Can you drink the tap water in Portugal?
Yes. You can drink the tap water in Portugal.
Is the tap water safe to drink in Portugal?
Yes! The most recent data available describes 98.6% of the water being safe for human consumption. If you’re concerned about a particular area in Portugal, then you can search this data set here which will break the data down per municipality.
Why does tap water in Portugal have a bad reputation?
Despite the water being 98.6% safe, Portugal does have a reputation of having poor water quality. Why is that? Well, before Portugal’s membership to the European Union, Portugal did have multiple issues with its water quality and even supply of it. However, facilities were quickly modernised following several EU Directives concerning water quality and sanitation. In 1993 it was reported that 50.1% of water was safe for human consumption. Within 10 years this had risen to 80.9%, and in 2018 it was 98.6% (2018 being the most recent data available). Despite the rapid rise of quality safe drinking water from taps, culture, habit and reputation has yet to catch up.
Why do the Portuguese drink bottled water?
It’s as much history as it is habit, but also a matter of taste for lots of people. In some parts of Portugal, like the tap water in the Algarve, the water is calcareous and tastes different because of this. Bottled water is also cheap so many people buy it for both the improved taste and convenience. A 1.5 litre bottle of supermarket brand water can be as cheap as 10 cents a litre. So for lots of people, it costs very little to throw an extra bottle of water or two into their supermarket shop.
Can I order tap water at restaurants in Portugal?
Yes, you can. In general water will be served in bottles at restaurants. You’ll usually be asked if you want it fresca ou natural? Fresca will be served chilled, while natural is room temperature. Unless you specifically ask for tap water it will normally be a bottle. However, times are changing and it is now much more common to ask for tap water in restaurants. Occasionally, you might come across a grumpy café or restaurant owner that may refuse or grumble at you. The low cost of bottled water means an easy mark up on price and restaurants capitalise on this. Tripadvisor has multiple complaints about this practice and it appears it’s more common in high-traffic tourist areas where the owners care less about regular customers and more about extracting as much money from the tourists!
Are there environmentally friendly alternatives to drinking bottled water in Portugal?
According to the most recent data, Portugal has some of the worst plastic recycling rates in the EU. Current estimates suggest only 30% of plastic waste in Portugal is recycled and the culture of bottled water is a known problem. There are several environmentally friendly alternatives to bottled water in Portugal that you can rely on instead of buying bottled water.
Drink the tap water in Portugal!
You can drink the tap water! It’s safe! And you can spread the word and encourage others to drink the tap water too!
Consider using a water filter in your home
If you don’t like the taste of the tap water in Portugal, you can actually improve the taste of it by using a water filter. The most basic systems are simple jugs with an activated carbon filter like a Brita system. More expensive filtration systems can be fitted to your taps or even a separate water tank for much higher quantities of drinking water!
Use refillable bottles
With the rising awareness of making environmentally friendly decisions, a range of initiatives have been launched to combat plastic water bottles. One of these, and one we use regularly ourselves are the Eco Stations available in Pingo Doce. Eco offer reusable water bottles and filling stations at over 120 Pingo Doce stores across Portugal. Each refillable bottle is €1, and a 3-litre refill is €0.18. If you can’t bear the taste of tap water in Portugal then this is a great way to reduce disposable plastic bottles in your home. Eco report that a bottle can be reused for up 18 months. So far we’ve used ours for 12 months and they’re still in great condition!
Consider glass bottled water instead of plastic bottled water
The glass recycling rates in Portugal are double that of plastic (around 62% according to recent data). If you rely on the convenience of bottled water, make the switch to glass. Just make sure you recycle the bottle afterwards.
Tap water in Portugal: Conclusions
- Tap water is 98.7% safe for human consumption in Portugal.
- The main reason for the widespread use of bottled water is taste and cost.
- Restaurants will typically serve bottled water, but you can ask for tap water.
- It is easy to avoid plastic and there are lots of reasons why you should.
Let us know in the comments if there’s anything you think we should add to article!