When you travel to a new country, you might question whether the drinking water is safe. It’s a valid concern. Many countries recommend boiling water or drinking bottled water due to having contaminated tap water in some areas.
But have you ever wondered which countries have the best tap water and which have the worst?
Low pollution, fewer chemicals, and excellent sanitation give countries a leg up on clean drinking water.
Let’s look at countries with the best tap water:
Finland considers clean water with rigorous hygiene standards to be the pillars of a healthy society. Therefore, Finland has some of the best water treatment processes in Europe.
The country filters its water multiple times before consumption, ensuring it’s free of contaminants.
The bulk of Finland’s water comes from its 168,000 lakes. Most of the remainder comes from Finland’s rivers and tributaries. Lake Päïjänne, where the water is reportedly so clean you can drink it straight from the source, supplies most of the country’s water.
You’ll find similar standards if you venture outside Finland into other Scandinavian countries. However, Finland stands out as the best among its neighbours.
Many of Iceland’s most beautiful natural wonders are its lakes, streams, and glaciers. While a portion of its drinking water comes from its waterways, most water comes from aquifers and springs. So, it should be no surprise that much of the world sources bottled spring water from Iceland.
Iceland’s water is naturally immaculate. Additionally, due to Iceland’s stringent water treatment practices, drinking water quality is high. A 2016 study revealed nearly 100% health standard compliance for all tap water tested.
The water is so clean in Iceland that locals often suggest drinking straight from streams and rivers. While water from these sources are likely acceptable to drink, you might want to avoid it in areas where agricultural or wildlife runoff could cause contamination.
Although Switzerland’s water wasn’t always some of the world’s best, it is now. Over the years, the country has raised its water treatment standards. Now, the country boasts some of the best drinking water in the world.
Switzerland’s water comes from clean lakes and underground water sources. Above and underground natural water sources comprise about 80% of the country’s water.
The remainder comes from surface reservoirs. Each underground source filters water naturally or is in a protected area.
Roughly one-third requires multi-stage treatment. Treatments involve membranes, ozonation, and active carbon. The remaining two-thirds require little to no processing.
Like other far northern zones, Canada has a wealth of freshwater sources that provide clean drinking water. Canada also has a relatively low population, with citizens spread far apart. The population distribution allows for less water contamination than in highly populated regions.
Canada has strict drinking water requirements to ensure safety. The country’s rigorous filtration processes remove trace radiation, chemicals, and microorganisms that could make residents ill. For that reason, its cities have some of the cleanest drinking water in the world.
5. New Zealand
New Zealand is a beautiful country filled with freshwater bodies and glaciers. It also has a small population, meaning there’s plenty of clean water. The government uses advanced filtration technology to ensure all residents have clean water at their taps.
New Zealand has some of the strictest drinking water regulations in the world. The drinking water you’ll find there is considered universally safe to drink. So, if you’re planning for a visit, you won’t have to worry about bottled water being your only option. New Zealand tap water is safe to drink.
Greenland is well-known for its clear, clean drinking water. Many residents use ice from the glaciers in their drinks, and beer breweries even use ice from the glaciers to brew beer. The Ministry of Greenland makes sure clean water reaches every citizen.
Despite being home to 656,000 miles of ice, only a tiny amount of water comes from Greenland’s glaciers. Greenland also boasts some of the strictest water management policies.
Several South American countries, including Peru, Guatemala, and Honduras, are known for poor water quality. However, their northern neighbour, Colombia, boasts some of the cleanest water in South America.
Columbia’s citizens struggled for decades to gain access to clean water. As of 2015, 97% of Colombia’s population has clean water. That’s an increase of 30% since 1990, which is expected to go up.
Colombia stands out in terms of water quality due to its wastewater treatment. After the water is flushed through homes and businesses, it’s thoroughly treated before being released for agricultural use. As a result, you won’t find contaminated water in your crops or from your tap.
The southeast Asian country of Singapore offers citizens and visitors some of the cleanest water you’ll find in Asia. The government gets water from the Johor River, the ocean, imports, and local catchment. All water goes through stringent water treatment before it’s delivered to taps.
Singapore’s waterways are limited, so the country takes care to protect them. Singapore’s National Water Agency regularly collects water samples to test for harmful chemicals and bacteria.
This helps ensure all water is safe to drink and filtration is adjusted to keep the drinking water high ad within standards.
Despite the clean tap water, bottled water is still quite popular in Singapore. The chlorine used to treat tap water tends to leave a bitter taste, driving some citizens away from the tap. However, despite the taste, the water is perfectly healthy and safe.
