1) Is the fountain water safe to drink?
2) Should I carry a bottle or a bladder?
3) Should I buy water along the route?
In answer to whether or not fountain water is safe, the answer is "almost always." Most of the fountain water comes from springs that are deep in the ground, fresh, and pure. The water in the fountains is tested often by the government since not only pilgrims drink it, but people in the villages still drink it.
There are two occasions when you may want to buy bottled water or get water from a municipal tap.
a. When it is raining so hard that the streams are muddy, I would buy water. This is because you are walking in agricultural land, and there is a lot of cow and horse and pig manure on the land. If the rain is so hard that it's causing a lot of runoff, then the springs could be temporarily contaminated for a few days until fresh water flushes them out.
|If the water looks muddy like this, I would not use local fountains.|
b. During a heat wave. A heat wave may cause bacteria to grow in what normally would be good water.
Otherwise, I have never had a problem drinking directly from the fountains.
One time, by mistake, Joe drank from a fountain clearly marked "Non-Potable" which means the water was NOT safe. We immediately hit a bar where he ordered a couple shots of whiskey to kill any bacteria and he never had a problem!
Bottle or Bladder?
This is really just a matter of preference.
I prefer a bottle.
First of all, it is lightweight and fits in my Macabi skirt pocket, so it's easily accessible.
Second, there are running fountains all along the Camino Frances, and so I drink my fill at the fountain, fill my bottle, and I'm off. It means less weight for me to carry.
Third, a bottle is more easily washed out each night so bacteria doesn't grow.
Joe carries a bladder.
He just prefers it.
He does have to wash it out each night (a pain in the kazoo to me).
I've heard people say, "You don't have to fill it."
Well, true. However, the thing about a bladder is it would be too inconvenient to take off and fill at each fountain, so you're carrying the weight of all that water, when it is not necessary. And water is heavy! Pick up a couple of 2 liter Pepsi bottles and you'll see how heavy they can be!
Purchased water is cheap and available all along the Camino Frances. That just seems wasteful to me. All those empty bottles that need to be recycled, and sadly, I see a LOT of discarded bottles all along the path.
The water in Spain is as safe or safer than the water in the United States.
It is NOT a third world country like Mexico.
Their infrastructure puts much of ours to shame.
So, as with shoes or boots, how you carry your water is a choice you need to make for yourself.