It is well known that the intestinal availability of Ca from Ca-rich mineral waters is equivalent to that of milk Ca. However, the effect of associated anions on Ca urinary loss needs to be addressed. The aim of the current study was to compare, under ordinary conditions of consumption, milk and a SO4-rich mineral water as the Ca provider in a large number of subjects consuming the same quantity of Ca from the two sources in a crossover study lasting for an extended period. Thirty-seven healthy women completed a 12-week protocol, divided into four periods of 3 weeks (W). In the first (W1–3) and third (W6–9) periods, dietary Ca intake was restricted to 600 mg/d. In the second (W4–6) and final (W10–12) periods, either 400 ml/d medium-fat milk or 1 litre of a Ca- and SO4-rich mineral water, each providing about 480 mg Ca/d, was added to the diet in a random manner. Dietary evaluation, blood and urinary measures were performed during the last week (W6 and W12) of each Ca supplementation period. The urinary excretion of Ca was higher (0·5 mmol/d more) with water than with milk (P<0·001). An examination of all the dietary factors known to influence calciuria suggested that the acidogenic action of SO4 was responsible for this increased calciuria. Thus, despite an equal Ca intake and assuming an unchanged intestinal absorption, these results suggest that Ca balance is better with milk consumption than with CaSO4-rich water.