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Water is safe to drink all over Switzerland, whether from taps or from the ubiquitous public street-fountains. These fountains, even though they may look manky, almost always gush with pure spring water: the bottled water which is sold around Europe as Passugger, for instance, flows from every tap and street-fountain in Chur. There are a few exceptions to the fountain rule, always marked “kein Trinkwasser”, “eau non potable” or “acqua non potabile” – also with a pictogram of a crossed-out drinking glass.
Take care with mountain streams, which look crystal-clear but which may be hosting a herd of happily splashing cows just upstream. Contaminated water can bring on a list of diseases as long as your arm – raging diarrhoea is the best of the bunch. If you’re planning to head off the beaten track, you should consider taking a water purifier with you. Boiling water for ten minutes kills most micro-organisms, but it’s not the most convenient method, and you should be aware that the higher you are in altitude, the lower the temperature at which water boils (ineffective boiling allows some of the bugs to survive). Sterilization with iodine tablets is effective, but the resulting liquid doesn’t taste very pleasant and you’ll probably want to filter the water as well. (Iodine is unsafe for pregnant women, babies and people with thyroid complaints.) Portable water purifiers, which sterilize and filter the water, give the most complete treatment. A low-cost and highly recommended range made by Pre-Mac (www.pre-mac.com) is available in the UK from British Airways Travel Clinics (for details of your nearest branch call 01276/685040, or visit www.british-airways.com) and specialist outdoor equipment retailers. In Ireland contact All Water Systems in Faggart, Co. Dublin (01/466 0133).
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