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Is it safe to drink tap water in Australia?

Is it safe to drink tap water?

Australia has one of the strictest drinking water regulatory systems in the world, with over 250 guidelines in place to ensure that tap water is safe to drink. The guidelines are set by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and are enforced by state and territory governments. The guidelines cover all aspects of drinking water management, including treatment, disinfection, monitoring, and reporting.

Despite the high standards, some people may choose to use water filters to improve the taste and odour of their tap water. Water filters can also remove some of the contaminants that may be present in the water supply, although this is usually not necessary as tap water is generally safe to drink.

It is important to note that in the rare event that contamination occurs, water utility companies are required to notify the public of the potential risks and suggest alternative ways to get drinking water. This may include providing bottled water or advising residents to boil their tap water before use. It is also recommended that anyone who is concerned about the quality of their tap water contact their local water supplier or council for a water quality report.

What defines safe drinking water?

According to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG), safe drinking water is a supply that does not exceed pre-defined levels of specific pollutants such as heavy metals, nitrates and pathogens, making it safe for human consumption. The Public Health Act 2010 calls on all drinking water suppliers to carry out quality assurance tests on a routine basis. If you want information on the quality of your local drinking water, you can request the water testing results.

These tests are designed to identify any contaminants in the water and ensure that it meets the ADWG standards. Water suppliers must also report any breaches of these standards to the relevant health authority.

In addition to routine testing, water suppliers are required to have emergency response plans in place to manage any incidents that may affect the safety of the water supply. This includes procedures for responding to natural disasters, contamination events, and other emergencies that may impact the water supply.

Consumers can also take steps to ensure the safety of their drinking water, such as regularly cleaning and maintaining their water filters, especially if they are using a private water supply. It is also important to store and handle water properly to avoid contamination.

Overall, the stringent regulations and guidelines in place ensure that Australians can have confidence in the safety and quality of their drinking water.

Where does drinking water come from in Australia?

Australian drinking water comes from three sources:

1. Surface water:

Rain water and snow which gathers into lakes and rivers

2. Groundwater:

Rainwater and snow which seeps through the earth into underground aquifers

3. The ocean:

Sea water must undergo a process call desalination which removes the salt from the water, making it safe to drink.

Learn more about Australian water sources.


How to purify water

1.Activated carbon filters:

These filters remove a wide range of contaminants which out the need for electricity or a high degree of water pressure.

2.Reverse osmosis:

Water passes through a very fine filter which larger molecules such as viruses and heavy metals cannot pass though. Strong water pressure is needed for this method of lead removal as the water needs to be forced through the filter.

3. Distillation:

This method can be used to remove lead as water is evaporated and then condensed in a new container, leaving behind lead and killing bacteria. However, this method is very energy intensive due to the need to heat the water to boiling.


The heat from boiling water denatures the DNA of bacteria and viruses making them safe to drink. Boiling can also help remove contaminants such as chlorine.

5.Water softeners:

Ion exchange is used by water softeners to reduce the amount of hardness in the water and heavy metals. They do not however protect against bacteria or viruses.

6. Water dispensers:

Use a combination of filtration and purification techniques to remove impurities and contaminants from water, such as sediment, chlorine, bacteria, and viruses. This may include activated carbon filters, UV-C light technology, reverse osmosis membranes, and other methods, depending on the type of dispenser and the level of filtration required.


Key Facts about tap water contamination in Australia

Frequently asked questions about tap water in Australia

Can I drink tap water in Australia?

Yes, tap water in Australia is generally safe to drink. Most of the tap water in Australia meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines set by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which ensure that tap water is safe and free from harmful contaminants, such as bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and heavy metals.

What is the quality of tap water in Australia?

The quality of tap water can vary depending on where you live in Australia. Some regions may have harder water with high levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, which can cause scaling on appliances and fixtures [3]. However, these minerals are not harmful to health and do not affect the taste of the water.

How do I know if the tap water in my area is safe to drink?

You can contact your local water supplier or council for a water quality report. They are required to provide regular testing and monitoring of the water supply to ensure compliance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. The water quality report can give you information on the quality of your tap water and any potential contaminants.

Is tap water a cost-effective and convenient choice in Australia?

Yes, tap water is a cost-effective and convenient choice in Australia. In many parts of Australia, tap water is the preferred choice over bottled water due to its quality, convenience, and cost-effectiveness. With regular testing and monitoring, you can be confident in the safety of your tap water and enjoy the convenience and cost-effectiveness of drinking from the tap.