What Is The Cleanest Water In The World? Here’s What The Research Says

At any given point in time, water makes up around 40-62% of our entire body mass [1]. And even if you didn’t know that, you already understand how absolutely crucial safe drinking water is in our daily lives.

Without drinking water, human beings would only survive 3-4 days, making water one of the most important things that support human life.

Unfortunately, water quality remains a pressing public health issue in many areas across the globe, even in fairly developed countries like the US.

But some countries have excellent water purification systems that really prioritize providing potable water to their citizens. Here are some nations with the cleanest water in the world.

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Countries With High-Quality Drinking Water

To be clear, we’re not really in any position to claim which country truly has the cleanest water in the world. Claims such as those are largely unfounded and we aren’t of authority to make such claims.

However, we’ve done our research and found that the following countries have some of the best water in the world!

While not all of these areas have water sources that mimic those before the world industrial revolution, they do prioritize ensuring that their water is clean and free of dangerous substances.

Finland

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Finland is a Scandanavian nation popular for having one of the world’s best education systems and being one of the happiest countries in the world.

One more thing we can add to that list of achievements is the fact that Finland has excellent water quality and has some of the world’s cleanest tap water. Finland also has incredibly clean air and has one of the best air quality ratings in the world.

The country is given the highest rating of 100 in the Yale Environmental Performance Index (Sanitation & Drinking Water), and this rating is based on how well countries protect their citizens from unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.

In Finland, water from their water supply is of good quality and is generally safe to use for drinking and cooking. Their water comes from several sources, including groundwater, surface water, and artificial groundwater.

The water sourced by supply plants is then processed accordingly, with the degree of processing depending on how clean the water is as it comes from the source.

Surface water is always disinfected before it joins the supply, while groundwater may no longer need sanitation provided it is clean enough.

The goal of the country’s water management system is to routinely provide safe and clean water every day, preventing possible water-borne epidemics like diarrhea.

The Finnish tap water system is highly organized and undergoes stringent quality control, with larger supply plants undergoing more frequent quality analysis.

Best of all, information about their water plants is typically available on plant websites, ensuring that constituents are aware and informed of how clean and safe their tap water actually is.

It is clear that Finland views clean water accessibility as a health concern that all citizens must have at a reasonable cost—no wonder the Finnish are some of the most satisfied and happy in the world!

Iceland

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Icelandic water has a variety of household uses and its use extends beyond being a simple source of drinking water.

While aquifers are generally used for safe drinking water, geothermal water sources can be used to heat up homes, and geothermal steam is used for generating energy—all important for good quality of life.

Water in Iceland is generally unpolluted and is safe to drink from the source, reducing overall processing. Most of the water in Iceland comes from natural springs, which yield the purest water without requiring additional filtering or chemical additives.

Their hospitality industry has also been encouraging tourists to drink tap water rather than buy bottled water as the tap quality is pretty much the same as that of what you can buy in a bottle.

Bringing your own reusable water will not only save you money but will also reduce plastic waste at no cost to you. So if you do end up going to Iceland, try to utilize their fresh, drinkable tap water.

Do note though that Icelandic water can sometimes have a sulphuric smell. This is mainly due to the water’s source and does not actually indicate that the water is dirty or contaminated.

Norway

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Norway is popular for its fjords, majestic night skies, freshwater lakes, as well as a rich history of folklore. On top of that, Norway also has some of the cleanest water in the world.

Norway actually has pretty good access to clean water sources that have low concentrations of heavy metals, pollutants, and pesticides, among other unwanted substances in the water.

Around 90% of the country’s population drinks water from waterworks that require approval from the Norweigan Food Safety Authority to continue providing water to citizens. Only 10% of Norway’s water comes from surface water basins while the other 90% comes from ponds, lakes, streams, and brooks.

Norway’s water system has seen a lot of improvement over the last few decades and their water hasn’t always been as great as it is today. When their initiatives began, over a thousand waterworks did not pass the strict guidelines for clean water. Today, that number is markedly improved.

Norway is proof that having the cleanest drinking water isn’t always about sourcing fresh, spring water with almost no bacteria. Sometimes, it’s just a lot of work, treatment, and addressing sanitation issues at their root.

The Netherlands

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Tap water in The Netherlands is generally of good quality. The Dutch government ensures safety measures are in place to ensure that water is of consistent quality.

60% of the country’s water comes from groundwater while the other 40% comes from surface water. Their top concern when it comes to their water quality is the source.

Around half of the Netherlands’ groundwater extraction points are affected by human activity. Meaning, that water quality is influenced by human activities, most notably medicine, agriculture, sewage, and soil contamination.

Nevertheless, Dutch water remains of good quality because authorities make sure water is purified before it enters the tap. The quality of the country’s tap water manages to hit their standards 99.9% of the time [2], making their water clean, safe, and accessible.

