Krakow’s tap water is the best in Poland and the second best in the world. We had a hand in it…

Krakow’s tap water is the best in Poland and the second best in the world. We had a hand in it…


Sustainable Development


An interview with Dr Tadeusz Bochnia, Deputy Production Director at the Kraków Waterworks, and Jacek Zasępa, Expert and Auditor at Bureau Veritas Polska

– Why is Krakow’s water so good that it is 2nd in the world in terms of quality? (according to the ECB – the European Benchmarking Cooperation).

Tadeusz Bochnia: I must say our water is not special compared to the rest of Poland. The fact that the quality of the water supplied by the Krakow Waterworks was recognised and ranked 2nd in the world, just behind the water from Singapore, results from the advanced technology that we use. We have four water treatment plants used mostly for surface water (Rudawa, Dłubnia and Sanki rivers as well as Lake Dobczyce on the Raba river). Therefore, this is not a comfortable situation for cities with deep water intakes which should theoretically have better-quality water in the first place. Obviously, we place a special emphasis on the safety of our water intakes, e.g. Lake Dobczyce, which is a strategic source of water supply for the Krakow Urban Area, is a strictly protected area, with no recreational infrastructure (extensive direct and indirect protection zones were created on the lake), unlike Lake Zegrze which supplies the north-eastern part of Warsaw and Warsaw suburbs. However, the secret of Krakow’s good water is in what happens next, that is, in the process of water treatment and supply to the final consumer.

– Exactly, so how is it that you can drink Krakow’s tap water safely?

TB: What distinguishes us from the other regions is certainly a very advanced risk and safety management policy in drinking water collection and production. I think that in Poland we are pioneers in this area as we introduced a preventive risk management methodology for routine activities. We developed a system assessing the occurrence of potential dangers, procedures to avoid them and the necessary repair procedures if they emerge. For example, we were the first in Poland (in cooperation with the AGH University of Science and Technology) to develop solutions monitoring water for the presence of pharmaceuticals. Furthermore, we are constantly investing in the improvement of the water supply infrastructure in the city and, most importantly, we do not limit ourselves only to provision of the highest quality of water to the final collection and selling places, from our and statutory point of view, that is, the main water meters in residential or public buildings. We go further; we try to monitor and analyse our water, developing compliance points in buildings, to know if and how the condition of indoor systems in buildings affects our water. Of course, we are not able to monitor every building in Krakow. We do this selectively, performing static analyses and constantly educating residents and consumers through numerous information campaigns to know how to avoid water pollution, for example as a result of breakdowns or repairs of internal systems.

– What does the cooperation between Bureau Veritas and Krakow Waterworks look like?

Jacek Zasępa: We have cooperated with Krakow Waterworks for 15 years. In general, at Bureau Veritas we focus on long-term relationships with our clients. We offer them the highest quality of services, advanced know-how and experience of our experts and auditors. We carry out annual company audits to quality and environmental management standards. We monitor the whole production process, from collection of water from individual intakes through water treatment and sale to the final consumer. In addition, we audit the impact of Krakow Waterworks on the natural environment and waste management.

– Do you carry out similar audits in Poland outside the Krakow Waterworks?

JZ: Yes, we do. We carry out audits of Water Authorities in other cities in Poland, but nowhere have we found the infrastructure as advanced as in Krakow. From my own perspective and experience, I must say the Krakow laboratory, where the quality of water is tested, gives the impression as if it came from the 22nd century. Certainly, many laboratories owned by state institutions or numerous large private companies would like to have such a research infrastructure. This is a unique organisation in many other respects as well. The objectives of the Krakow Waterworks are customer-oriented through the quality of water supplied and constant development of its water mains. The HR policy of the Krakow Water Authority assumes constant employee development and improvement as well as acquisition of new skills through participation in numerous external and internal training programmes, symposia and scientific conferences. The Krakow Waterworks is the laureate of the Excellent Quality Organisation award given by Bureau Veritas to only the very best entities in quality management.

– How is your cooperation with Bureau Veritas Polska going?

TB: Since it’s been so many years, I can’t say otherwise than that it’s a very successful relationship. We decided to cooperate with Bureau Veritas because of their considerable experience. During all these years, Bureau Veritas has got to know us very well; thus, subsequent audits run very smoothly. It’s also beneficial business for both parties. We highly appreciate Bureau Veritas for the amount we gain in every audit. All their suggestions, recommendations and advice have helped us to improve processes within the integrated management system.

– Much has been said recently about the presence of plastic microfibres in bottled water. Is the water from the Krakow Waterworks free of these pollutants?

TB: Research carried out around the world has indeed shown the presence of microplastics in bottled water, also produced by leading global manufacturers. The Krakow Waterworks conducted pilot tests of water from its own intakes in this respect, and we did not find any plastic microfibres in our water. This is very good news for Krakow inhabitants. However, the risk exists and we can’t ignore it. It’s difficult to say how dangerous it is to health. Studies of the long-term impact of plastic on our health are just beginning. The accumulation of these elements in our bodies is of key importance, especially when they contain such dangerous compounds as bisphenol A. Some time ago, German scientists conducted research on the occurrence of plastic in German groundwater, rivers and lakes. The results surprised them; they didn’t expect plastic to be so omnipresent.

– Does it imply that microplastic fibres are common in German groundwater but in Polish not?

TB: I’m not saying that they don’t exist in Poland. I’m not sure if such research has been carried out here at all. They are not in the water which we supply to the inhabitants of Krakow. It seems to me that this may be due to the fact that plastic in single-use packaging began to be used on a mass scale much earlier in the West than in Poland and has had more time to run through ecosystems. We have to remember that even in the early 1990s, when we were fascinated with products from the West, their colourful packaging, we even saw bags as reusable products, carefully folding them until the next purchase. Today, everything has changed dramatically; we are literally flooded by plastic packaging and products. A lot depends on us, on whether we will be conscious consumers, choose organic products, limit plastic consumption in our daily lives, segregate waste and require manufacturers to limit the production of plastic packaging. It’ll be very difficult or impossible to eliminate the threat caused by plastic, but we are able to limit it. It’s worth trying because, as we see, promoting “good tap water” can significantly reduce the amount of waste, including plastic bottles.

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