The quality of french tap water

In France, we enjoy good quality water throughout most of the country. Standards are very high and checks are frequent, with transparent information, detailed at the level of your municipality, as local disparities may exist.

Tap water: high quality standards and transparency

Tap water is one of the most controlled dietary products (60 parameters examined), with complete transparency; resources are available on the Ministry of Health website to check whether the water in one’s municipality meets the recommended standards; this is the case for the vast majority of the population and the territory, even if there are exceptions.

Bottled water is not subject to the same level of control and transparency. Recent investigations have revealed a high concentration of microplastics in plastic water bottles and the presence of contaminants (bacteria, pesticide metabolites, etc.) in the water before bottling, which has required treatment (without the consumers’ knowledge).

With regard to water, transparency must be absolutely guaranteed and information must be specified at local level. Hence the importance of the following public data for tap water, the equivalent of which does not exist for bottled water.

Selecting and treating tap water

Tap water is obtained from a carefully selected resource, two-thirds of which comes from springs or deep groundwater and the remaining third from surface water (run-off, glaciers, rivers, dams, etc.).

In all cases, treatment is carried out to ensure that the water is potable, depending on the initial nature of the resource and the influences in the area.

Treatments are used to prevent contamination depending on the environmental conditions of the area the water originates from, and to disinfect the water. They combine several stages of filtration, ozonation and chlorination to achieve impeccable sanitary quality. Used at the end of the process, chlorine is particularly effective in preventing contaminants from entering the drinking water supply, from the production plant right through to our taps. The limit for chlorine is 0.1 mg/litre, or one drop of chlorine per 1,000 litres.

Higher quality, stricter standards and controls

Drinking water complies with the health requirements laid down by law, and is subject to independent checks by both the water producers and the Regional Health Agencies. Samples are taken several times a year at both production and distribution facilities.

Over the years, quality requirements have become more stringent, in particular with :

  • The gradual phase-out of lead pipes 
  • A broader range of criteria, with over 60 parameters measured to take account of all risks: microbiological, linked to inputs such as nitrates or pesticides, radiological risks, due to emerging pollutants (drug residues, perfluorinated compounds), and the presence of vinyl chloride monomer. This list has been supplemented by European standards including analysis of the presence of chlorates, chlorites, haloacetic acids, perfluorinated compounds, bisphenol A, chemical uranium and microcystins. 
  • A reassessment of standards and thresholds in the light of new knowledge: some have been raised (antimony, boron, selenium), others lowered (lead, chromium) or refined (pesticide metabolites)

Precautionary principle: maximum doses over a lifetime

The standards in force for the 60 parameters are based on the principle of maximum admissible doses, i.e. the quantity of a substance that a person can safely absorb 365 days a year throughout his or her life, with an additional safety margin to guarantee the absence of risks.


quality standards

defined on the basis of a European directive, itself established on the recommendations of the WHO (World Health Organisation).

75% of French people

are satisfied with the taste of their tap water

Local disparities

Although tap water is of very good quality and is highly controlled, it is estimated that 5 to 20% of French people (taking into account new parameters on pesticide residues) may encounter at least once a year water that does not comply with expected standards, although it remains below the health risk threshold (the maximum health value). This does not indicate a risk of water toxicity, since the maximum health value has not been reached. However, this drop in quality must be monitored and stopped, in particular by reducing the use of pesticides. This non-compliance has been observed in certain communes, notably in Hauts de France and Brittany.

Then there’s the question of pipes: If there is any doubt about the nature of the pipes in your home (some may still be made of lead in old buildings), the recommendation is to avoid drinking the first stream of water in the morning. Let it run for a few moments before using it for the first time.

Disparities may also concern water hardness (limescale) or the smell of chlorine

A majority of French people mention either a level of limescale that is too high or a smell of chlorine that is too strong. When it comes to the smell of chlorine, all you have to do is fill a jug of water and place it, covered, at the bottom of the fridge. After an hour, the taste will have disappeared. There are also solutions for softening water, making it purer or improving its taste. Link to solutions.

In terms of taste, 75% of French people are satisfied with the taste of their tap water, with 31% very satisfied. The regions where the satisfaction rate is lower than average are Hauts de France and Normandy.

Sources :

  • centre d’information sur l’eau
  • Anses
  • Ministère de la santé