you are only ingesting a tiny amount of tap water into your body in the worst-case scenario. Turkish people use tap water for cooking, and the process of boiling the water while cooking is believed to eliminate any potential microbes. Therefore, tap water is commonly used for cooking and for making tea or coffee.
Can you have ice in your drinks in Istanbul?
Absolutely, it’s safe to have ice in your drinks! In Istanbul, ice cubes are typically made using mineral water, so there’s minimal risk of getting sick from using ice in your beverages.
Is it safe to drink water from the fountains on the streets of Istanbul?
You may come across fountains in the streets of Istanbul. There’s no problem with drinking water from these fountains; the water is clean. You can drink from them unless you see a warning to the contrary.
Can you drink tap water in istanbul airport?
Yes, it is generally safe to drink tap water at Istanbul Airport. The airport, like many modern facilities, provides access to clean and potable water for travelers. You can find water fountains or designated areas with safe drinking water throughout the airport. However, if you have any concerns or preferences, you can also purchase bottled water from the airport shops and vending machines.