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There seems to be some contradictory information on Georgian tap water around.

I was in Georgia recently (May 2012) for nearly a week, and mostly stayed in Tbilisi (in a hostel in an old building near the old town). Everyone at the hostel told me the tap water is ok, and I did drink it all the time without problems. Even the taste was ok to me.

However, I just came across a site called canidrinkthewater.org which claims the following:

Can you drink the water in Georgia? No.

If harbored, a parasite commonly known as Giardia, will settle in the intestines of infected humans and cause a number of discomforts such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. That is why it is advised for people living and visiting Georgia to stay away from the local water supply. If you want to know, “is the water safe to drink in Georgia?” A strong No is the answer.

Now, I'd like to set the record straight on this. Was I just lucky for not getting ill, and were the people at the hostel wrong? Or is canidrinkthewater.org out-of-date or just plain unreliable, at least when it comes to Georgia?

(To assess the site's trustworthiness a little, I read entries on a few other countries, and those were mostly consistent with my experiences. The site does not seem to cite any sources, but it does provide a form for reporting incorrect info.)

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Curiously, for Turkey that site just says "Yes", while Travel SE gives a pretty clear impression that you're better off with bottled water there... –  Jonik May 27 '12 at 21:49
    
Maybe the people at the hostel are talking about the hostel only? Maybe there is a filter in that particular hostel thats why they told you its ok while in Grorgia itself is not ok.. –  MeNoTalk May 27 '12 at 23:07
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@HaLaBi: No, I've been told consistently everywhere I've been that the tapwater is good to drink. It tastes better than the tapwater in Sydney. Locals here never seem to buy water unless they want fizzy mineral water or if the water supply is cut off (for repairs or upgrades etc). –  hippietrail May 28 '12 at 1:33
    
Looks like canidrinkthewater.org is gone, so that part of the question is no longer relevant. –  Jonik Jul 29 at 10:35

6 Answers 6

It's tough to make one general blanket statement about the water and sanitation system for an entire country with it being accurate everywhere in the country. Plugging in some places I've traveled gives similar results to what you and Jonik have noted...while it's not bad overall, it's not very precise, like for example, in Costa Rica, our travel guides said it was ok to drink or brush your teeth with the water in San Jose but not Jaco Beach, whereas this guide suggests ok for the country as a whole. It seems to be a good starting point to assess the overall condition, but not perhaps detailed enough to address every case.

Information on lonely planet about the Republic of Georgia seems to agree with your take that others also say it's "mostly safe but not the best choice" to drink the tap water in Tbilisi, but many other parts of Georgia have very bad water. Ie: there's some risk, but overall the water in that city is ok.

Perhaps more useful, a report by the Global Water Partnership, details out the sources for where the Republic of Georgia gets its drinking water, the main sources of contamination, and so forth. The bottom line appears to be that overall, the water quality isn't great overall, however some cities do have sanitation systems and/or treatment facilities for their water, though many are in a state of disrepair or decaying. Also, many of the water systems are controlled a fairly local level, with variation in competence of the sanitation facilities. So, basically, when it comes to the Rpublic of Georgia, there's a lot of variation in how well water is treated and the condition of the pipes and so forth, so whether the drinking water is going to be safe to drink depends on how well the sanitation system in that particular city is functioning and it's overall condition.

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Every traveler is exposed to bacteria strains to which they have no immunity. Some with more noticeable effects than others. Whenever traveling anywhere it is advisable to bring a bismuth medication or what your doctor recommends. I have seen more than one visitor drink only bottled water and still have problems.

Specific to Tbilisi: The wine here is not treated with preservatives and the red is more likely cause problems than the white. Most people can tolerate a glass or two but more is definitely a risk to people from the US.

Georgians have frequent bouts of diarrhea from local sources and consider it normal, that is why they don't mention it.

Sanitation is lacking in many small restaurants and street side stands, use your best judgment when choosing a place to eat.

