Skip to content
Home » Blog » Swiss fountains are great but not always reliable for drinking water

Swiss fountains are great but not always reliable for drinking water

    Water fountain Gstaad

    One of the most common bits of budget advice for visiting Switzerland is to never buy water and use the endless fountains instead. I mostly agree, and compared to other countries (like my native UK) the prevalence of fountains with drinking water is astounding.

    If a fountain doesn’t come with a warning you can generally assume it is safe, and some fountains have signs which practically beg for you to drink from them. The water is taken from the public water main and is constantly flowing (not recycled).

    There are even a few public fountains that have mineral water for free. Such as Scoul and by the Hotel Rosenlaui.

    I have made use of endless fountains on hikes and bike rides (or even just walking around town). Knowing where a fountain can be found is often a key part of my ride planning in summer.

    There are however a few problems that will limit how useful this is

    • Many fountains are marked as not suitable for drinking. It isn’t uncommon to find a fountain with a sign clearly showing that the water isn’t drinkable via a symbol or writing (Kein Trinkwasser / Eau non potable / Acqua non potabile). Often this will be a regional thing so you might find that every fountain in a village or series of villages along a valley will be not suitable for drinking. It might simply be that the water is perfectly fine and they just haven’t certified it, but I wouldn’t recommend finding out except as a last resort. I have experienced this in and out of the mountains (e.g. the Kandertal, most of the Jura mountains, the Lavaux).
    • Fountains are not always turned on. Many fountains will be turned off in the colder months to stop the pipes freezing. Obviously this isn’t so important on a freezing cold day in December, but might be a bit annoying on a warm day in March.
    • Some fountains simply aren’t clean. I wouldn’t judge a fountain by the basin below, but if there is algae hanging out of the spout then I will wait for the next one.

    You will also sometimes see someone talking nonsense about the big lakes or rivers being clean enough to drink out of. Don’t do that unless you want to spend or day or two being sick. No matter how lovely and clear it looks.

    I will drink out of streams high up in the mountains, but only if I am very sure there are no farms or grazing animals upstream (or in need enough of water to risk it).

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *