Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clear, Clean Water Doesn't Have to Be a Myth

Is Moscow's tap water safe to drink?

That's one of the first questions newcomers to Moscow ask and the issue some city residents occasionally obsess about. Some say Moscow water tastes strange, others complain it smells chlorinated or leaves sediment inside the teapot when boiled.

Looming suspicions over the quality of tap water and rumors that dangerous chemicals including arsenic and mercury contaminate Moscow's water send most Westerners and some Muscovites seeking safer alternatives.

The city's sanitary officials and Mosvodokanal, the city's water supply monopoly, say Moscow water meets the World Health Organization's standards and is as good as tap water in New York or London and is better than in Paris.

Experts at the Communal Water Supplying and Purifying Research Institute say the water quality is acceptable when it emerges from the pumping stations, thought it does deteriorate in areas with old pipes, which can add metals and bacteria to the water.

"Moscow is a rich city, it can afford any purifying facilities and has a lot of them. As compared to some regions, where tap water can contain almost the entire Mendeleyev [periodic table of elements], Moscow's water is quite good," said Vladimir Korabelnikov, head of the institute's water-purifying equipment laboratory.

Last month, contaminated tap water running through rusting supply systems caused two major outbreaks of hepatitis in the Saratov region and areas just south of Moscow, sickening more than 300 people.

Korabelnikov, whose laboratory has done a great deal of testing of city tap water, said nothing alarming has been found in Moscow. As proof, he said none of the laboratory's employees use purifying devices at home.

Although sanitary requirements for tap water are rather strict and must meet some 1,500 requirements, some doctors have their suspicions about the city's water.

Dr. Gennady Sayenko, medical director at the American Medical Center, said the city's tap water should not be trusted — not because of the risk of picking up an infectious disease like hepatitis, but because it is highly chlorinated. Doctors say high levels of chlorine can hurt the liver.

He said Moscow lags behind some Western cities that have switched to more expensive but less toxic water purification methods like ozone and ultraviolet ray treatment.

Moscow water is chlorinated by four pumping stations; the older two — constructed under Stalin — are considered the most efficient. At the Rublyovskaya pumping station in western Moscow, water also gets an ozone treatment, Korabelnikov said.

During seasonal surges in water-borne bacteria, some pumping stations increase the level of chlorine in tap water — this is especially true in northern Moscow. That is when a light medicinal smell to running water may be noticeable, Korabelnikov said.

Several in-house water-treatment options are available. For starters, simply boiling tap water for five minutes is an effective method for killing bacteria, but it does not have much of an impact on the chemical structure of water, Korabelnikov said. Moreover, those boiling tap water for hours to be on the safe side should know that when water is boiled too long, it starts tasting worse.

Pitchers with replaceable carbon filters are another option. The pitchers come in different styles and volumes and are available in supermarkets, department stores and markets around Moscow.

However, Korabelnikov said most in-house devices only filter out sediment picked up from old pipes and do not reduce chlorine levels.

Most customers take only the price, size and style of a filter into account, almost ignoring its capabilities, Korabelnikov said, adding that one device cannot purify the entire periodic table.

Bottled water can also be an option. Several companies offer delivery of water pumped and purified outside Moscow.

"I always recommend drinking water from a source you trust, to be on the safe side," said the AMC's Sayenko. "In Moscow, that means using bottled water for drinking and cooking."

Clearwater, operating in Moscow for seven years, takes water from an artesian well in Domodedovo, south of Moscow, and enriches it with minerals.

King Water pumps water from a 200-meter well near Solnechnogorsk, located to the north of Moscow, but does not enrich it, relying on the water's natural minerals, said marketing manager Larisa Belaya.

Saint Springs bottles filtered spring water from the Kostroma region on the Volga River.

Clearwater and King Water offer delivery of 19-liter bottles, and Saint Springs offers both 11.35- and 19-liter bottles. All three rent out pump attachments and coolers.