Is UK tap water safe to drink? Yes, UK tap water is safe to drink. UK water quality is heavily regulated to ensure water is fit for human consumption, straight from your tap at home.
The UK has some of the best quality tap water in the world, yet there are multiple reasons why it’s not as good as the tap water from countries like Denmark, Iceland or Finland.
In this article, I’ll look more closely at the quality of tap water in the UK, and look at the various factors as to why some people refuse to drink it, instead opting for costly bottles of water.
I’ll also have a look at UK regulation, the areas of the UK that have hard water and why, and also look at how you can check, test and improve the taste of your tap water quickly and cheaply.
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Table of Contents
Is UK Tap Water Safe To Drink At Home?
Yes, your tap water at home is safe to consume, straight from your tap to your mouth.
However there’s a difference between a glass of water poured from a tap that is deemed safe to drink, and a glass of quality water. Testing your drinking water at home is one way of ensuring your tap water is up to the standard you expect for you and your family.
And depending on where you live in the UK, depends on your understanding of what I mean here, because not all water in the UK is equal, and not all water in the UK tastes or even smells the same.
In fact, you could probably visit each region in the UK, pour a pint glass of tap water from each region, and each glass of water would look slightly different, each glass of water would taste slightly different, and each glass of water would smell slightly different.
Test It Yourself (Visual)
Have you ever taken time to look at a glass of water you’ve just poured from your tap?
Try this at home:
- 1. Pour a glass of water from your tap.
- 2. Put the glass on a table or on the counter where a light source is directly behind it.
- 3. Look at the water in the glass from eye level.
- 4. Leave the glass of water still for 2 minutes.
- 5. Come back to the glass of water and look at it again at eye level.
- 6. Swill the water around the glass for 5 seconds.
- 7. Look at the water at eye level again.
Did you notice anything?
Did you notice the tiny particles that swirl around your glass of water?
And what did you notice after you left it still for 2 minutes?
The particles are gone, and now you’ve got a seemingly clear glass of water, haven’t you?
And then you swirled it around, and the particles were back wern’t they?
If you’ve seen the tiny particles swirling around in your glass of water, don’t worry.
It’s perfectly normal, and will be in an accepted legal range according to the DWI.
However, if you wish to test drinking water or test tap water yourself, it is easy and cheap to do so at home using home testing kits.
Who Are The DWI?
The DWI are the Drinking Water Inspectorate.
The DWI was formed in 1990 to provide independent oversight of water supplies, ensuring water quality is safe enough for consumers to drink.
They inspect, regulate and enforce actions on every water company in the UK, to ensure national regulations are met.
Water companies self regulate and self audit their water and procedures to an extent, but then the DWI will come in and audit the audit in independent assessements that take place on site of water plants, as well as within laboratories that test the water to confirm it meets regulatory requirements.
These regulations ensure that tap water is regularly tested and monitored for various contaminants, including bacteria, heavy metals, and chemicals.
These national regulations originally came from European law, based on World Health Organisation guidelines.
So What Are Those Particles I Can See In My Water?
The particles you see are probably calcium and magnesium carbonate.
These nutrients are good news in a nutritional sense, as both are very good for you and beneficial for general health.
However, when these nutrients go over a certain concentration, usually above 100 ppm (parts per million), your water can appear somewhat cloudy, and can have a slightly unpleasant smell and taste to it.
It’s the reason why most people will go and buy bottled water in their weekly shop – they much prefer a cleaner, purer taste to their water.
Whilst you can just about see these particles floating in your water, there are other things in your water you cannot see, namely, dissolved solids...
What Does Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Mean?
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is a term that refers to the measure of all inorganic and organic substances dissolved in water.
It represents the total concentration of dissolved solids, including minerals, salts, metals, ions, and other substances that are present in your home tap water.
In the UK, TDS is typically expressed in parts per million (ppm).
These dissolved solids can originate from various sources, such as natural minerals found in soil and rocks that rainwater passes through, industrial discharges, agricultural runoff (like on farms), and domestic wastewater treatment and preparation procedures.
They can include substances like calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulfates, nitrates, and carbonates, among others.
TDS levels are commonly used as an indicator of water quality.
- Low TDS = Better quality water
- High TDS = Lower quality water.
Here’s a table guide below to show you an outline of the various parameters of soft and hard water.
|Parts Per Million||Soft or Hard?|
|1000ppm>||Unsafe to drink|
High TDS levels may indicate contamination or excessive mineral content in water, while low TDS levels can suggest inadequate mineral content or a lack of essential nutrients.
Drinking water standards and guidelines set by regulatory bodies like the DWI define acceptable TDS ranges for tap water, which is currently set at 500ppm. Anything over 500ppm is usually considered unsafe to drink, and anything over 1000ppm represents a health hazard.
It’s important to note that TDS is a measure of the total dissolved substances in water and does not provide information about the specific individual substances present.
For detailed water quality analysis, additional tests may be required to identify the specific constituents contributing to the TDS. You can contact your local water utility provider for more information on this.
How Hard Is Your Water? (UK Map)
Is UK tap water safe to drink in every region of the UK?
Yes, it is, but like most things, quality changes based on geographical location.
Below is a map of the UK showing varying levels of water ‘hardness’.
Those living in the East, South East and Central England have some of the hardest water in the UK, and doing a test for TDS will result in high readings.
To improve the quality of your water, I recommend using bottled water, or buying an under sink tap water filter or at the very least, a water jug filter, which will result in a much improved taste to your tap water.
How Do I Test My Tap Water?
You may be wondering if it’s possible to test the quality of your tap water yourself at home.
The good news is that anyone can do test their home tap water by using products like TDS testers and water test strips.
How Do I Improve The Quality Of My Tap Water?
You can improve the quality of your tap water by using a tap water filter or a water filter jug.
A tap water filter is more expensive, but will do a more thorough job at filtering your water.
A water filter jug is inexpensive, but won’t do as thorough a job as a tap water filter will.
Whilst the UK enjoys some of the safest, best quality tap water in the world, there’s still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to tap water versus spring water or tap water versus bottled water.
For some people, the difference is night and day.
If you want to improve the quality of your tap water, you can of course opt for a tap water filter that fits under your sink, or the more basic option of using a water filter jug, to improve the taste, smell and enjoyment of your tap water.
Having a tap water filter or a water filter jug can be beneficial to your pocket eas well, as he need to constantly buy bottled water is heavily negated.
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