DRINK THAT DAMN WATER! Why H2O in Riga is much better than you think.

We must admit the tone of voice of this title is rather harsh. But we cannot stand all the people buying loads of plastic bottles and 5L containers so dissolutely any more. Many of them are foreigners and, most likely, will throw the plastic away or leave it at inappropriate places in Riga, when recycling today's just learning its best. So here is an express article on why drinking water from tap is more than welcome in Riga and buying water in plastic packaging is more than unacceptable. Especially, when the former has been recently (again!) supported by another research.

riga, daugava, water, panorama, 2009, 2019

Sadly, we need to accept one thing. Despite tap water quality in Latvia being probably the best in Europe (as states one of the nation's leading researchers in the field Sandis Dejus)1, the myth of it being undrinkable still lives on. And it's not the story of New York, where every facet runs pure chlorine or of Malta, where there is no permanent fresh water available in nature at all.

The story is about a Nordic country with total river’s length of 37 500 km, 2200-odd lakes larger than 1 ha and more than 60 000 km of ditches2. A country that was once under an ice lake itself that covered all the northern Europe, and a country with massive underground deposits where the drinking water mostly comes from.

The myth of undrinkable tap water is most likely to be born due to chemicals being used for purifying purposes or unsuitable supply systems like rusty or poorly installed pipes, water towers, etc. The practice we received as heritage from the USSR. Yes, there were also times after the Soviet Union when people had no money and the city had no priority to replace the entire low quality infrastructure.

Now the system has changed in most of houses and apartments. There has been more than 1 billion euro invested into modernizing it across the country (although there are still two separate days per year when every hydraulic facility is treated with chlorine for sanitation purposes). Finally, hotels, hostels and any food place cannot even be opened if there is no access to appropriate water. If your place of accommodation says - "don't drink the one from the tap, buy a bottle from our fridge", just bounce.

Let's be clear - when we speak about an appropriate drinking water from the tap, we mean it being around 8 - 12°C in temperature. In case if there's some brown colour to it or if the water's cloudy - just run it for a moment until it's clear again (the residue might appear often when there have been any changes in the hydraulic system, which is good). If you are still concerned about the quality - do the damn water test and don't rely on observations, rumours or myths, or get a BRITA filter or similar.

AND THAT'S IT. Don't buy another gallon full with more or less the same substance in a plastic packaging. Yes, running extra H2O down the drain is not good for nature, if suddenly all people in Riga decide doing it simultaneously. The difference here is - any wasted water goes through soil, vapours or is sewage-treated, and then returns making us happy and alive. Every plastic bottle you buy and waste also returns back to us. But it seldom makes anyone happy and, when speaking about the environment - barely alive. Every packaging only plays against us, not you - a short-time visitor.
capital r riga 2019, cartoon, karikatūra, ūdens,
More than a year ago, the same researcher Sandis (along with his peers) launched a wonderful initiative called "Ū vitamīns" (vitamin "Water"). It provoked our own capitalist ideals, when many cafés and restaurants were kindly, yet reasonably asked to provide clients with free water. After all, it is a human right, and we all deserve it. Many food and drink places though did not reply from the start, like said before - some capitalist thinking kept us in boundaries to monetize anything that can be served. Today though it feels atavistic already, if any eatery or café has no freely available H2O container at the counter. Because those, who want their goddamn coca cola, will buy it anyway.

Still there are many locations where you get to pay for any drop of liquid. There are even cases when your take-away water bottle is even less than kindly asked to be emptied over houseplants. To be sure you receive your daily dose of basic fluids in Riga, here is a wonderful map the "Ū vitamīns" initiative created to collect all places open to refill your body and your own bottles with a nice, refreshing earth sap. NB. Be kind and check the place before going at all times due to it being moved or closed before the map is updated. Also, sometimes any human right we deserve is affected by a bad staff member or broken piping, and we cannot promise 100% chance of success at anything in this life!

capital r

On the contrary, if you run a place new to serving free water, register it to be included in this map. It's easier than ever - just follow this link and type a few words in blanks! Some places are not yet mentioned in the Ū map, but you can get free water there already for a while (as on 18.07.2019):
  • Aurora 
  • Cafe M
  • Caffeine (all premises)
  • Kadagi
  • Kalve Coffee
  • Mañana
  • Mazā Terapija
  • Mākonis - Jaunā Teika
  • Nurme bar 
  • Pils
  • Spināti&Sviests
  • Stockpot XL
  • Visums
  • Zeroveikals

Here is also a little list with major places where to stock up your water supplies for free and from tap:
  • National Library of Latvia - the toilets are easily accessible for your bottle or body refill, and there are several water fountains located around the building as well;
  • Rātslaukums - during the warm period the Town Hall square in Old Town holds a Roland statue that is turned into a water source;
  • Riga International Airport - despite installing new, annoying airblade faucets, their H2O is still more than drinkable. Just grab an empty bottle while going trough security check (not a crime), and then fill it at any toilet; look for older, manual taps where you can regulate the temperature. Buying water at airports for an overboosted price and in another plastic bottle helps no one, especially not the locals;
  • Stockmann supermarket also has installed a water tap by the fruit aisle.
Yes, we admit, the temperatures will only get higher the next month (despite the terrible rainfall and storms), and H2O supplies are needed. But this is not New York, nor the Mediterranean, nor a third-world country. Latvia ought to be a place with one call-to-action only: "see a tap? Drink that damn water!"

1 Pie inženierzinātņu doktora, ūdens pētnieka SANDA DEJUS. lr2.lsm.lv


  1. Concerning Riga International Airport, a while ago when I wanted to fill my bottle after security check, I found that most airport toilets have a fixed medium temperature setting. However, I succeeded in getting cold and tasty water in the toilet next to Narvesen, when entering the new terminal C. Keep that in mind!

  2. Alright! Yes, the new toilets migh be fancy, yet they are impractical and inhuman as hell from this point.

  3. how about the old and rusty metalic pipes in the 1950 buildings?


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