1. To assess whether the mineral content of drinking water influences both risk of stone formation and bone metabolism in idiopathic calcium nephrolithiasis, 21 patients were switched from their usual home diets to a 10 mmol calcium, low-oxalate, protein-controlled diet, supplemented with 21 of three different types of mineral water. Drinking water added 1, 6 and 20 mmol of calcium and 0.5, 10 and 50 mmol of bicarbonate respectively to the controlled diet. 2. The three controlled study periods lasted 1 month each and were separated by a 20 day washout interval. Blood and urine chemistries, including intact parathyroid hormone, calcitriol and two markers of bone resorption, were performed at the end of each study period. The stone-forming risk was assessed by calculating urine saturation with calcium oxalate (beta CaOx), calcium phosphate (beta bsh) and uric acid (beta UA). 3. The addition of any mineral water produced the expected increase in urine output and was associated with similar decreases in beta CaOx and beta UA, whereas beta bsh varied marginally. These equal decreases in beta CaOx, however, resulted from peculiar changes in calcium, oxalate and citrate excretion during each study period. The increase in overall calcium intake due to different drinking water induced modest increases in calcium excretion, whereas oxalate excretion tended to decrease. The changes in oxalate excretion during any one study period compared with another were significantly related to those in calcium intake. Citrate excretion was significantly higher with the high-calcium, alkaline water. 4. Parathyroid hormone, calcitriol and markers of bone resorption increased when patients were changed from the high-calcium, alkaline to the low-calcium drinking water. 5. We suggest that overall calcium intake may be tailored by supplying calcium in drinking water. Adverse effects on bone turnover with low-calcium diets can be prevented by giving high-calcium, alkaline drinking water, and the stone-forming risk can be decreased as effectively as with low-calcium drinking water.