Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is the capital as any other – big, clouded, and mostly made of concrete. However, there are many nature islands, as I like to call them, both in and surrounding it. One of those green islands is a forest with a water spring that I visit semi-regularly. I was introduced to the spring by a friend who exclusively drinks that water for years, and never had any problems. The water source is called Stalnjak and is near the city of Zaprešić. Its quality is strictly controlled by Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute of Public Health that regularly checks the water for possible contaminations and bacteria.
Unlike this one, there are many similar water sources in Croatia that are unregulated – however, local population uses that water, but their quality is dubious at least.
Picture 1. Built drinking fountain
So, is spring water better than the tap water? And what are the differences?
First of all, here in Croatia, tap water is perfectly safe for drinking (unless the building you are living in has lead pipes – then it’s a hard no-no).That water also comes from a certain spring or well, but it is generally considered that the water collected at the forest spring is tastier, better, and healthier (I can definitely vouch for the tasty part!) Another important thing to say is that Stalnjak spring is a “normal” water spring; Croatia is rich with thermal springs as well (I’ll cover that in a later post!).
However, bacteria presence in these springs can seriously harm your health – cholera is transmitted exactly through drinking water. Apart from Vibrio cholerae, other Vibrio species can cause gastritic problems, as well as all-known pathogenic strain of Escherichia coli. Bacteria of genus Shigella and Salmonella can be found in contaminated water, as well as many other species of coliform bacteria, the scariest being genus Clostridium. Coliform bacteria are believed to be the most common contamination of water springs in this part of the world. They are gram negative (they possess an outer cell membrane) rod shaped bacteria that is characterized by their ability to cause infection. However, not all E. coli strains are pathogens! Water quality is assayed by various tests and techniques, and more about that you can read in this amazing article!
Except from bacteria, flatworms can also inhabit water springs, with Schistosoma causing a severe infection.
Picture 2. Area surrounding the spring
Is there any reason to avoid tempting water you found during your forest hike?
If you are not sure, I would definitely not recommend drinking untested water of any kind. Even though many of these bacteria are associated with the Third World countries, you can never know if, and how many of coliform bacteria are present in the water. The regulated spring always has a sign stating it’s safe to drink (check this in your country!) and a gathering crowd of locals waiting to fill their bottles can also be a positive sign. My experience with these kinds of springs has always been extremely positive; I have been drinking from Stalnjak for over a year, and before that I have occasionally drank from two other sources, one regulated and one unregulated. Now, that might seem kind of scary, but the unregulated spring got its green light couple of years ago, and before that the whole village was normally using the water. However, as the saying goes “do as I say and not as I do”, please don’t follow my example and inform yourself about drinkability first!