Reykjavik Excursions Blog
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The Hot Water in Iceland

Majority of households in Iceland use geothermal water

22/1/2018 Blog

Those staying in Iceland might have noticed a foul smell when they turned the shower on, a smell that resembles rotten eggs. You can find many stories online from tourists calling maintenance because they thought something was wrong with the plumbing. However, it is just the smell of the hot water in Iceland.

Boreholes in Reykjavík

Majority of households in Iceland use geothermal water. The water we use in our homes, hotels and guesthouses is both water that has been directly pumped from the boreholes and water that has been used in power plants to produce electricity. In fact, you will be able to see boreholes in Reykjavík, near Nordica, for example. 

The nearby Laugardalur outdoor area has geothermal pools that were a used by women and others to wash clothes in the days before washing machines and district heating.The source of the smell is sulphur dioxide, and even though sulphurous gas is considered toxic, the water is not. It is just not recommended for drinking. Sulphur dioxide along with hydrogen fluoride is the reason most domestic animals and a quarter of Icelanders died during the Laki eruption in the late 18th century.

Hot Water is Not Always Geothermal

Not all places in Iceland use geothermal water for heating though. In some areas, like the Reykjanes Peninsula, heated ground water is used. In those places, you can consume the hot water and use it in food and drink, but in Reykjavík, it is not recommended. You will also notice that the water in Iceland is very soft. It can sometimes feel like you cannot dry yourself after a shower for example, but the reason is all the minerals in the water since it has trickled through basalt lava. Probably the best thing about having geothermal water is the renewable energy and the abundance of swimming pools around the island. Additionally, there are quite a few hot springs people can bathe in like Landmannalaugar, The Secret Lagoon and Kerlingafjöll. The downside is the smell. For most Icelanders, it is just the smell of the water, but when it is strong, it really does smell bad.

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