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Why there might soon be a little less calcium in Copenhagen’s tap water

Copenhagers, rejoice—within the year, much of the city will have softer water.

water coming out of a faucet
Copenhagen residents may be pleased to hear the city's water is going to get a bit softer. Photo by Imani on Unsplash

Denmark has lagged behind its neighbours in addressing high concentrations of calcium—kalk in Danish—in its tap water, leaving residents to filter and scrape limescale on their end of the pipe.

But Hofor, the company that provides drinking water for all of Copenhagen and several of its surrounding municipalities, has finally released a schedule for rolling out centralised filtration.

Currently, Copenhagen’s city water ranks 17-25°dH on the water hardness scale, according to Hofor.

For reference, the US Geological Survey’s classifications are as follows: 0-3.37 °dH is soft, 3.38-6.7°dH is moderately hard, 6.75-10.11°dH is hard and anything over 10.12 °dH is very hard.

Hofor’s plan is to soften all water it supplies to Copenhagen residents by 2028, the company says.

The first neighbourhoods to experience a noticeable change will be Nordvest, Indre By, Østerbro, and Herlev as their water drops to 12-16 °dH this fall. These regions are primarily serviced by the Søndersø waterworks in Værløse, the site of Hofor’s new softening plant.

Valby, Vanløse, Brønshøj and Nørrebro will also see a difference this year, to the tune of 16-20 °dH—it’s less of a jump for these neighbourhoods since Søndersø provides a smaller percentage of their water. Vesterbro, Sydavnen and Amager will have to wait until at least 2024, according to Hofor’s schedule.

What will change?

The taste of a cup of Copenhagen vand (water) won’t change, but what should residents expect from softer water?

‘Hard’ water is hard on hair and skin, so you may feel both more supple and less dry after showers. Residents of Brøndby, where Hofor tested its first softening operation on a smaller scale, reduced their use of detergent by about a third and found cleaning easier and less time-consuming, Danish newspaper Politiken reports.

While most Copenhagen residents will likely be pleased with the shift, a surprising demographic is sounding alarm bells—dentists. Tandlægebladet, a trade magazine for Danish dentists, wrote that plans to soften water could lead to more cavities for Copenhageners. The magazine pointed to a 2004 study of 52,000 Danish 15-year-olds and found significantly fewer cavities in municipalities with harder drinking water, the article said.

What if it’s still too hard?

If you’re not satisfied with Hofor’s target water hardness for your area, there are commercially available systems to filter your home’s entire water supply—though they cost a pretty penny.

A more budget-friendly option is a shower filter, which should at least reduce hard water symptoms like lifeless hair and dandruff.

In January, a group of presumably itchy Copenhagen residents pitched in on a bulk order of shower filters from Germany, ordering over 200 filters direct from the manufacturer according to a post in the 59,000-member Facebook group “Expats in Copenhagen” by the group’s organiser.

Others swear by applying apple cider vinegar on the scalp after a shower.

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How will Denmark’s health reform change country’s health services?

Junior doctors will spend more time in general practice during their training and 25 new local hospitals will be opened under a new health sector reform announced on Friday.

How will Denmark's health reform change country’s health services?

An agreement for the reform was presented by the government on Friday with the backing of a parliamentary majority.

The deal had been delayed with the Covid-19 crisis among the obstacles which drew out its completion.

It provides for 6.8 billion kroner of spending on the Danish health service over the next eight years, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told media on Friday.

“We have an agreement for a health reform that will support local health services. Many parties are with us. (The deal) could not have broader support,” he said.

Parties on both sides of Denmark’s political aisle are in agreement over the deal, with Martin Geertsen, health spokesperson with the opposition Liberal (Venstre) party, calling it “a good little deal”.

“Does this agreement solve all the challenges faced by the Danish health service going forward? No. Certainly not. It’s a good little deal. It’s a step in the right direction,” Geertsen said.

The health spokesperson with the left-wing party Red Green Alliance, Peder Hvelplund, likewise characterised the reform as a small but positive step that does not solve all of the problems within the health system currently.

In an earlier version of the deal, proposed by the governing Social Democrats, up to 20 local hospitals – around the size of extended, large health centres – were proposed. The location of the centres that will be opened or built under the reform is not clear at the current time.

The new, local centres could potentially be located in former hospital premises.

The government also proposed a form of compulsory service which junior doctors would have to complete as part of their training, involving working for an experience GP. This will be undertaken as part of doctors’ studies under the terms of the reform.

This means that young doctors will spend an extra six months working at GP surgeries and spend less time at hospitals.

Earlier health proposals by the government related to additional restrictions on tobacco and alcohol sales do not form part of the agreement announced on Friday.

Negotiations over those proposals will take place separately, Heunicke said.

“Next week we will open negotiations on the remaining elements relating to prevention (of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption). It was the right thing to do to split things up because we got this broadly-supported agreement,” he said.