Can I drink tap water in London (and other parts of the UK)?

Can I drink tap water in London (and other parts of the UK)?

Is the tap water in London safe to drink? What are the most common tap water issues in London? Why does the tap water in London taste bad? What is the best filter for London tap water?

In this article we will explore all of these topics and why a water filter is a good alternative to bottled water and may improve your tap water in the London and the UK more generally. If you want a short answer then jump to the summary at the end.

Also lead our latest article with stats and facts about tap water in the UK.

Where does the tap water in London come from?

The tap water in London is mainly supplied by Thames Water. Out of this, 70% comes from reservoirs collected upstream from the River Thames. The other 30% comes from boreholes which bring up groundwater. Either source is clean tap water that is safe to drink and meets all the European water quality standards.

Is tap water in London safe to drink?

According to international water quality measures tap water in London is safe to drink. Generally this is true for most of the UK. Unfortunately, it doesn't always taste great and therefore many people have been mislead in recent years to believe that it's unhealthy. But there are also known risks with tap water including chlorine by-products, PFAS, microplastics and lead from old pipes.

old dirty pipe with corrosion

The main issues usually highlighted with water in London are:

A) It's hard water (high level of calcium and magnesium compounds), causing limescale 

B) Tastes chlorine as this is added to keep it free from being contaminated with bacteria

C) PFAS has been found in levels above what is considered safe to drink

D) Lead leaching and other contaminants from old pipes

E) Microplastics that have been found in over 80% of all tap water (and bottled water)

There have been many reports and concerns about pharmaceuticals in tap water, but the levels are far below anything that will impact humans. In addition to this, pharmaceuticals are also found in bottled water.

Read more in 13 myths about tap water

Make your London tap water drinkable

Thankfully it's easy to fix the taste and remove the most common contaminants. A high quality carbon filter such as PitcherPro or EcoPro will remove the chlorine, lead and 100+ potential other contaminants, as well as reduce bad odor. This includes all the issues highligted above.

Tap-water-pitcher-pro-new-3ce7170 copy

The PitcherPro glass jug by Tappwater has been recommende by both the BBC and the Telegraph

Another alternative is our tap water filters EcoPro and EcoPro Compact that deliver safe great tasting drinking water straight from the tap.

Tap water in the UK

Generally tap water in the UK is safe to drink unless your water provider tells you otherwise. To check on the quality of the water in your area visit this website.

If there's a known issue in your area you will find out. The water companies take over 1,000 samples every day to ensure that your tap water is safe. If any risk or issue is identified they will alert customers immediately.

NHS recommends that only tap water (boiled) and not bottled water is used for baby formula.

Bottled water in the UK

20 years ago bottled water consumption was limited to restaurant and coffee shops. Since then, bottled water consumption in the UK has increased from about 0.8 billion liters in 2000 to 3.2 billion in 2016 (sparkling water makes up 15%). In the meantime, the tap water quality has improved thanks to better filtering and monitoring technology.

The counter argument by the bottled water industry is that they are providing healthy mineral water. However, there is no scientific evidence that the small amounts of minerals that are usually of a similar amount to tap water are more healthy. In fact bottled water is most likely a considerably bigger health threat than tap water and maybe bottled water is slowly killing us.

But are we at least recycling?

Britons are pretty ok at recycling. 78% of plastic bottles were collected in 2016. But out of this less than 15% is recycled for new bottles and 2/3 of the recycled material was exported, without an audit trail of where it went. Most likely China, Indonesia and the Philippines but this is changing as countries are banning plastic imports. And this is only part of the issue. Manufacturing the bottles, transporting them, and the process of recycling also consumes unnecessary water and produces CO2 pollution.

Discover more reasons why you should drink tap water.

Is bottled water bad for your health? 

The biggest reason to avoid bottled water is that it may actually be bad for your health. Research in this space is limited but in the studies that have been carried out most bottled water have been found to contain hormone disrupters, BPA and phthalates. The concentrations are probably too small to impact adults but infants and pregnant women may be at risk. Bottled water is not the only issue of course. Vitamin water and sodas are equally bad for the environment. If you want flavour, then simply add some lemon or other fruit to the tap water.

Tap water in London: Public places, restaurants and bars

Several surveys have found that Brits find it embarrassing to ask for tap water in a restaurant or bar. Considering the environmental impact that it poses, people should be embarrassed and ashamed to ask for bottled water unless it's sparkling and served on a glass bottle, or locally filtered tap water. Some restaurants use a water filter systems such as reverse osmosis, water softeners, or activated carbon. Just ask. If you feel bad for not spending the extra 3-4 pounds on water then leave a nice extra tip instead.

Conclusion about tap water in London

  • Bottled water is one of the biggest food and health scams in recent history. It's a waste of money, our nature and it's not healthier.
  • Drink tap water at home and wherever you go.
  • If you don't like the taste of tap water, get a high quality water filter such as PitcherPro or EcoPro.
  • Get a refillable bottle and keep it filled up with fresh tap water.
  • Ask for tap water in restaurants and never feel ashamed about it.
  • Refuse bottled water whenever there's an option.

We want your feedback and opinion. Agree or disagree? Tell us! Are you looking for a water filter in London? See our guide with all the water filter options available in London.


London water:

Tap water inspection:

Water source by area:

Londoners embarrassed to order tap water:

Bottled vs tap water taste and quality:

Recycling in U.K.:

Recycling export:

Bottled water sales in the U.K.:

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