Drinking Water Quality In Different Countries & Cities: How To Know If Tap Water Is Safe To Drink

How To Research If Tap Water Is Safe To Drink In A Specific City Or Country

You may be interested in researching the quality of the tap/drinking water in a particular city or province/State, so you are aware of how safe it may be to consume.

In this guide, we outline how to research the drinking water quality in different cities, and drinking water standards in different countries.

 

(Note – this guide contain general information only, and not professional advice. See a suitably qualified professional for an expert opinion)

 

Summary – Tap/Drinking Water Quality 

  • Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between the fresh water supply quality in a lake or ground water aquifer for example, and the water that citizens actually end up drinking – these two are different
  • Between being extracted from a water source and delivered to homes via public supply pipes, water may be treated and purified at a water treatment facility
  • It’s possible the quality of the water may test to be average or poor at it’s source (at a lake for example), but treatment of that water at a freshwater treatment/filtration plant makes it safe to drink
  • Drinking water usually has to meet regulation or guidelines set out by a Drinking Water Act in a country or State/province (in developed countries at least)
  • But, different cities and countries have different regulations for their drinking water quality, and every city treats their drinking water differently
  • Different cities and regions within an individual country can therefore have different water quality – some may be adequate and some may be inadequate.
  • The results may also differ for both potable and non potable water
  • It’s possible to research these regulations and access official water treatment testing results for some cities. Some cities also issue water quality reports, or offer live results and measurements for their water quality on an official website
  • Some groups and individuals also choose to get independent testing done on a city or town’s piped water supplies – and, this testing may sometimes show different results. Tests are usually done by the water utility, or a State approved water testing laboratory organisation 

*Note – A qualified expert is the only person who can give a professional opinion on whether a water sample shows safe results, or whether water is safe to drink, consume or use. Additionally, people should make the decision to consume or use water at their own risk, and after doing their own due diligence

 

The Different Sources Of Fresh Water

Before water can be treated and delivered to homes, it has to be extracted from a fresh water source.

Read this guide for a list of the different sources of fresh water.

 

An Example Of How Tap Water Is Treated Before Delivery To Homes

One example of tap water treatment can be found in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Sydney’s water treatment process is (via sydneywater.com.au):

  • Water is collected from lakes and rivers
  • Water quality is measured by turbidity (the amount of suspended particles in the water) and other characteristics such as the amount of natural matter
  • Water is sent to plants to be filtered and treated
  • Secondary chlorination occurs, limiting the amount to 5 milligrams per litre for the water that people eventually drink
  • Water is delivered in pipes to homes
  • Water is monitored
  • Water quality is verified via further testing

 

Examples Of Drinking Water Standards & Guidelines, & Acts

A country or state/province should have drinking water standards and guidelines (or an Act) in place so the general public can know what the quality guidelines are for their drinking water supply.

Examples of drinking water standards/guidelines are:

 

Drinking Water Quality – Indexes & Reports 

A country, state/province, or city should have a website where you can monitor the drinking water quality either in real time, or yearly.

The website may tell you a number of measurements such as:

  • whether the water meets the safe drinking water guidelines
  • what % clean the water is
  • where the water quality ranks on an index, of say, 0-100
  • colour, taste and smell of the water
  • other factors such as clarity (turbidity), minerals and natural substances like iron and manganese, colour, pH, bacteria, such as E. coli, chlorine and fluoride levels, and contaminants like fuel and pesticides

Whatever measurements or indicators it uses, they should be a reflection of the quality of the water.

Examples of states that provide reports or indexes on water quality for their citizens are:

NSW, Australia

 

Melbourne, Australia

 

South Australia

 

Texas, United States

 

Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

 

How To Find Out The Drinking Water Quality In A City

Type into Google – ‘drinking water quality in [insert your state or city name here]’

You should be able to find an official government water quality reporting site, a water quality index, and other relevant water quality resources and information.

