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LIFE IN SPAIN

Spain eyes free contraception for under-25s

Spain’s Ministry of Equality is considering offering people under the age of 25 free contraception as well as the possibility of women taking time off work when they have severe menstrual pain.

Spain eyes free contraception for under-25s
The average age Spanish women have children is at 31.1 years of age, the latest in Europe together with Italian mothers. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

Spain’s Secretary of State for Equality and the fight against Gender Violence Ángela Rodríguez wants to follow the example of France and offer those under 25 years of age free contraception. 

On January 1st 2022, French authorities started offering all women aged 18-25 the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. 

The scheme, which was already in place in the Gallic nation for under-18s, aims to ensure young women don’t stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

“One of the elements that we have to discuss is whether to finance free contraceptive elements for those under 25 years of age,” Rodríguez told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.

“It is important that we open up debate in our country about this,” she stressed, adding that France’s example was “very inspiring” and that such an initiative would be included in the battery of measures for the reform of Spain’s abortion law.

For Spain’s Secretary of State for Equality, there has to be “a little more co-responsibility” between men and women, although she has not clarified yet whether the scheme would make contraceptives such as condoms available for free to both male and female under-25s.

The Equality Ministry will need the backing of Finance Minister María Jesús Montero, who is reportedly likely to back the move.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

The average age Spanish women have children is at 31.1 years of age, the latest in Europe together with Italian mothers. 

Spain also has a lower rate of teenage pregnancies than other European countries, with only one in every fifty births corresponding to mothers under the age of 18.

READ ALSO: How the pandemic has made Spain’s birthrate drop to its lowest in 80 years

Equality Minister Irene Montero is currently spearheading Spain’s Abortion Law reform, with some of the standout measures being abortions being offered to women across all Spanish hospitals, dropping the age to 16 for which abortion in teens requires permission from parents and scrapping the required three days of reflexion before the intervention.   

One of the newer measures mentioned by Rodríguez on Cadena Ser is to also guarantee menstrual and reproductive health by ensuring women get sick leave due to severe menstrual pain.

“It’s a common sense measure. Many times strong periods produce serious medical conditions and this generates very uncomfortable situations at work”.

READ ALSO: Madrid raises age limit for women to have free IVF up to 45

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UNDERSTANDING SPAIN

Why does tap water taste strange in some parts of Spain?

If you live in Spain or spend time here, you've probably noticed that the tap water tastes pretty bad in some parts of the country. Why is that? And where in Spain is the best (and worst) tap water?

Why does tap water taste strange in some parts of Spain?

A common query of foreign tourists abroad is ‘can I drink the tap water here?’.

Often these kinds of instincts come from memories of over-protective parents on summer holidays, but fortunately for us it isn’t really a relevant one in Spain.

Despite what some overly cautious people might say, at least 99.5 percent of Spain’s water supply is safe to drink, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health.

In Spain there are over 1,200 dams and 100,000 kilometres of distribution network that supplies tap water across the country.

And it is heavily regulated and tested, experts say. According to the director general of the Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation (AEAS) Fernando Morcillo, “it [water] is the food product that passes the most controls.”

Spanish tap water is, simply put, perfectly safe to drink and heavily tested.

READ ALSO: Drought forces water use rethink in Spain

The taste

Reassuring though it is that Spanish tap water is entirely drinkable and regularly tested, it doesn’t change the fact that there can be great variation in the taste depending where exactly in the country you are. 

So, why does the tap water taste a little strange in some parts of Spain when it should be odourless and tasteless? 

Speaking in general terms, water is collected locally in dams and swamps, and then filtered, chlorinated, and transported to wherever it is going before coming out of our taps.

The local geography of this process – that is, not only where you live but where your water is collected and where it passes through on its way – can have a big impact on how it tastes at the other end.

Water treatment also contributes to making it a ‘heavy’ tap water with hints of chlorine, and when it comes to desalinated seawater, leftover magnesium and sodium are common.

If you ask many Spaniards, they’ll tell you that the tap water is ‘bad’ or worse on the coast.

Tap water in places like Valencia, Alicante and Málaga usually has a chemical odour and taste and many locals prefer bottled water.

Why is that? After the filtering process, water on the way to the coast can pick up more sediment and chemicals. The taste of tap water has a lot to do with the terrain it is collected in and the type of earth and rock it passes through on the way to your house.

Let’s take the tap water in Catalonia, for example, which comes from one of two main sources: the river Ter and the river Llobregat.

The Ter has low levels of contamination, but the Llobregat does not. Therefore, if you drink water somewhere on the banks of Llobregat, it will have more of a noticeable chemical flavour than water from the Lobregat. 

Many people who live in Madrid swear they have the best tap water in Spain. Although not quite the best in the country, Madrileños are right that it’s better than most and it comes down to where the water passes through.

Unlike in Catalonia, Madrid’s Sierra de Guadarrama has an advantage over other areas because the stone is mostly made up of granite, which better facilitates the filtration of minerals.

tap water safe spain

Despite what some overly cautious people might say, at least 99.5 percent of Spain’s water supply is safe to drink, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health. Photo: Kaboompics/Pixabay.

Where the predominant rock in the earth is more calcareous, it will generally taste worse, since limestone is soluble and produces a very ‘hard water’ that doesn’t taste as good. That’s why the tap water in areas such as Alicante, Valencia and Murcia has a worse flavour, plus the fact that they are all coastal areas.

Talking in very general terms, if you were to draw an imaginary line that ran from Andorra diagonally across Spain all the way down to Cádiz, the ‘soft’ or better tasting tap waters will be the north of the line and the ‘harder’ waters the south and east of the line.

There are some exceptions, of course, depending on local geography and filtration processes. 

The best and worst

Spain’s consumer watchdog, the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU), took samples of the tap water in 62 municipalities across Spain and had them analysed for their degree of mineralization and ‘hardness’, their hygienic quality, and level of possible contaminants. They then produced a report ranking the results

So, where in Spain has the best quality tap water and which has the worst?

The best

Despite what many Madrileños will tell you, Spain’s best tap water isn’t in Madrid. According to the OCU’s testing, the highest quality tap water in Spain was found in:

  • Burgos – Tap water in the northern Castile and León municipality had very few minerals, no lime no contaminants of any kind.
  • San Sebastián – Another northern area, San Sebastian in Basque Country has water with very light mineralization and is excellent in all hygiene and pollution parameters.
  • Las Palmas – Surprisingly, despite being on an island, Las Palmas de Canarias snuck into the top three.

Generally speaking, and as outlined above, the broader Levant coastal area, as well as the Spanish islands, are generally the areas where locals say the tap water isn’t quite as good.

The worst

And what about the worst?

  • Lebanza – In Lebanza, Palencia, the OCU found the presence of E. Coli, an indicator of fecal and recent contamination, and was generally found to have a very poor water quality.
  • Ciudad Real: Tap water in the Castilla-La-Mancha city had traces of trihalomethanes, a substance that comes from the combination of chlorine with the organic matter of water during water purification. 
  • Palma de Mallorca: Hardly surprising as it’s an island, but the water in Palma de Mallorca proved to very hard and very mineralized, which gives a bad taste. The most worrying thing, though, was that the OCU’s testing found that it contained 26 mg/litre of nitrates. Inside the stomach, nitrates are transformed into nitrites, which can cause serious health problems for children.
  • Barcelona, Huelva and Logroño: all cities on or close to the coast, the OCU found a high presence of aerobic microorganisms in the water in all three.
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