Located in northern Europe, Sweden is home to some of the cleanest drinking water in the West. Most of the country’s water comes from its lakes and streams. It all goes through multiple layers of filtration, including chemical and natural filters.
One of the main reasons Sweden’s water is so clean is due to the country’s lack of pollution. Clean air helps keep pollution from clouding the waterways, leading to clear water in citizens’ taps.
As a testament to Sweden’s clean water, the International Organization for Standardization awarded Sweden a Certification of Quality in 2017. This certificate labeled the water in Stockholm of “high and consistent quality.”
The German government regulates water more than many of its other natural resources. The country has strict water standards that prohibit the use of chemicals in the purification process.
The lack of chemicals means the water in Germany never tastes like chlorine. More than two-thirds of Germany’s water gets sourced from underground water sources or glaciers. The rest comes from reservoirs fed by lakes and streams.
Many countries worldwide don’t have access to clean water or advanced filtration technology. As a result, these countries tend to have high pollution levels, contaminated water sources, and many densely populated areas.
Sadly, dirty drinking water can lead to the spread of many diseases and illnesses.
Here are countries with the worst tap water:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Republic of Chad
As the second most highly populated country in Africa, Ethiopia has approximately 115 million residents. Unfortunately, roughly half don’t have easy access to clean drinking water, and only 28 percent have access to sanitation.
Most of Ethiopia’s drinking water comes from lakes, ponds, and other waterways contaminated with runoff, pollution, and waste. Since most citizens live in rural regions, accessing clean drinking water often requires traveling a great distance.
Ethiopia’s water situation is slowly improving. The government has been working to direct funding toward bettering water access in rural areas and improving sanitation to ensure clean water.
In recent decades, the African country of Uganda has seen rapid population and city growth. Combined with the influx of Sudanese refugees from neighbouring Sudan and insufficient humanitarian resources, an already poor drinking water system has gotten worse.
Currently, roughly 7 million of Uganda’s citizens have no access to safe drinking water. In many areas, drinking water sources consist of swamps, ponds, and other unprotected water sources. In addition, rural citizens often practice open defecation due to lack of toilets.
Fortunately, recent years have shown some improvement in Uganda’s water plight. Access to clean drinking water has risen nearly 20 percent since the start of the century. In addition, open defecation has reduced significantly, further contributing to cleaner water sources.
3. Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, is the fourth-largest country in Africa. It houses nearly 90 million citizens, 33 million of whom don’t have access to clean water. One-third of the DRC’s citizens live in rural areas where water is scarce.
High poverty, civil unrest, and a wide gap between the rich and poor contribute to the lack of water resources. Historically, hygiene education was insufficient, causing citizens to consume contaminated water.
Since the start of the century, hygiene education has significantly improved. Funding has allowed for the installation of new clean water sources.
Located in eastern Africa, Mozambique has approximately 28 million citizens. Of this, 15 million citizens have no or insufficient access to clean water. On top of that, nearly three-quarters of residents don’t have access to toilet facilities.
Population growth and urbanization have put significant strain on natural water sources. In addition, city growth worsened clean drinking water access for people living in rural and northern regions.
With the help of additional aid, Mozambique has improved water conditions somewhat. Access to clean water is easier for many residents due to increased toilet access. According to a 2011 Mozambique Demographic and Health Survey, about 21 percent of homes in the country use improved sanitation.
Nearly half of Tanzanians don’t have access to safe drinking water. Combined with inadequate sanitation facilities, residents struggle with illnesses associated with contaminated drinking water.
The citizens affected the worst live in rural areas. Large portions of the rural population have to travel long distances to access clean drinking water. Others have to purchase from water vendors, which is often cost-prohibitive.
Foreign aid and humanitarian work have helped Tanzanians improve their drinking water conditions. As a result, funding for sanitation and water treatment has increased significantly, although the country still has a long journey ahead.
The Middle Eastern country of Pakistan has some of the worst access to drinking water in the East. Nearly 80 percent of Pakistanis don’t have access to clean drinking water. Unfortunately, Pakistan also has one of the largest hygiene and water gaps between the rich and poor.
Most of Pakistan’s water contamination is fecal matter and toxic chemicals. Major cities and rural areas alike rely on surface water, including rivers, that are highly contaminated with human waste.
This contamination is caused by sewer lines that mix with water sources. Rural areas suffer the hardest, as there are no water treatment areas.
