What's in Your Tap Water?
Most of us are unaware that the water we use for drinking, cooking, and showering could contain hidden nasties. With an increasing number of people concerned about personal health and well-being, it's essential to know what is in our tap water. This blog post will look at the seven key facts everyone should be aware of when it comes to UK tap water - from potential contaminants like lead and bacteria to how suppliers ensure supplies remain safe. By educating yourself on what you consume daily and the measures you can take today - you can guarantee your family access to clean and healthy drinking water.
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 actually 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.
How does tap water reach your home?
Many of us take clean and safe drinking water for granted, but did you know that it takes a lot of hard work from professionals in the utility field to deliver water to your home? Tap water starts its journey within surface and ground waters before it is purified through a combination of filtration, disinfection and other processes. After testing for quality and safety, it is sent to the reservoirs or storage tanks which pressurize it to move towards your home. Water delivery becomes possible through pipelines, valves, junction boxes and meters.
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 ultraviolet light to remove potentially harmful contaminants. Environmental health bodies regularly test tap water in the UK 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. Ultimately, chemical disinfection makes the world's tap water a much safer and healthier option than many other sources of liquid refreshment.
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. One of the most frustrating manifestations of hard water is limescale – mineral deposits that form when hard water evaporates. Limescale is easily recognizable, often appearing as white or yellowish spots on bathroom fixtures, dishwashers, and other appliances that come into contact with tap water.
While limescale itself isn't a health hazard, it can decrease the efficiency 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 washing machine using citric acid or vinegar.
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. That's right - the different tap waters of the British Isles have been tested and it has been determined that Scottish tap water is tops. And Scotland has a good reason to be proud; with its commitment to protecting and maintaining checkups on the quality of its water, it's no surprise that Scotland comes out on top as the source of the best-tasting tap water in the United Kingdom.
4. Only 30,000 UK homes aren't connected to mains water
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the UK has made tremendous strides in ensuring that every home has access to clean drinking water. Although it is a developed country, only 30,000 homes remain which are not connected to mains water. Thanks to significant investment and public awareness campaigns over the past few decades, this number is small compared to what it used to be. It is also thanks to initiatives such as hosepipe bans and updated plumbing systems ensuring water is distributed evenly throughout the country. For hard-to-reach locations, improvements in delivery systems have made it possible for almost everyone in the UK to access clean water with relative ease.
5. 99.96% of tap water meets 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 99.96% meet the drinking water standards set by the UK government, making it one of the best countries for ensuring drinkable water quality. This is a testament to both improved treatment methods, better management processes and rigorous testing procedures that have been put in place to ensure tap water is suitable for consumption. 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 £419
The cost of water bills in the UK can shock some, especially as the average annual charge of £419 is higher than in many other European countries. 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. For example, teams of experts must regularly manage excess water buildup to minimize flooding incidents, which means that people in the UK can depend on a reliable drainage and waste removal system.
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 found in tap water in the UK – each of these elements plays an important role in human health.
Calcium is important for healthy bones and teeth, while magnesium helps muscles and nerves work properly; sodium helps keep fluids balanced throughout the body, and sulphate can help create healthy digestive enzymes. All these components together ensure that UK citizens have clean, safe access to the vitamins and other vital compounds that their bodies need.
Tap vs filtered vs bottled water
Tap water is any water from a public source such as a city reservoir, lake or river. It has been treated with chemicals like chlorine to make it safe for drinking. However, it can contain small amounts of contaminants, such as metals or bacteria, which can have a minor effect on taste and odour.
On the other hand, filtered water involves using a filter such as a pitcher filter or reverse osmosis system to remove contaminants from a tap or well water. This type of filtration can effectively remove harmful pollutants while preserving beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium. The downside is that these systems can be expensive and require periodic maintenance to keep them functioning properly. Additionally, they tend to reduce the flow rate, so it takes longer to fill up a glass than regular tap water.
Bottled water typically comes from natural springs or underground sources like aquifers and contains fewer contaminants than tap or filtered water since it has not been exposed to environmental pollution. It also tastes better since it does not contain added chemicals like chlorine used in tap water treatment processes. On the other hand, bottled water can be expensive and often contains plastic containers that are bad for the environment if not recycled properly.
Tap water FAQs
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 strange phenomenon is occurring, 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.
In some cases, the cloudiness could be caused by pollutants or microorganisms in the water before it even reaches your home. The solution is to determine whether there are significant contaminants present that need to be addressed by your utility department or if they can simply be fixed by allowing air to escape from pipes at home.
Is tap water safe to drink?
Many people are unsure about the safety of drinking tap water due to pollution in rivers and underground sources. However, municipal water supplies are heavily monitored to ensure that no potential contaminants are present and that any pollutants are within safe limits. While there could be small amounts of microorganisms and chemicals in some water sources, they typically exist in low concentrations to not cause any health problems.
Cleaning the filter regularly is a great way to ensure the tap water remains potable. Ultimately, while it's always wise to consider opting for bottled water if unsure, drinking properly-treated tap water is usually considered safe and can be an easy way to improve overall health by increasing hydration.
Understanding where tap water comes from, what it contains, and why our tap water might look or taste funny can help us make better decisions about where we get our drinking water. Tap, filtered, and bottled water all have pros and cons depending on what is important to the individual. Ultimately, with proper filtration, good maintenance of pipes and plumbing, and adequate monitoring of pollutants, tap water can provide a safe, healthy source of drinking water for homes and businesses.
Our 4-in-1 taps come with an advanced filter designed to remove impurities and unwanted minerals from tap water, giving you crystal-clear filtered water straight from your tap. Find out more about how a boiling water tap works.