Whether you live in a city, or you’re travelling to a new one…
You may want to know the quality of the drinking water in a particular place to know how safe it is to consume.
In this guide, we outline drinking water standards in different countries, and how to check the drinking water quality in those places.
Freshwater Supply Quality vs The Water You Eventually Drink – There’s A Difference
Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between the fresh water supply quality in a particular place, and the water that citizens actually end up drinking.
It’s possible the quality of freshwater may test to be average or poor, but treatment of that water at a freshwater treatment plants and filtration locations may make it drinkable.
One example is in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia:
- 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 send 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
Read more at 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
Drinking Water Standards & Guidelines, & Acts
Secondly, a country or state/province should have drinking water standards and guidelines (or an Act) in place so the general public can know what to expect from their drinking water supply.
Examples of standards/guidelines are:
- United States Safe Drinking Water Act – https://www.epa.gov/sdwa
- Australian Drinking Water Guidelines – https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/australian-drinking-water-guidelines#block-views-block-file-attachments-content-block-1
- Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines – https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/water-quality/drinking-water/canadian-drinking-water-guidelines.html
Drinking Water Quality – Indexes & Reports From Different Countries, States/Provinces & Cities
Thirdly, 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 measurement or indicator it uses – it should tell you the quality of the water.
Examples of states that provide reports or indexes on water quality for their citizens are:
- https://www.sawater.com.au/about-us/annual-reports/water-quality (tests % compliance for health related chemicals)
Texas, United States
Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
How To Find Out The Drinking Water Quality In Your State/Province Or City
Type into Google – ‘drinking water quality in [insert your state or city name here]’
You should be able to find an official reporting site, an index or something similar.
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 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, some people and groups say the tap/drinking water may be unsafe for various reasons.
One example is in Jacksonville, Florida – where some activist groups say chemicals found in the drinking/tap water there is linked to cancer. This is of course unofficial and alleged.
Cities & Countries Where Tap Water Is Allegedly Unsafe To Drink
Some countries like Russia, the Ukraine, Brazil, China and others, have tap water which should probably be avoided, due to queries over how safe it is to consume.
A list of 25 countries where tap water might be unsafe to drink can be found at https://bestlifeonline.com/countries-with-worst-tap-water/
12. https://www.sawater.com.au/about-us/annual-reports/water-quality (tests % compliance for health related chemicals)