Tap water in London is among the best in the world in terms of quality. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always taste great and therefore Londoners have been mislead in recent years to believe that it’s unhealthy. The only known risks are lead from old pipes and microplastics. For anyone concerned about taste or these risks an affordable water filter can be a good option.
Here’s a factual overview of the tap water, bottled water and water in public places.
Tap water in London
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.
The main issues usually highlighted with water in London are:
A) It’s hard (high level of calcium and magnesium compounds), causing limescale
b) It may taste a bit like chlorine as it’s added to keep it free from being contaminated
c) Lead leeching from old pipes
d) Microplastics that have been found in over 80% of all tap water (and bottled water)
Some people don’t like the taste, but a high quality carbon filter such as TAPP 2 will remove the chlorine, lead and 80+ potential other contaminants, as well as reduce bad odor. Also, read about how to remove Microplastics from tap water.
There have been some 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.
What about the rest of the UK?
And if there’s an issue 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.
As a matter of fact the NHS recommends that only tap water (boiled) is used for baby formula.
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.
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 but mostly China, Indonesia and the Philippines. 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.
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. However, 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.
- 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 TAPP 2.
- Get a refillable bottle such as Retap 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.
Tap water: Todosobreelagua.com
Tap water inspection:
Londoners embarrassed to order tap water: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/content/bottled-vs-tap-water
Bottled vs tap water taste and quality:
Recycling in U.K.: http://www.bpf.co.uk/sustainability/plastics_recycling.aspx
Bottled water sales in the U.K.: http://www.britishbottledwater.org/vital-statistics.asp