Water, Water Everywhere…

What’s so special about Icelandic water?

I’ve traveled a fair bit and lived abroad for longer stretches of a time and while I love experiencing other cultures and things that I would never see in Iceland, there are a few things that I always sorely miss from home. Aside from friends and family, that list includes the fresh air, the Nordic lights, the delicious lamb and fish and of course the water.

hotsprings
Image copyrights Anita Ritenour: https://flic.kr/p/oKPkMx

The Cold

I remember traveling abroad as a child and feeling claustrophobic by the fact that the tap water tasted bad. It took a while for me to realize that unlimited access to clean and tasty water was a privilege I had grown up with and that the odd chemical taste from a foreign tap wasn’t a violation of my human rights. I also remember the first time I witnessed a foreigner see an Icelander “letting the tap run”, a common practice in rural areas to get the water as cold as possible. I had turned on the tap and then went idly about my business in other rooms of the house. The American exchange student that witnessed this exercise was both shocked and angered by my waste-like behavior and while I tried to explain that we had more than enough water for everyone, she tried to explain that that wasn’t true for the rest of the world. We found each other baffling at the time but she really got to me, and my wasteful ways.

Skogafoss
Image copyrights Moyan Brenn: https://flic.kr/p/getFvs

Water filters are unheard of here and Icelanders never buy bottled water. In Iceland, selling bottled water is basically selling a bottle so if it’s the bottle you’re after, buy a reusable one and refill it.

Image copyrights G R: https://flic.kr/p/8mapdZ

The Hot

And that’s just the cold water. As much as I miss it when I’m away, that’s nothing compared to how much I miss our abundance of geothermal water. There is a downside to this magical resource: the sulfur and its accompanying smell. Often mistaken for a hostile fart, especially when driving through a geothermal area, this smell takes getting used to but in this case, the pros far outweigh the cons. 90% of our numerous outdoor pools are heated with geothermal energy and they all have a hot tub, usually a number of hot tubs in fact, with precise temperatures ranging from hot to scalding hot. Most of our homes are fervently heated with geothermal water and your average Icelander will take abnormally long baths or showers, which more resemble meditations than hygiene. And that’s why, when people ask me if Iceland isn’t really, REALLY cold I say no. It’s actually the warmest place I’ve ever been to.

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