The Netherlands is a good example of how policies and proper interventions can increase people’s quality of life.Without systemic interventions on the government level, much of what we’re doing is for naught.

Switzerland

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Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest countries and has an excellent reputation when it comes to quality of life. Yet despite that, did you know that Switzerland is actually one of the smallest countries in Western Europe? The entire land area of the nation is about the same as that of New Jersey.

Swiss tap water is not naturally the cleanest water in the world. They managed to achieve this feat through years of investment and time, and maintaining this level of quality requires certain initiatives that are necessary for further development.

But perhaps the best thing about Switzerland’s clean drinking water is the fact that they don’t sugarcoat the issues that come with preserving the quality of water they currently have.

This degree of transparency is exactly what we need to see more of from our authorities and policymakers.

For instance, Switzerland consumes a lot of pesticides, and around 20% of its drinking water sources are affected by increased pesticide use. This is a pressing issue that Swiss authorities are trying to stay on top of.

Problematic wastewater has to be pre-treated at its source and alternative protection measures should also be implemented.

One alternative method the country is currently implementing is banning the unauthorized use of certain dangerous substances and pesticides, with their use being subject to approval.

Doing this allows them to address the issue at its source, making their water treatment methods more sustainable. If we keep addressing issues of water pollution simply through more treatment, the economic burden of safe drinking water can quickly add up.

Is Tap Water Better Than Bottled Water?

If you still drink bottled water, you probably understand that it can very quickly become expensive. Tap water, on the other hand, is a much more economical choice but may not be the most ideal solution for everyone since not all tap water is safe to drink.

But if you do live in an area where tap water is safe, even if you have to put it through a filter, it is almost always the more ideal option.

Unlike bottled water, tap water will not generate plastic waste and is a sustainable resource provided you use it responsibly. It is also much cheaper than most bottled water options.

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When we went low (zero) waste a few years ago, we saved the most money by skipping bottled water and opting for filtered tap water instead. You can read more about how much we saved by going zero waste here.

Even if your location doesn’t have the cleanest water in the world, you can still use your tap!

Of course, this is still dependent on how clean the water is where you are. In some locations, water has a lot of heavy meals and water control isn’t subject to strict regulations, if so, you might want to consider different drinking water options.

Before you take the leap toward drinking tap, please make sure to conduct your due diligence. Try looking up your local water supply and see where they source their water. Information on how the water is processed from the source is also exceedingly helpful.

If you’re going on vacation to a new location, bottled water isn’t your only option! Some places, like the ones we mentioned above, have some of the best drinking water in the world, and you’re most likely safe drinking from their tap.

But before you get to the area, make sure to check if they have clean water first. Most of this information should be available online, especially if you’re traveling to developed areas or tourist-heavy nations.

Challenges In Making Drinking Water Clean and Safe

In our research of the preceding countries, we noticed one particular theme emerge: human activities interfere with clean water.

In most of the countries we mentioned, clean water is not always a given. Even when sourced from natural resources, it is almost always impossible to source the purest drinking water due to contamination.

Our mere existence as human beings, and all the waste that comes with it, is a barrier to obtaining completely safe water.

For instance, surface water is generally treated more than groundwater as it is more exposed to certain chemicals like pesticides, which are some of the biggest threats to access clean water.

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Countries being able to provide citizens with clean tap water is a privilege, although we argue it should be a right.

It requires years of investment in public health to ensure people have access to clean and safe water. It requires constant maintenance and stringent quality control to ensure water remains potable, even without further filtration.

When we think about how human activities impact our water, it helps put into perspective how truly cyclical our actions are. Because we use pesticides, our water quality is compromised, and yet these pesticides are often important in feeding such a large number of individuals, and so on.

Pesticides and other plant protection products are also very prevalent in our clothes, especially if you like wearing cotton. Fashion impacts our environment more than you think, read more about it here.

The bottom line is that clean water cannot be achieved through purification techniques alone. On a deeper level, we have to focus on reducing our impact on water, which is what many countries above are already doing to achieve incredibly clean and perfectly safe tap water.

Final Thoughts

In the countries we mentioned above, drinking water is a safe, easily accessible resource for most people. But in other countries, access to safe water remains a public health concern.

According to the World Health Organization, a startling 25% of people do not have access to safe and clean water, making life quite difficult indeed. In fact, water scarcity plagues numerous countries in Africa, and the urban poor often bears this unfortunate burden.

Like with everything in the environment, our quality of water and ecological health are tied together. Climate Change has altered accessibility to water across the globe, and it has undoubtedly made life more difficult for many.

Our environmental issues regarding water don’t just stop at reducing waste from plastic bottled water, it also has plenty to do with how the planet is changing in response to human action.

Resources:

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-020-02296-z

  2. https://www.rivm.nl/en/soil-and-water/drinking-water/quality-of-drinking-water

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