Where in the UK has the best and worst drinking water?

We know clean and safe drinking water is essential to healthy living, with experts recommending we consume 2 litres of the fluid a day. For cost and environmental purposes, the majority of us reach for the tap to pour a drink of water. However, have you considered where your tap water comes from and how the quality of tap water differs around the UK?

Which parts of the UK have hard (and soft) water?

The ‘hardness’ of water is determined by how many dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, the water contains. The higher the concentration of minerals, the harder the water is considered to be. In areas where the water has to journey through porous rocks, such as limestone and chalk, to reach your tap, the water absorbs these minerals, resulting in hard water.

The majority of the UK has hard water, particularly in southern areas, with Ipswich and Suffolk receiving the hardest water in the UK, classified as ‘very hard’. Northern towns and cities have the softest waters, with Scottish water being the softest in the UK due to the very small amounts of chalk and limestone found in Scotland.

The UK hard and soft water map

Key

  • Soft
  • Moderately soft
  • Moderately hard
  • Hard
  • Very hard

So does hard or soft water taste better?

Have you ever noticed that the water tastes different depending on where you are in the UK? Well, this is due to water hardness. Soft water is thought to have less of a taste, resulting in it often being the preferred choice for drinking and the best for making cups of tea and coffee (perhaps why northerners are known for making the best brews!). On the other hand, minerals from hard water are said to add ‘flavour’ which some people enjoy, whilst others dislike the ‘chemical’ taste and rougher texture. It all depends on your taste buds!

And which is better for your health?

Whilst both hard and soft water are good for your health, hard water can be considered slightly better due to its mineral content, including calcium, magnesium and iron. In fact, in certain areas of the country, it is possible to receive your recommended daily dose of such minerals just from drinking tap water, which can help protect against heart disease and strokes.

Which parts of the UK have fluoride in their water?

Fluoride is added to water in certain parts of the UK to prevent tooth decay. Despite being presented as a controversial subject, the levels of fluoride added to tap water is a completely safe and effective way of improving oral hygiene. In fact, research shows that among children aged one to four, hospital admissions due to tooth decay are 50% less in fluoridated areas!

The Top 3 fluoridated areas are:

1

Birmingham

Birmingham and areas of the Midlands were some of the first UK areas to begin adding fluoride to their water in the 1960s, with 52 areas in the Birmingham district now adding fluoride to their water supply. The area now has the highest quantity of fluorinated water in the UK.

2

Tyneside

With 36 local areas being supplied with fluoridated water, Tyneside has the second-highest fluoridated water supply, with 4 of these areas containing naturally occurring fluoride, which is absorbed from rocks.

3

Doncaster

Doncaster places third, with 15 local districts supplied with fluoridated water.

UK areas with the most fluoride added to water ranked

Rank

Postal district

Number of areas with
added fluoride

Rank

Postal district

Number of areas with
added fluoride

Which areas of the UK have had the worst issues with their water?

Whilst in the UK we are lucky enough to have safe drinking water, it isn’t without vast amounts of safety measures in place behind the scenes. Risks to water quality, such as contamination of water supply and water plant failure, arise on a regular basis and are assessed using the Event Risk Index (ERI) score.

Top 3 UK areas with worst water issues

Which areas of the UK have had the worst issues with their water?

Rank

Issue

Area Covered

Duration
(Hours)

ERI Score

Methodology

Which parts of the UK have hard (and soft) water?

Water hardness ratings sourced from the local water company of the UK’s 30 most populated towns and cities, based on a town/city centre address.

Which parts of the UK have fluoride in their water?

The number of postcode areas in each postal town that have fluoride added to drinking and tap water (whether naturally or artificially), according to UK Water Filters.

Which areas of the UK have had the worst issues with their water?

The worst drinking water quality events in 2019 according to the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s drinking water data. Ranked from worst to best based on each event’s ERI score, which is a measure designed to illustrate the risk arising from water quality events.