09 Apr. 2024 · Culinary

Behind the scenes of Walser Wasser

Open the tap. Water march. Outside, the roaring river, the babbling brook. The pattering of the rain on the roof. Water is our daily companion. Usually quietly and silently. In the mountains at our latitude, it feels like it is always available. And yet it is so much more than a simple resource that we draw from the tap to quench our thirst. 350 liters flow on average per room per day in an Austrian hotel. Sounds like a lot? It is! Where does this water come from in Kleinwalsertal? And is it really that good?

Kleinwalsertal is so liquid

The clearest, cleanest drinking water flows from our local pipes. The ground-breaking ceremony for a public drinking water supply in Kleinwalsertal took place in 1954 when the "Chalts Bächle" spring was tapped in Mittelberg on the mountain path between Mittelberg and Baad. Bächle sounds pretty small. In fact, it is the largest of five natural water sources. It provides almost a third of the water supply in Kleinwalsertal. That's around 450,000 cubic meters per year.

Up to 80 liters per second constantly flow from the cold stream.

But how does the water actually get to the spring? The answer is simple: from above. Rain and meltwater penetrate the uppermost layers of rock and slowly seep away. It flows through cracks, porous rock and crevices. There it is filtered, purified and enriched with minerals. Until it finally collects in a reservoir. If the water level is high enough and the pressure strong enough, it emerges from the mountain as a spring.

Mountain stream in hike area Kleinwalsertal | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Photographer: Oliver Farys

The paths of water

Kleinwalsertal and Vorarlberg are rich in water. Currently, only a tiny proportion of the precipitation is used for households, industry and agriculture, namely around 1%. This corresponds to around 57 million cubic meters per year in the whole of Vorarlberg. A large proportion of this water ends up in sewage treatment plants via sewer systems, where it is purified before flowing back into the waterways.

Did you know? Walser water reaches the Black Sea. In Vorarlberg, the great European watershed runs from the Hoher Ifen to the Arlberg. Rivers to the east of this line, such as the Breitach and the Lech, do not flow into Lake Constance and on into the Rhine, but into the Danube, which eventually flows into the Black Sea.

More than just wet. The true value of water.

Alongside oxygen, water is the fundamental building block of our lives. However, we often take the ecosystem services that water provides for granted. It is worth taking a closer look at the true value of water.

Water is involved in almost all ecosystem services, from providing clean fresh water for our daily needs to supporting nutrient cycling and soil formation. It also plays an essential role in regulating the climate and maintaining biodiversity. This, in turn, is crucial for the prevention of disease and the quality of human life.

The ecological partnership of forest and water

In the karst areas on the Ifen and Gottesacker, rainwater flows quickly underground. It feeds our streams and rivers directly. The situation is completely different in the forest: forest soil stores the water like a large sponge, so that it only seeps into the groundwater very slowly. The soil also has a very effective filtering capacity, meaning that the groundwater in the forest can be used to supply drinking water. 

The elixir of life. Why water doesn't just quench thirst

Water is not only important for the environment. Tap water is healthy. Period. Mountain spring water is even better than bottled water. No question, right? Honest answer: It depends. One thing is certain: Water, whether bottled or tap, is a natural source of important minerals that are essential for our body's health. It provides a natural and often rich supply of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

These minerals play a crucial role in various bodily functions. Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth, while magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and helps regulate blood pressure. Potassium is crucial for maintaining fluid balance and the functioning of the heart and kidneys.

Particularly relevant for athletes after the next hike: Sweating means we have an increased need for water and minerals. And of course, water itself is essential for bodily functions. We recommend 30-40 ml of water per kilogram of body weight per day.

A look at the label - behind the scenes of Walser water

If our Walser tap water had a label - what would you find on it? And how does it compare to well-known water producers?

The comparison shows that our tap water has nothing to hide when compared. However, it also shows that it is not possible to say unequivocally whether mineral water or tap water is healthier. The quality and mineral content of tap water varies from region to region. The same applies to bottled water: each brand has a different composition. The decision depends on personal preferences and individual needs. In terms of daily requirements, you would have to drink a lot of water to cover your mineral needs with water alone. The importance of water, including mineral water, as THE source of minerals is therefore overestimated. A varied, regional and seasonal diet can provide you with sufficient amounts of these minerals.  

And what's the argument in favor of tap water?

Quite simply: if we think about the environment and the climate, tap water is the more environmentally friendly choice. According to the German consumer advice center, the consumption of mineral water has an average 600 times greater impact on the climate than the consumption of tap water. And your wallet too. What's more, it's quite an effort to regularly lug the bottles you've bought into your home. And last but not least, it's reassuring to know that the water that flows from our beautiful mountains around the clock is available simply by opening the tap. We are convinced that you can taste the difference!

... and no one can match this luxury.