If you rely on third party assessments of tap water or drinking water, such as non government online resources, it is at your own risk.

Always refer to the official assessment of the water quality from a government or similar professional body first, and also do your own due diligence before consuming or using water in any region in any country around the world.

 

Differences Between Online Information Relating To Tap Water Quality, & Government Information

There can often be differences in information about water quality between online resources, and official government resources.

Just one example of this is with Latvian tap water:

  • We found at least one blog that mentioned Latvian tap water is clean and safe
  • BUT, an embassy for the republic of Latvia states ‘It is recommended not to drink water straight from the tap. The water should be boiled or filtered through a special water cleaner before drinking.’ (mfa.gov.lv)

 

Uncertainty With Drinking Water Quality In Some Places (… & Water Politics)

Some places have some level of uncertainty around whether the tap water is actually safe to drink there.

One example is Hungary – where the government might say tap water is safe, but some external organisations disagree (factors like lead pipes which might contaminate the water come into play):

Read more about the politics of drinking water here:

 

Independent Testing & Assessments Of Drinking Water Quality & Safety

What the government says is obviously the official status of drinking water quality in any one place.

But, through independent assessment and testing samples, some people and groups find water quality results that are different to the official reporting.

One example is in Jacksonville, Florida – where some activist groups allege chemicals found in the drinking/tap water there are linked to cancer, amongst other issues.

There is also some question though over whether these claims are made partially to strengthen the case to offer water purification [water filtering or even bottled water] services and products (firstcoastnews.com, and news.wjct.org)

Other sources like news.wjct.org provide information contrary to the activists’ claim about Jacksonville’s water supply, saying there are ‘no out of compliance tests’. They say ‘customers [can] find and fix unsafe water, by calling the utility out to test their pipes or have a state-certified lab test their water’.

 

Cities & Countries With The Best & Worst Drinking Water & Tap Water

Read more in this guide about the cities and countries with allegedly the best and worst drinking water and tap water supplies.

 

Home Water Purification

In some locales, some individuals choose to filter or purify water in their homes after it has come from public supply pipes.

Another option some people choose to pursue is generating drinking water from small atmospheric water generators.

 

Solutions To Improve Water Quality Related Problems

Read more in this guide for general solutions to improving water quality related problems.

 

Sources

1. https://www.epa.gov/sdwa 

2. https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/australian-drinking-water-guidelines#block-views-block-file-attachments-content-block-1

3. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/water-quality/drinking-water/canadian-drinking-water-guidelines.html 

4. http://www.sydneywater.com.au/SW/water-the-environment/how-we-manage-sydney-s-water/safe-drinking-water/daily-drinking-water-quality-report/index.htm

5. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/water/Pages/drinking-water-quality-and-incidents.aspx

6. https://bestlifeonline.com/countries-with-worst-tap-water/

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_politics

8. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/12/the-politics-of-drinking-water/384081/

9. http://hungarianfreepress.com/2017/08/09/the-dangers-and-politics-of-hungarian-drinking-water/

10. https://www.melbournewater.com.au/community-and-education/about-our-water/water-supply/water-quality

11. https://www.melbournewater.com.au/water/health-and-monitoring/drinking-water-quality

12. https://www.sawater.com.au/about-us/annual-reports/water-quality (tests % compliance for health related chemicals)

13. https://www.tceq.texas.gov/drinkingwater/drinking_wq.html

14. https://www.firstcoastnews.com/article/news/local/consumer/on-your-side/study-finds-chemicals-in-first-coast-drinking-water-linked-to-cancer-and-birth-defects/459676987

15. https://news.wjct.org/post/first-coast-connect-study-ranks-jacksonville-s-drinking-water-among-worst

16. https://news.wjct.org/post/first-coast-connect-jacksonville-s-water-safe-drink

17. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-sources-of-fresh-water-natural-man-made/

18. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/stockholm/faq-frequently-asked-questions#8

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