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Is it safe to drink tap water in London?

The UK is lucky to have access to a bountiful water supply, and whilst many don’t think twice about drinking it, others are more cautious, preferring to opt for a bottle of Evian instead.

We enter the debate of bottled water vs. London’s tap water.

The water source

80%1 of our water in London comes from storage reservoirs connected to the Thames and its tributary, the River Lea, so a proportion of the flow is from sewage treatment works – but bear with us!

Public water is under the control of the Drinking Water Inspectorate, which subjects tap water to far greater bio surveillance and controls than the bottled water industry must adhere to, with Thames Water carrying out half a million tests on drinking water samples before it even makes its way to our kitchen taps.

Besides, 30% of bottled water sold in UK supermarkets is reprocessed tap water anyway.

In fact, researchers tested water from 1,000 bottles under 103 brand names in a past study, before concluding that ‘one cannot assume on faith, simply because one is buying water in a bottle, that the water is of any higher chemical quality than tap water’.

The environmental burden of bottled water

Imported water brands have 300 times more carbon emissions per litre than tap water.

And as for those bottles… Well, it takes a whopping 162g of oil and seven litres of water to manufacture a single one-litre bottle. And whilst recycling rates in the UK are improving, three in every four bottles still end up in landfill, resulting in 14 billion bottles becoming nothing more than waste every single year.

So, in conclusion, it’s perfectly safe to drink tap water – plus it’s more energy efficient.

The only time you should avoid drinking from the tap is if it starts to produce smelly or unclear water. If this does occur, please contact your water company for advice, or call 020 7350 2511 if your plumbing appears to be the cause of the problem. Click here for more details.


1 The Guardian, 2011. Drinking water on tap: how safe is it?. [Online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/sep/25/drinking-water-tap-how-safe. [Accessed 4th February 2015].

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