Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

back to overview

June 2003

On Tap

Find out more about Munich’s greatest and cheapest asset

Have you ever read the book Urban Legends: The Truth Behind All those Deliciously Entertaining Myths that are Absolutely, Positively, 100% not True by Richard Roeper? If not, or in case you are unfamiliar with the concept of urban legends, these are “true” stories that invariably begin “A friend of mine told me” and evolve into credibility-straining tales of ghostly hitch-hikers, disappearing cars or dead colleagues who lie at their desks for days before anyone notices.

I was reminded of this phenomenon recently when a crate of mineral water, balanced on the back of my bicycle, crashed to the ground, not 50 meters from home. As I stared at the fizzing glass shards in dismay, my German neighbor came rushing out armed with back issues of the Süddeutsche and a broom and offered to help. As we collected the debris she chastised me roundly for buying expensive bottled water. “A friend of mine told me. . . ,” she began, and I thought, “Oh yeah, here comes Munich’s favorite, albeit harmless, urban legend,” “that she had read in the paper,” Monica continued earnestly, “that the quality of our tap water is better than that of anything you can buy at the Getränkemarkt.” If I had one euro for every time I’ve heard this story, I thought, I’d be sipping Perrier by a pool in Monaco, not trying to make ends meet in Munich. Nonetheless, I was a little ashamed by my churlish attitude and when I read in the paper a day later that UNESCO has declared 2003 the international year of fresh water, it seemed a good time to investigate Munich’s tap water.

The statistics are indeed impressive. No other federal state in Germany has such an abundance of high-quality fresh water. According to a recent article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the millions of cubic meters of water needed daily in Bavaria can be siphoned off springs, wells, rivers, streams and lakes, without the need for recycling—“Yuck,” said a friend when I ordered a glass of tap water in a Frankfurt restaurant, “don’t you realize that stuff’s been through you seven times already?” Munich’s tap water comes from one of three regions: the Mangfall Valley, about 40 km southeast of Munich, the Loisach Valley, around Lake Kochel and, when reserves run low on a hot summer day, from the so-called Schotterebene (an area of moraine deposits left over from the last ice age) which also lies to the southeast of Munich, near Taufkirchen. The water is fresh and receives a minimum of processing and, says Bettina Hess from the press department of the Stadtwerke München, is not only some of the best drinking water in Europe but at least as good as bottled mineral water.

So why do many of us still insist on buying our drinking water in bottles (in fact, according to the May issue of the magazine Öko Test, the consumption of mineral water in Germany has even increased ten-fold in the last 30 years)? One reason may be flavor. Experts swear that you can taste the difference between salty and sweet waters and, having lined up different types of bottled water to taste here in the offices at MUNICH FOUND, we discovered that this is true. Nonetheless, how many of you have gone into a restaurant and ordered a specific brand of mineral water for its taste? And if we take the trouble to read the label on a bottle of water, do words like Heilwasser, Quellwasser or Tafelwasser actually mean anything to us? For your information, Tafelwasser, for example, is water that may come straight from the tap and be flavored with salt and/or seawater. Nor can price can be an argument in favor of bottled water: one liter of tap water costs only € 0.01, whereas a liter from the supermarket will set you back approximately € 0.50. “Ah, yes,” I hear you say, “but I like my water fizzy.” Well, even if you go out and buy a soda-maker (including cartridges) this will only increase the price to € 0.19 per liter if you fill your bottle at the sink.

In the end, our refusal to undergo a complete conversion to tap water probably has to do with image and the power of clever marketing. Someone cycling through a summer landscape, swigging water from a fancy bottle just looks better, more wholesome, than a person with their head stuck under the water-faucet at home in the kitchen.

tell a friend