If you're visiting Turkey or here to stay for some time, you might be wondering whether or not the tap water in Turkey is safe to drink. Don't worry; we're here to ease your mind.
So, is the tap water in Turkey safe to drink? Tap water is generally safe to consume. However, the locals widely prefer to drink bottled water over tap water, due to the hardness and taste of tap water, especially in urban areas of the country.
The tap water in Turkey is pretreated to make it safe for consumption. Next, you'll see how the treatment process works and how it affects the water.
How Safe Is It to Drink the Tap Water in Turkey?
Under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in Turkey, there is an agency called Devlet Su İşleri (The General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works) responsible for utilizing the country's water resources.
Tap water in Turkey is treated in water treatment facilities run by the official water authorities of each municipality, for example, ISKI in Istanbul. Therefore the water is safe to drink when it leaves the reservoir.
However, certain factors cannot be controlled by the municipalities. For example, old pipelines and water tanks in buildings can cause water contamination. To avoid such contamination, there's a trace amount of free chlorine in the water, which affects the taste and smell of water.
Although it's safe to consume, most people in Turkey tend to use tap water only for cooking and making hot drinks. So they use it after boiling to eliminate any doubts about contamination.
As we stated earlier, although municipalities treat the water to make it safe, it has a long journey reaching each household. Also, tap water doesn't taste as good as soft natural water, therefore not generally preferred.
So, if you have a delicate taste as much as the locals do, you should stick to bottled water for drinking. But do you have to use bottled water for everything from brushing your teeth to cooking?
When it comes to brushing their teeth, all locals use tap water. Considering that some people cannot afford to buy bottled water for home use, it's safe to assume that tap water in Turkey is generally safe for drinking.
But it might depend on certain conditions. For example, if you're in an old building with old pipes, you might want to avoid drinking it directly without boiling it first.
But when it comes to making drinks, taste buds come in, and the water usage habits might depend on the region. Let's see how and why the water tastes different in different regions and how the locals go about it!
Regional Differences Affecting the Taste of Water
According to 2008 data, of the 4.56 billion m3 of water distributed by the municipalities, 40% came from dams, 28% from wells, 23% from springs, 4% from rivers, and 5% from lakes. So the taste and quality of tap water vary in each region in Turkey. Villagers tend to use tap water more while in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara, anyone who can afford it uses bottled water.
Mostly, what affects the taste of water and its usability is the amount of free chlorine and limescale in the water. These amounts vary according to the water quality in the region and sanitation needs.
Now we know why the treatment facilities use free chloride in water. But what about limescale?
Limescale is the result of hard water. Hard water is filled with minerals, including calcium, carbonate, magnesium, and manganese, so it leaves a chalky residue in your taps, pipes, pots, and kettle.
The funny taste also stays in your mouth. That's why in regions where the water is hard, locals prefer not to use it for drinking.
So the reason for using bottled water is mostly about taste and the limescale residue. People like to drink soft water. Also, making the frequently consumed Turkish tea, people tend to use bottled water as the taste of the tap water significantly affects the taste of the tea.
So, considering you'll mostly use bottled water in Turkey, let's see where you can get it and how much it costs.
Where to Find Bottled Water
With so many people depending on it, bottled spring water is available anywhere in Turkey. Bottle sizes range from 225ml (≈8oz) to 19 liters (≈5 gallons). You can buy bottled water anywhere, from street vendors to supermarkets or water dealers.
Discount supermarkets like Dia, Şok, or Bim are the cheapest options. People mostly buy water in a 0.5lt (≈16oz) plastic bottle, generally costing about 1 TRY-1.5 TRY ($0.13-0.20).
You can find glass bottles in some stores, but they'll cost more. And remember that water prices might change according to location. In more touristy areas, small grocery stores, street vendors, restaurants, and bars tend to charge more for even water, whether you're a foreigner or not.
So, always ask the price before you buy, or just buy from a chain supermarket or a discount market if you can.
For home use, you can order 19-litre (≈5-gallon) bottles, costing around 10 TRY (about $1.30-1.50) from one of the water dealers in your neighborhood. Prices slightly change according to the brand. Delivery is free and mostly available until around 9.00 pm.
You pay a one-time refundable additional fee around 20-25 TRY (about $2.50-3.00) for the bottle the first time you order. Then you give the empty bottle back every time you order another one.
Dining Out: How Much Does the Water Cost?
In the past, the water was served free of charge in most restaurants in Turkey. But again, those were the days most people drank tap water.
Now, even when you see that the water was already on the table when you're seated, know that you'll be charged for it if you drink it. Some places, although rare, might charge you automatically, so go over the check before paying.
Cafes and restaurants serve bottled water with a price usually slightly over what the supermarkets charge. But depending on how high-end the place is, the prices can go up. In a luxurious restaurant, you can expect to be charged up to 20 TRY ($2.70) for a small bottle, maybe more.
But if you're in a popular holiday destination, such as Bodrum or Çeşme, always ask the price, never assume. Even some of the shabbiest bars might charge you up to 50 TRY ($6.50) for a 0.5lt (≈16oz) bottle in the high season. This is not just a tourist rip-off. The locals complain about the same thing, too!
When you're staying at a hotel, you'll generally find two 0.5lt (≈16oz) bottles in your hotel room per night. Sometimes these are complimentary, but some hotels charge for the bottles, and the prices might considerably change.
So it's wise to check with your hotel before opening the bottle if they haven't informed you about the minibar rules already.
Sparkling or Still? Options Available
You won't usually be asked, "Still or sparkling?" when you're in a restaurant in Turkey. Turkish people drink sparkling water as a refreshment during the day or after a heavy meal.
Turks refer to sparkling water as "soda" or "maden suyu" (mineral water) in Turkish, and you can find it everywhere, even with different flavors.
But flavored water is a relatively new product in Turkey. So you might not find it in every corner of Turkey, but it's started to be sold in most chain supermarkets around the country and most stores in Istanbul.
Regarding the brands, you have a lot of choices. You can try and find the one that suits your taste the best, as they are mostly reliable. You can also find imported brands, although they are limited and will cost you more.
So, with all there is to know, you can use tap water for cleaning, brushing your teeth, cooking without a doubt. Although it is safe to drink tap water in Turkey, we suggest that you go with the bottled water option for drinking.
And when it comes to making hot drinks, let your taste buds lead you as water hardness will differ according to where you're staying in Turkey.