No, Madrid’s water is not the best in Spain


Odorless, colorless and tasteless. Judging by this classic description of properties, tap water may not have any added value at the sensitive or gastronomic level. However, in addition to being essential for human life, It carries with it a large number of scientific studies as well as myths dedicated to exploring its flavor, which could well be other products of great gastronomic and cultural relevance such as wine. One of the biggest cliches that exists around this water culture is the good taste it has in Madrid compared to other big cities like Barcelona. But beyond these toponymic rivalries, what are the real criteria that are followed when evaluating that a water is rich?

Water is water, and therefore, it will be more pleasing to the senses the less flavor, smell and color it has. For this reason, water tasters follow the same parameters as when judging the quality of a wine, the only difference is that it is about identifying those elements that can cloud this absence of taste, smell and color or texture. In short, it is about defining those added elements that subtract its characteristic gustatory and olfactory purity.

There are some that despite having a very good taste, like the one in Madrid, have too much musty smell, which takes away points

Faustino Muñoz Soria, a prestigious sommelier, who has written two books on the subject, has conducted many tastings of bottled and tap water throughout his life. In a telephone conversation, he describes the process of tasting water. First, an ocular inspection of the same is made in the vessel. If it is clear and transparent it will receive a positive rating, while if it is observed that it has particles in suspension or it is not very clear, it will be negative. Then comes the turn of the nose: “Water is not wine, water is water, so the more odor-free it is, the better ”, stresses the sommelier. “The aroma depends on its mineral composition and its treatment. There are some that, despite having a very good taste, such as Madrid, have too much of a musty smell, like mud, which takes away points in a general classification. “

By last, the tasting ends in the mouth to analyze its flavor. It is here where the elements that can cloud it and the chemical components it possesses are best appreciated. The clearest of all to taste is chlorine, which is usually complained by anyone who prefers to consume it in a bottled way instead of opting for the tap. This, however, is a good sign of quality, since it implies that it has been treated and is a very safe water.. If it tastes like chlorine It can denote that the source from which it was extracted could be highly contaminated and had to undergo rough chemical treatment.

Pollution influences (and a lot)

Muñoz gives the example of Catalan water, which can come from the two great rivers that flow into the region depending on where we are: the Ter or the Llobregat. The first is not as polluted as the second, hence, if we consume water in a municipality on the Llobregat river bank, it will have a more chemical flavor, like chlorine.

What determines whether it is hard or soft? Its content in calcium and magnesium

Another element that determines what water tastes like is the natural conditions of the land from which its natural source springs. In this case, the Sierra de Guadarrama in Madrid starts with an advantage compared to other territories because the stone is mostly granitic, which facilitates a greater filtering of minerals that may influence its flavor. Where the predominant rock is calcareous, it will taste worse, since the limestone is very soluble and will end up producing very hard water, less pleasant to the palate. Thus, drinking water from areas such as Alicante or the Spanish Levante has a worse taste, added to the fact of its proximity to the sea.

“If we pull an imaginary line from Andorra to the highest area of ​​Cádiz, crossing all of Spain, to the north we will have soft waters and to the south and the east, the whole of Levante and the Mediterranean, we are going to have hard waters, ”says Muñoz. “What determines whether it is hard or soft? Its calcium and magnesium content ”.

Outstanding in quality

Usually, the quality of tap water in Spain is very good and it is very controlled. So much so, that the institutions carry out controls on it every few minutes to guarantee its safety for human consumption. This is recognized Fernando Morcillo, President of the Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation (AEAS), to El Confidencial. “The treatment of the waters has very powerful legislation that guarantees conditions of 99.9% safety,” he says. “We are a country with a lot of inequality in the sources of extraction. Similarly, the vast majority of it is dedicated to the rural sector, only 15% is used for urban consumption. “

The latest OCU study on the perception of users reflects that there is excellent quality in 19 Spanish towns and good in another 36 municipalities. The cities that stand out for having the most exquisite water are Burgos (few minerals, soft and without contaminants), Saint Sebastian (very light, cheap, hygienic and lightly contaminated mineralization) and The Gran Canarian palms. Among the worst are that of Real city (with a lot of chlorine flavor, Palma de Mallorca (very hard and mineralized water) or Barcelona (very polluted).

Tomorrow’s threats

Despite these good results and exhaustive quality controls, water is a natural public good to be protected and that it faces great challenges tomorrow. “Concern about drought has not decreased, although this year we have had a good amount of rainfall, but in general the situation of the rain gauge is in clear decline, “Morcillo emphasizes. The horizon of climate change leaves very poor prospects for Spain in terms of widespread droughts and sea level growth, as well as a worsening of the quality of the soil to dedicate it to the agrarian activity.

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