What's in UK Tap Water? 7 Facts

Water is an essential part of our daily lives. We rely on it for everything from drinking and cooking to cleaning and personal hygiene. But how often do we stop to think about the journey our water takes before it reaches our taps?

This article takes a deep dive into the UK's tap water. We'll explore where it comes from, how it's treated, and why it might sometimes look or taste different. Let's jump right in.

What's in UK tap water?

UK tap water contains a variety of minerals and chemicals that are used for maintaining its safety, taste, and health benefits. The most common minerals found in tap water are calcium and magnesium, which contribute to its hardness and offer health benefits such as bone strength. Sodium is also present in small volumes to maintain the body’s fluid balance. The water may also contain trace amounts of iron, manganese, and lead, originating from the soil or old pipes.

Chemically, chlorine is added to the water as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. Fluorides, which can occur naturally, are also added intentionally in some areas of the UK to help improve dental health. Nitrates and nitrites might be present from agricultural run-off, but their levels are strictly regulated to ensure safety.

Each chemical or mineral intentionally added serves a specific purpose, either to enhance the health benefits of the water or to ensure its safety by eliminating harmful bacteria or pathogens. Despite the presence of minerals and chemicals, the water from your tap is safe to drink thanks to rigorous testing and regulations, unless, on the rare occasion, your authority tells you otherwise (as happened in Devon recently).

Tap water facts

1. Almost all of the tap water in the UK uses chemical disinfection

In the UK, tap water is treated with a chemical disinfectant to ensure it is safe and ready for public consumption. This process involves purposely adding chemicals such as chlorine or phosphoric acid to kill harmful bacteria and other pathogens, reduce the levels of harmful metals like lead and filter chemicals like pesticides. Environmental health bodies (including the Drinking Water Inspectorate) regularly test tap water to confirm that it is safe for drinking.

Chemical disinfection is also used abroad. However, countries may use different techniques according to their geography and environment. For example, Germany and Italy use ozone or chlorine dioxide as their primary disinfectant. At the end of the day, chemical disinfection can make tap water safe and healthy, and that shouldn't be taken for granted. In 2019, 1 in 3 people globally did not have access to safe drinking water.

2. Limescale is common in tap water from areas with hard water

Living in an area with hard water can be a headache for many UK residents (check if you're one of them here). One of the most frustrating manifestations of hard water is limescale – mineral deposits that are left behind when hard water evaporates. Limescale is easily recognisable, often appearing as white or yellowish crusty patches on bathroom fixtures, dishwashers, and other appliances that come into contact with tap water.

While limescale itself isn't a health hazard, it can cause corrosion of your household appliances and make them harder to clean over time. To minimise the buildup of limescale and protect your appliances from damage caused by its formation, invest in a good quality filter for your taps and periodically descale your appliances using citric acid (lemon) or vinegar. We've written an article on tap maintenance that includes a discussion about limescale - you can read that here.

3. Scotland was found to have the best-tasting tap water in the UK

The folks in Scotland have the bragging rights for having the best tap water in the UK (and the world!). That's right - the tap water of each country has been tested and it turns out Scottish tap water comes out on top. Scottish Water, the supplier of most of the tap water across Scotland, is strict about its water standards, drawing from a wide variety of reservoirs and rivers to supply the good Scottish people.

4. Only 1% of homes don't receive a public supply of tap water

In 2019, the UK government reported that, in England, 99% of homes have access to safe tap water. The remaining 1% live in hard-to-reach places, and use private water supplies such as a well, spring or borehole on private land to access water. Thankfully, this figure is low compared to the global average and has been shrinking ever since the industrial revolution.

5. 99.97% of tap water samples pass the UK's quality standards

Drinking water in the UK is among the safest in the world, according to the Drinking Water Inspectorate. Their latest figures on public water supplies show that 99.97% of samples complied with the high standards set by the UK government, making it one of only six nations in the world with the maximum score possible in the 2022 Environmental Performance Index.

With these standards being regularly monitored and updated - we can enjoy access to some of Europe's cleanest drinking sources in both rural and urban parts of Britain.

6. The average annual water bill for a UK home is £448

The cost of water bills in the UK can shock some, especially as the average annual charge of £448 is higher than in many other countries in Western Europe. Such a price tag covers essential services like water supply and wastewater, as well as other amenities like maintaining the country's extensive network of sewers.

7. Calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphate are all found in tap water

Tap water in the United Kingdom might not be something people think of when they talk about essential compounds, minerals and elements. Still, in reality, tap water contains some essential substances. Calcium, magnesium, sodium and sulphate are all regularly found in tap water in the UK (although in varying levels from supplier to supplier) – each of these elements plays an important role in human health.

Tap water FAQs

Read answers to common questions about the water from your tap.

Where does tap water come from?

Tap water is an essential part of day-to-day living, used for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and more. But where does it come from? Tap water originates from a variety of sources. Most large towns and cities have dedicated water supply systems that draw from nearby rivers, lakes, or groundwater sources. This kind of collection is then treated at facilities to ensure its safety and purity before it is distributed throughout the town or city.

In the UK, water companies are responsible for making sure that the water is safe and fit for purpose. Every year, these companies must produce an Annual Water Quality Report where they detail where the water has come from and what it contains. These reports are available publicly and can help you understand where your tap water comes from.

Is tap water safe to drink in the UK?

Yes, tap water in the United Kingdom is safe to drink. The UK's water supply is among the safest worldwide, with strict regulations in place to maintain its quality. The water is routinely tested and regulated to ensure it is fit for human consumption. Some might notice a faint smell of chlorine, which is used in small, safe amounts to disinfect the water.

Despite regional differences in hardness, particularly in the southern part of the UK, these variations do not affect the water's safety. So, unless notified otherwise by your water provider, you can drink UK tap water with confidence.

Is tap water bad for you?

No, tap water in the UK is not bad for you. The water here undergoes rigorous, regular testing and treatment processes that ensure it is fit for consumption. It's treated with safe levels of chlorine for disinfection, and any trace amounts of metals or bacteria are typically minuscule and not harmful. Furthermore, tap water contains essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and sulphate, which are beneficial for health. Therefore, you can drink UK tap water without any concerns, unless advised otherwise by your water provider.

The government recommends you drink 6-8 glasses of water per day - so drink up!

How does tap water reach your home?

Tap water in the United Kingdom reaches your home through a complex system of pipes and treatment facilities. The journey begins with the collection of water from various sources such as rivers, reservoirs, or underground wells across the UK. This water is then transported to water treatment plants where it undergoes rigorous purification and disinfection processes to ensure it's safe for consumption.

Once treated, the water is then distributed to households through an extensive network of water mains. Depending on the geographical layout and elevation, this water is either pumped or flows naturally due to gravity towards homes and businesses. Upon reaching your property, the water travels through a service pipe, typically ¾ inches or larger, which leads into your home and eventually to your tap.

While the exact process can vary based on local infrastructure and water source, every step is carefully monitored and regulated by the Drinking Water Inspectorate in the UK to ensure that the water reaching your tap is clean and safe to drink.

Why is my tap water cloudy?

Seeing cloudy water coming out of your tap can be a bit alarming. If you're wondering why this is happening, the answer could be due to changes in the piping system or some type of sediment buildup. Too much air may have recently been released from the pipes and, when combined with the pressure of flowing water, creates tiny bubbles. Or it could mean that some minerals have been dissolved in the water during its flow, creating a milky appearance.

The best way to find out if it's just air bubbles is to sit a glass of cloudy water down and wait a minute. If the water clears, it is just air. If it's still murky, you should contact your local water supplier to inform them.

Is tap water good for you?

Yes, drinking tap water is good for you and contributes to good health. Staying adequately hydrated keeps your body functioning in many ways, including:

  • Digestion
  • Maintaining healthy skin
  • Lubricating the joints
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Circulating nutrients throughout the body
  • Excreting waste
  • Facilitating nutrient absorption

What's more, staying hydrated can improve concentration, energy levels, and even mood.


Tap water is a precious resource that plays an important role in all of our lives. From collecting to treating the water to transporting it to our homes, much effort is made to keep the UK's tap water clean, safe and healthy. However, if you want an upgrade from tap water, our Quantum 4-in-1 and Platinum 4-in-1 taps both come with an advanced filter designed to remove lingering impurities and unwanted minerals from tap water, giving you crystal-clear, chilled, filtered water straight from your tap.

Plus, enjoy instant boiling water at the turn of a handle. Find out more about how a boiling water tap works.

4 litre Tank Specification
Capacity: 4 ltrs
Width: 197 mm
Depth: 299.5 mm
Height: 272.5 mm
2.4 Litre Tank Specification
Capacity: 2.4 ltrs
Width: 188 mm
Depth: 188 mm
Height: 262 mm