Mineral Waters of Hungary

When we speak of natural mineral waters Hungarian natural resources are outstanding in the world to say the least. The basis of all these properties is the tectonic structure, the geological environment of Hungary.

The basin-like character of our homeland as well as its special Palaeozoic development lasting many millions of years made the build-up of a sedimentary rock-mass some few kilometres thick. Most of these rocks are capable of storing a significant amount of natural water. Practically there is no part of the country – apart from the hilly regions and highlands – where there are no formations with good aquifer characters under the surface.

Both for Drinking and Bathing

Thanks to its geological resources, Hungary also has an outstanding potential for utilizing thermal springs. The crustal within the borders of the country is relatively thin it is altogether 23-27 km thick. As a result the temperature rise associated with depth increase, i.e. the geothermic gradient is of outstandingly high value. The average of this globally is an increase of 30 °C/1000 m while within the confines of the Hungarian basin it is 50 °C/1000 m. The wide spread geothermic anomaly in the Carpathian Basin is unique in Europe and considering its spread and value it is considered to be one of a kind in the whole world as well.

Looking back in history there is no definite borderline between medical and mineral waters. The separation of these two had started only in the second half of the 20th century. The borderline between medical and mineral waters on the one hand and mineral waters and other waters on the other hand in Hungary were finalized by the 16th paragraph of the Bath Act passed in 1929. According to it every litre of mineral water must contain at least 1000 mg of solid ingredients dissolved from the minerals while filtering through the surface soil.

In previous times the requirements in case of waters for drinking were mostly to prevent and cure digestive discomforts while nowadays the biological need for water is becoming the top priority. This change is reflected in the mineral content requirements of mineral waters as well. The impact is that we consume natural mineral waters with low mineral content in an increasing quantity.

Waters for drinking are consumed either during so-called drinking cures or from bottles sold. It is to be mentioned though, that in places like Transylvania masses of people still collect “wine waters” at public wells for their own consumption. There are prime examples of this within the current borders of Hungary as well, for example Balatonfüred where – amongst others – the water of the Kossuth spring is used by the locals

When we speak of waters for human consumption we have to distinguish between different categories like natural mineral water, well water, medical water and drinking water. Each of these is regulated by acts and regulations which must be obeyed by the bottlers and distributors.

Natural Mineral Water

By virtue of legal regulations, the definition of natural mineral water is as follows: a kind of water which is – in its natural form – intended for human consumption and officially recognized as a result of a specified procedure. It must have favourable effects health-wise thanks to its mineral and trace element content as well as its other components. It can thus clearly be distinguished from drinking water. A further important provision is that it must originate from a secure aquifer layer, has to be originally pure without any contamination and its composition and temperature should be nearly constant.

Spring Water

Originally spring water marked a water reserve where water gushed forth from deep down but it means something else regarding regulations. The exact definition of spring water had been controversial within professional communities specializing in mineral waters, but it became unequivocal with the regulation that came into effect with Hungarian membership in the European Union. Spring water originates in deep layers, it is bottled locally, its parameters at its place of origin must parallel the specifications of drinking water regulation and it has to be handled the same as mineral waters. The use of carbon dioxide as an additive is allowed while the iron and sulphur content has to be extracted from it. It must be of constant composition and it has to match the microbiological specifications, too. Nevertheless, it does not have to be recognized nor does it have to originate from a protected aquifer layer.

Medical Water

Popularly it is believed that medical waters are the warm waters of thermal baths. In fact medical waters can be either cold or warm, and they are both for bathing and drinking. If we want to put it simply we can say that medical water is a mineral water which has a proven medical effect. The main types of medical waters are waters with common salt content (e.g. Sárvár, Parád), with iodine (e.g. Hajdúszoboszló, Bükkszék), the earthy calcareous water (e.g. Bükfürdő, Budapest), sulphurous water (e.g. Harkány, Balf), carbonated (e.g. Balatonfüred, Kékkút) and with radon content (e.g. Hévíz, Eger).

Tap water

This is water which is either spring water, water coming from below the earth or is collected on the surface prepared, i.e. filtered and cleaned before letting it into the pipes. Its quality parallels the limit values by definition of law. . In order to provide the consumers with tap water paralleling provisions in force, the water service companies use different water treatment technologies, if needed. The quality is continuously controlled.

Soda Water

Carbonated or soda water is simply a drinking water saturated with carbonic acid, enriched with carbon dioxide and unobjectionable from bacteriological and chemical aspects. It is distributed in soda water siphons. This kind of water is produced by many in Hungary: there are 1.500 soda water plants and thus it is not surprising that an increasing number of people think that soda water is a “Hungaricum”. Many assume that soda water was invented by Ányos Jedlik, a teacher at the Benedictine secondary school in Győr. The scientist got seriously engaged in the project of working out the industrial production scheme of soda water and artificial mineral water in Hungary between 1828 and 29, which had been already used by physicist in Geneva since 1798. His merit in fact was that he found the solution all by himself without any outside help solely by relying on his inclination to experiment. He invented a machine which made saturation with carbon dioxide cheap. The medical professor’s friends made him utilize this procedure not for the sake of earning but because the patients in the hospital were grateful for the refreshing soda water, the artificial medical water. Soon the doctors’ veracity had been proved: a cholera epidemic swept through the country in 1831-32 and soda water – which did not diffuse the infection – brought relief and ease to those suffering. The professor realized another important thing later on: he racked the saturated water, i.e. the soda water through the pipe reaching the bottom of the vessel thus avoiding the loss of carbon dioxide due to the contact with air and also to the collision of water particles.