Organizations are helping Pakistan improve its sanitation and hygiene practices to bring more clean drinking water to its residents. However, lack of funding and resources has made significant strides difficult.
Due to droughts, flooding, and constant civil conflict, Somalia’s drinking water is quite poor. Across the country, more than half of Somalians have access to clean water.
However, that number drops to 37 percent in rural regions. As a result, many have to travel to find clean water or purchase it from water vendors.
Much of Somalia’s water contamination is due to pollution. Open defecation is a common practice, putting waste directly into drinking water sources.
Areas of conflict often have limited access to drinking water due to infrastructure damage and other dangers.
Certain organizations have helped provide aid and education to Somalians. Improved facilities at health centers and better hygiene practices are slowly improving clean drinking water access.
8. The Republic of Chad
The Republic of Chad in Central Africa is home to more than 16 million residents. Less than half of Chad’s citizens have access to basic drinking water services. Combined with a low sanitation rate, many residents are at high risk for illnesses.
Most of Chad’s residents don’t have access to toilet facilities. This has led to 68 percent of the population practicing open defecation. Since this practice often occurs near water sources, water contamination is a significant issue.
Fortunately, Chad’s government laid out goals for improving tap water access. The main goal is to eliminate open defecation by providing more residents with toilets. Although progress has been slow, circumstances are improving.
These significant water problems that plague the country stem from poor infrastructure and a lack of resources.
In 2018, Nigeria’s government declared a state of emergency due to the country’s water conditions. As a result, the country began a 13-year plan to improve Nigeria’s water and sanitation access and needs.
Since the start of the initiative, the country has installed more than 2,000 water access points and 6,500 hygiene facilities. In addition, many states are now certified to be free of open defecation.
Located in South Asia, Cambodia is another country that struggles with poor tap water quality. This poor quality is mainly because most of Cambodia’s residents live in rural areas. Rural homes typically don’t have taps or toilets, causing residents to buy water from suppliers.
Nearly five million Cambodians don’t have access to clean tap water or sanitation. However, Cambodia’s government has set goals to reach complete clean drinking water and sanitation access by 2025.
Often, it might be hard to determine if tap water is safe simply by looking at it. However, governing bodies regularly perform water test to decide whether or not it’s clean and safe to drink.
Here are a few factors they consider:
Tap water should be clear and free of any visible contaminants. The amount of visible pollutants in water is called turbidity.
Regulatory bodies will test the water’s turbidity to determine its safety. Cloudy water or water with floating particles is a sign that you shouldn’t drink it.
When a government agency chemically tests drinking water, they look for contaminants you can’t see with the naked eye. Contaminants include microorganisms or bacteria that cause illnesses, originating from sewage
, or fecal matter.
You can also ensure water is safe to drink on your own. The CDC makes a few recommendations to provide safe drinking water, with bottled water still being an ideal option as long as it is factory-sealed from a safe source. A few other decontamination methods include:
- Boiling your drinking water for at least one full minute
- Using a chemical disinfectant such as unscented chlorine bleach
- Portable water filtration systems
- Ultraviolet light
Pollution in an area near a body of water is another way to determine water quality. For example, areas that practice open defecation or where there’s a lot of agricultural runoff will typically have poor drinking water.
A water’s salinity will tell you how much salt is present. High salt levels can be toxic, causing illness in humans and animals. Increased salinity is present where there’s little rainfall and high evaporation.
If you’re traveling abroad or live in an area where the tap water is unsafe to drink, you have a few options:
A common and inexpensive method of sanitizing water is boiling. Boiling is all but guaranteed to kill germs, viruses, bacteria, and parasites. To properly sanitize water, bring it to a rolling boil for one to three minutes. Then, let it cool down and store in sanitized containers.
Although maintaining a stock of bottled water can be challenging, it’s one of the best ways to ensure you have clean water. Bottled water either comes from springs or goes through rigorous purification processes, so you won’t have to worry about contamination.
Buy Water from Water Vendors
Water vendors make a living off providing water in some of the hardest-hit regions. The main downside to water vendors is that people often have to travel long distances to reach them. In addition, the water is costly, and sometimes there’s no guarantee it’s actually safe to drink.
Access to clean drinking water is a luxury many countries don’t have. Countries with clean water typically enforce stricter regulations while ensuring proper infrastructure and adequate sanitation facilities to process and decontaminate water.
Unfortunately, poor countries often don’t have access to those things. So, if you plan to travel, check your destination’s water quality. Then, if necessary, be prepared to purchase bottled water or boil your own.