It is fair to say that many of us take water for granted as we use it every day. Each time you turn a tap, you expect clean and safe water to come through. However, the journey every drop takes to get there can start well over a hundred miles from the tap on your premises

Whether you’re running a business in Birmingham, have a salon in Southampton, or brew coffee in Cambridge, the water we all use is expected to be the same even though it may be sourced from entirely different places.

In this short blog post, we’re going to take a brief journey through the quite interesting way that water gets from a cloud to your tap. It all starts with knowing precisely where your water begins its journey.

So where exactly does my tap water come from?

Every drop we use initially comes from rainfall, or snow when it is chilly. It is the journey water takes to get to us that dictates the condition it is in and how much treatment it requires.

Unless you have a private connection, every tap in the UK will get water from one of these three primary sources:

  • Rivers
  • Groundwater
  • Reservoirs

Waters from rivers will generally end up in reservoirs or go straight to pump stations to prepare it for use.

Groundwater is any water that collects in large underground pools (anywhere from 10m to over 100m underground). That water can come directly from rain that filters through the soil, or off-shoots from rivers which also filter down.

Reservoirs can be both naturally occurring and man-made. Most reservoirs in the UK, that sit close to towns and cities, exist because they were made after your local river was no longer a viable source of water. Many were built in the mid-to-late 1800s as demand increased.

where does tap water come from

How does water get from a source to my tap?

Pipes. Lots of pipes.

Every premises will have one pipe (the water mains), and you should know where it is. That connects you to another mains pipe in your street, shared by a few premises, which is connected to a broader network in your area, then your town and it keeps going all the way back to the local treatment centre.

It is incredible to think of this giant and sophisticated looking web of pipes all connecting right below us to get water into your premises.

Why does tap water come from different sources?

Supply and demand dictate where your water comes from. For example, towns in the south of England typically transfer water between one another to keep supply moving. For example, if a lot of people in Brighton were suddenly using a lot of water and local supplies became low, the network would rely on water being transferred from Worthing to meet demand.

There are some remarkably interesting examples of this across the UK, including the Isle of Wight where water supply is relied upon from the mainland (near Bournemouth) when water is low.

Why is tap water hard in different places?

It is something you will not ever notice unless you live in the north and find yourself using water in the south (or vice versa).

Although there are pockets of moderately hard water around Edinburgh, Liverpool and Newcastle in the north, there is generally a dividing line that splits the country in two between having soft water and hard water.

From roughly Nottingham going south, a large chunk of the country has to rely on getting water from groundwater sources. And many of those pools are under limestone and chalk aquifer. Water will take in some of the minerals as it filters through and that’s why it will taste pretty much the same, but may feel different when you’re showering or washing your hair.

Is tap water 100% good for you?

No matter where and when you are using a tap in the UK, you should be guaranteed that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your water. We are incredibly lucky in this country to have water systems which are heavily regulated. Water has to meet extremely high standards for use.

You can read more about tap water quality in our recent blog post here, where we look at some the common problems experienced with tap water.

tap water in glass

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