Swiss mountain huts often have running water (for toilets and handwashing), but usually signage that state the water is not potable for drinking.

Is this sign for one's own benefit (and health), just a CYA (cover-your-ass) strategy for the hut, or a tactic intended to sell more bottled water (usually at ridiculous prices)?

In addition to avoiding the cost of the water sold in the hut, I feel it's not really eco-friendly to helicopter in a ton of water bottles and then have to dispose of the waste. Nobody needs an excuse to hydrate less (especially in the mountains), but obviously not catching any weird bugs is important too.

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    Have you considered using a LifeStraw? (buylifestraw.com/en)
    – mimipc
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:54
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    Better to not risk...I am at the Hospital, due to a reaktive atrosys caused by bacteria Infektion... Bacteria that i got drinking water two weeks ago in a Switzerland.Hut.
    – Paolo
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 15:10
  • Mountain water is mostly clean unless it gets contaminated by dead animals or other shit. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 20:58

2 Answers 2


Water regulations in Switzerland are very strict and most tap water is of impeccable quality. There is also a law which states that any fountain, which doesn't have regulated drinking water, has to be declared as such, so if you see a fountain with no sign on a village square, it's very likely safe to be drunk. This is most likely the reason why there is a sign at those huts.

The situation in mountain huts is a bit different. They are very rarely connected to any piping and the water most often comes from a local spring. In some cases, especially in very high altitude locations and in winter, there might not be any source available, and there is places where drinking water has to be brought up (mostly where cable cars are available).

So most probably the water comes directly from a fresh water spring (a big percentage of Swiss water reaches the taps unfiltered from some spring). Probably the quality is not monitored however as it would be with public tap water, so it can get tainted (after a lot of rain), or be from a non clean spring. Note that if it's melting water (from glaciers or snow), then it will generally also be unsafe.

Providing clean water at such remote places often comes with a lot of expenses for the owner. There are certain places where restaurant owners will charge you very high prices if you order tap water at the restaurant.

So, you will probably be safe drinking the water. However, there is a small chance that the water might be tainted and unsafe. The only one who will be able to tell you is probably the owner.

Note, if there are locals around, you can ask them and they might know of alternative source to fill up your water bottles. As a kid, (I grew up in the Swiss Alps), we always knew of a couple of springs near my grandparents chalet where it would be safe to drink from.

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    Why would snowmelt or unfiltered mountain running freshwater be considered unsafe? I mean, they're not regulated or tested, but in practice these would be the cleanest natural water sources assuming that there are no industrial plants or farms above you in that mountain. Is this a distinction between "not safe" and "not certified as safe" or a practical concern?
    – Peteris
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 10:33
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    @Peteris The original water source may be perfectly fine - but if there is any kinid of water conduit, it's really hard to keep microorganisms, mostly bacteria, from enjoying the water too! I would not see that as a real problem personally, because almost all of these bacteria enyoy life at homi in their biofilm, and would be dead from saliva before our imune system even notices. But technically, it's not clean. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:26
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    @Peteris snow and ice is quite dirty (microbes, dead animals, dust, deer pee). At a normal, safe source the water has passed through soil and rocks for a very long time (days up to years) and has been cleaned that way. That's why a ground water pumping station cannot be too close to a river. So when you have a mountain source, without having more information, you have no way of knowing whether it's clean water that has passed through a lot of ground layers or whether it's dirty melt water which has just passed through a couple meters.
    – drat
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:43
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    Just to add - the water may be kept in tanks/piping that are not clean/rusty whatever, and present a hazard, even if the water as it goes in is clean.
    – CMaster
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:15
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    @hippietrail thanks, that also explains some of the confusion. This is a translation error from my native language (German), which I keep on making. I changed it to make it clearer
    – drat
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 0:56


It is safe to drink water in Swiss mountain huts. Huts are generally high in the mountains and the water comes straight from melting snow and ice or from springs. It may not bear the certificate of the Swiss authorities, but pretty much everybody who visits mountain huts drinks this water. Some do sell bottled water but you absolutely don't need to purchase that.

I've personally done hundreds of hikes in the Swiss alps, and many of my family and friends have been hiking there all their lives. Most drink from streams or public taps low or high in the mountains and I've never heard of any problems. I've never seen people carrying filters either.

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    There are many huts between 1500-2000 m, an altitude where livestock grazes in the summer. Some are higher and perhaps safer but it's not “generally” the case.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 18:51
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    Note that water from melting snow or ice is not generally safe to drink.
    – drat
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 0:58
  • This question has some related answers that may be relevant ... I'm dubious that you can guarantee the safety of all hut water.
    – SpaceDog
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 8:08
  • I don't know about Colorado, I'm talking about Switzerland (I've only ever hiked ½ day in Colorado, but I've done hundreds of hikes in Switzerland). In Switzerland there are many public water sources either in the valley or high in the mountains. Many hikers drink from those, including all I know. I have never heard of anybody having any problems. The stomach doesn't need ultra-filtered water.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 11:24
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    @gerrit I was looking for some sources, but you are right, there doesn't seem to be much about it. It seems that you are fine as long as you see where the melting water is coming from (clean snow, clean ice), but should watch out when you don't know where the water is coming from. However, note that the signs non-potable, while certainly also a way of making more sales, they are also a legal requirement for non-certified water. Of course they don't always (or even most of the time) mean that you can't drink the water.
    – drat
    Commented Jun 27, 2015 at 0:46

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