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  • Writer's pictureEffy Lindström

Ranking The Tap Water of Countries I’ve Lived In

The Thames in London, England. (Photo by me)

💩 Last Place: England

Sometimes, the reputation England earns isn’t fair. Because try as you might, all of the fine qualities of the North and West Country inevitably get subsumed within the leviathan economic and cultural influence of London. 

In this regard, tap water is no exception, as the Big Smoke’s H2O is known for being uniquely manky. Some attribute this to the chalky mouthfeel of London’s “hard water”, sourced primarily from the murky depths of the Thames. Others swear that it’s the chlorination leaving a (literal and figurative) bitter taste in their mouths.

Either way, I can confirm that the capital city’s notoriety for foul-tasting water is well-earned. Sorry, London–you make up for it in other ways!

A furry friend in Califon, New Jersey. (Photo by me)

🥉 Third Place: The US

From the sulphury sinks of the Midwest to the mineral-rich mugs of Western Massachusetts, water flavour in the US varies widely. And some states I’ve resided in–Indiana springs to mind–are not exactly bringing their A game to water quality standards.

Still, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the water of my childhood in suburban New Jersey. In spite of the state’s industrial reputation, potable water in “the Armpit of America” is surprisingly drinkable–or, at minimum, a work in progress. See the recently unveiled N.J. Tap Program, an initiative to upgrade archaic water infrastructure in the Garden State.

Cramond Bridge in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by me)

🥈 Second Place: Scotland

Fabled in the UK for its pristine flavour, Scottish tap water is elite. Just take a swig from the kitchen tap, and you’ll see what I mean–it’s like drinking dewdrops straight from the heather. 

But what is it that makes tap water north of Hadrian’s Wall so delectable? There are a few theories, from the purity of Scotland’s lochs and rivers to the filtration processes employed by Scottish water treatment plants. Whatever the reason, Scotland’s second place in this category is a photo finish.

Östhammar in Sweden. (Photo by me)

🥇 First Place: Sweden

From quality of life to social justice, self-styled “moral superpower” Sweden is known for its broad commitment to human welfare. And, bizarrely enough, this utopianism seems to extend to its tap water, which is both crisp and bracingly cold.

It’s little wonder, then, that Swedish tap water is renowned for tasting better than its bottled counterparts. And that is by design, as Sweden–alongside its aforementioned bevvy of accolades–ranks number one in green living. Skål to that!

Reykjavík, Iceland. (Photo by me)

🏆 Holiday Hall of Fame: Iceland

While I haven’t lived in Iceland, I would be remiss not to mention that my favourite vacation destination has the safest drinking water in the world. That is, if we go by UNICEF’s stats on access to pure tap water, for which Iceland earns an impressive 100%.

For this reason–as well as the country’s volcanic-filtered spring water sources–Iceland consistently tops subjective rankings of world's best-tasting tap water. Unsurprisingly, it is often flanked by Scandinavian siblings Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

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