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Network water in France

Water is life. We know the quote. But in several cities in France, network water is an exception to the rule . Long considered the best drink, network water in France now arouses growing distrust on the part of a growing number of people. Between scandals and revelations, several French people feel forced to fall back on alternative solutions to meet their drinking water needs. In this article, we delve into the question and take you on a discovery journey secrets hidden in this liquid that flows from your tap . Is it really a drinkable drink? Do you do well to drink tap water directly and use it for cooking? Should you look for palliative solutions? Without bias and without tongue in cheek, here are some answers.

How Is Tap Water Treated?

It all starts in the 19th century. To serve populations living in urban areas, drinking water networks are starting to be put in place. In just a few years, water networks developed considerably and almost everywhere, households had access to drinking water.

The water treatment process is divided into four essential steps, namely capture or sampling from the natural environment, purification (filtration, decantation and disinfection) at the level of treatment installations, storage in storage infrastructures and the distribution planned for this purpose.

Today, France has 996,000 km of pipes intended for water distribution to try to provide the 54 m 3 that each inhabitant will have to consume on average each year, i.e. 150 liters per day . That said, wouldn't it be interesting to talk about the system by which tap water is controlled.

The Network Water Control Mechanism in France

Let's lay the foundations. In France, tap water is subject to very rigorous health control and monitoring. The regulations require, in fact, permanent monitoring of drinking water , from the stage of its collection from the natural environment to its delivery to the average consumer's tap. For this purpose, standards have been put in place , which can be classified into two main categories:

  • quality limits, for certain elements likely to represent a long-term health risk for consumers. These include microbiological parameters and toxic substances such as heavy metals, nitrates, pesticides, etc.
  • quality benchmarks such as color, flavor, odor, presence of certain minerals, etc., which assess the quality of processing and delivery facilities.

However, for more than 10 years, thanks to the improvement of analysis methods, situations of water non-compliance are increasing in several regions of France. In 2004 , the daily consumption of tap water per capita per day was 165 liters . In 2021 , this quantity increased to 150 liters , i.e. a reduction of 15 liters per inhabitant per day .

Although these figures may seem trivial to some, they demonstrate a change in behavior whose causes are not very difficult to guess. According to the 25th edition of Kantar's annual barometer for CIeau, nearly 85% of French people trust tap water , appreciating its stability for a decade. If this percentage seems to be satisfactory, it also means that there are approximately 15% of French people who no longer trust tap water and who believe that its quality has deteriorated.

So, approximately 75% of French people have become “mixed drinkers” , combining both tap water and bottled water. Better, 48% drink bottled water every day . Clearly, the French are now wary of tap water.

A survey carried out by the General Commission for Sustainable Development states that those over 50 have a more obvious penchant for bottled water . However, the choice of drinking water does not necessarily depend on socio-demographic parameters, but above all on the perception of the quality of tap water.

Network Water in France Does Not Always Comply with Standards

Even if quality controls have been strengthened since 2020 thanks to a ministerial instruction, it is better to say it than to keep it quiet, Drinking water sometimes harbors bacteria, viruses and parasites and other compounds such as nitrates which make this water unfit for consumption .

As an illustration, a report published by the Water Information Center on its website indicates that nearly 6% of French people, or around 3.9 million people, received non-compliant water at least once in 2019 . That same year, several thousand people were prohibited from using tap water for drinking purposes because it contained pesticides at a rate higher than the quality limits set by regulations .

Moreover, it has been established that water is responsible for 5 to 10% of exposure to pesticides . Worse, the last 10 years have been marked by an increase in situations of non-compliance with drinking water for a certain part of the population.

For the consumer, such water quality represents a considerable health risk, especially since he is exposed in the short term to poisoning, gastrointestinal disorders and more serious problems, particularly in older subjects. vulnerable such as infants, or pregnant women . But that's not all.

A recent investigation carried out by journalist Martin Boudot made it possible to denounce an environmental and health scandal in the commune of Pierre-Bénite. Significant quantities of perfluorinated compounds, which are complex chemical components, were found in the water of this town, in its soil and also in the air. These components are called “eternal pollutants” because they never degrade in the environment and are likely to reduce the performance of the immune system. to the point of causing cancer .

What are the causes of non-compliance of tap water in certain cities?

In general, the degradation of network water quality is explained by several factors such as:

  • the lack of maintenance of catchment works in the natural environment;
  • the aging of infrastructure and a low rate of renewal of pipes;
  • neglect of disinfection treatments;
  • the contamination of water during its storage or during its transport in the network, in particular due to industrial discharges, mineral fertilizers, pesticides, etc. used in agricultural production and which infiltrate into the soil or are carried by runoff.

What are the alternatives to tap water?

Everyone knows that he is It is important to drink an average of 1.5 liters of water per day to meet the body's water needs. But distrust is growing regarding the quality of the water in the network and according to the General Commission for Sustainable Development, the demand for bottled water has tripled over the last 3 decades while more than 20% of water consumption in households uses a system of domestic filtration .

Bottled Water: A Popular Alternative in France

Tap water is the subject of many criticisms. Here we talk about his unpleasant taste due to its lime content, its bad odor linked to the notable presence of chlorine , etc. In other cases, we fear drinking water containing chemical compounds dangerous to the body . Bottled water has therefore taken over in many households.

In Paris for example, almost 65% of low-income households consume bottled water as much as 54% of high-income households . It is therefore not a question of income level, but rather of the perception of the quality of tap water. The latter is more consumed in rural areas which are less severe in their judgment and in the south-east of France. On the other hand, it is widely observed that households with children favor other means of consumption than tap water.

Water Filters: The Ecological Solution of the Future for Pure, Healthy Water

Today, according to surveys carried out by Ipsos, more than 81% of French people, most of them women, people aged over 35 and Parisians, recognize the benefits of using water filters . Water filtration consists of circulating the latter in a removable device in which the impure particles are blocked, allowing the water to pass in its pure state.

According to these, water filters allow you to:

  • reduce scaling of tap water;
  • remove the taste of chlorine contained in tap water;
  • make tap water healthier;
  • avoid having to store and transport and litter the environment with plastic water bottles;
  • have drinking water at a lower cost than bottled water;

Even if water filters are not yet widely adopted to make tap water healthier, these water purification systems are known and used mainly by Parisians and retirees. It seems that the widespread non-adoption or slow adoption of these systems is mainly attributable to the absence of sufficient points of sale or to the populations' ignorance of their existence. However, it is obvious that water filters will develop over time.

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