Try eating some local yogurt to help boost the local good bacteria. This helps in every region.

Purchase meat and vegetables only from large grocery stores. They are more likely to have mechanically washed produce and safe meat handling practices.

Only buy and eat thick skinned produce. This rules out tomatoes and cucumbers, two mainstays of the Georgian diet.

Consider how often you have diarrhea when in your home country. I have been here four years and have only had "gastronomic distress" about four times. This is about the same or slightly less frequent than when I lived in the US. The worst I ever had was from a new restaurant in a new building in Indianapolis! (Red Robin)

Much in Tbilisi is substandard but water is one of the things that is on par with other cities in developed nations. They are delivering high quality water through antiquated cast iron pipes. Replacement will be very slow but is ongoing. Water service is frequently interrupted and you should be sure to purge your water taps for several minutes one or two hours after the supply is restored. Boil before drinking for one or two days after interruption. I keep a electric kettle full on my kitchen counter most of the time, I have boiled room temp water at my fingertips. I also drink directly from faucet several times each week.

Some apartment buildings and hotels have a onsite tank used to maintain water supplies when the service is interrupted. Ask if this is the case before you drink form ay tap!

Enjoy Tbilisi while you can. Soon it will look like any other retail shopping area in the US.

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We were advised that the water is safe to drink all over Georgia from taps to fountains, creeks etc. We drank everywhere and the water tasted beautiful adn we were not sick at all.

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Whatever is causing the diarrhea and other symptoms, it's real and the Georgians seems to be immune to it.

Almost every tourist we've met had similar problems after a few days in Georgia. Most of them get rid of them avoiding tap water (drinking only a bottled water) and Georgian cheese (very delicious).

On the other hand, we've seen a group of Georgian boys drinking water from garden hose. This water came from pastures, and was contaminated by excrement. I you look on any survival or camping forum, there will always be red warning against drinking such water even after boiling!

So the answer is: it strongly depends on your immune system. I'm used to camping and drinking water from streams, and I've developed the symptoms of diarrhea on the last day, drinking really a lot of tap water all the time (it could be, however, the effect of drinking too much chacha 2 days before ;) My companions were sick after 2-3 days, and were abstaining from tap water from that time. Georgian shepherds were drinking water, that is considered deadly hazard by western survival experts, without any side effects.

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Hmm, I wonder why my experience in Tbilisi was so different: people at the hostel were drinking tap water and I didn't hear of any problems due to that. I suspect there's a lot of regional variation in Georgian water quality. –  Jonik Oct 19 '13 at 1:01

First of all, the wine is far safer than the water just because it has no additives. So don't worry about that. A well made wine needs no additives and there was a reason that the ancients thought wine in general was safer.

I've been to Georgia five times in four years and get sick with 'it' every time--fever, stomach stuff--but with lesser intensity. The water should be avoided. Most of the country still doesn't have indoor plumbing and how close are those outhouses to water sources? So now, since i've been brushing my teeth with bottled water I have fewer problems. On the other hand, the food is so fantastic, I certain eat everything.

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I've been here in Georgia for almost 3 weeks now and have had intestinal problems off and on. In Tbilisi I ventured out and ate at local restaurants, including having tea. When I stopped having tea and only drank coffee or bottled beverages, then I stopped having problems (diarrhea).

I ventured out to the regions, ate with local family, and had problems the whole time. In Batumi I became regular again including having energy to walk and see the sights, participate in many attractions and eating at local restaurants. I saw the places were clean and the restaurants also used bottled water in their cooking and beverage preparation.

Back to Tbilisi and again I'm having problems. I've noticed oatmeal or buckwheat cereal helps as well as using bottled water. I also started rinsing my toothbrush with bottled water and washing fruits with bottled water. So, I'm not sure if it is the water - or maybe the food preparation & what kind of water to wash fruits.

I think overall the water and food sanitation may need to be improved here as my body is used to having sanitized water and food. The locals seem to have no problems.

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