Is tap water safe to drink?

Being able to drink tap water without a water purifier attached to it, is perhaps the ultimate sign of a developed economy. Cities such as New York, London, Berlin, ...

2 min read

Being able to drink tap water without a water purifier attached to it, is perhaps the ultimate sign of a developed economy. Cities such as New York, London, Berlin, Paris, etc are known for their water filtration systems that remove all hazardous contaminants, making drinking tap water safe.

However, this is not the case in most other countries. While several people do continue to drink tap water directly, it isn’t always recommended.

What are the regulatory standards for drinking water in India? 

The regulatory standard for drinking water in India is set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) which falls under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

The relevant standard for drinking water in India is known as ‘Indian Standard (IS) – 10500:2012.’ This standard covers primary parameters like taste, odour, smell, etc and undertakes comprehensive tests for microbiological parameters, viruses, radioactivity and parasites to ensure safe and high-quality drinking water for consumers. 

What are the common contaminants found in drinking water? 

Even though water treatment plants ensure that the water distributed meets the standards set by authorities, there is always the potential of contaminants lingering mostly within the permissible limits in your water supply. Some of these contaminants include: 

  1. Microorganisms:

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites all thrive in water, and if they aren’t properly eliminated during treatment, there is a risk of potential waterborne illnesses that they cause. 

  1. Chemicals:

Many chemicals mix well with water and thus always run the risk of being present in your water source. Pesticides, fertilisers, industrial chemicals, and heavy metals are some of the common chemicals found in water bodies. 

  1. Disinfection by-products:

While these may not be as harmful as the ones mentioned above, the chemicals used during the disinfection stage of water treatment can react with organic matter in water, forming harmful by-products and being present in your water supply. 

  1. Lead

Old plumbing systems are notorious for contaminants, as the lead in the pipes mixes with the water flowing through them. This is extremely dangerous as consuming lead is highly risky. 

How can I ensure that my water supply is safe? 

Public awareness is crucial as it makes local authorities accountable for their actions. If the public is familiar with and educated about the process, they can hold the people responsible for any inaction and even force change. Consumers have the right to access water quality reports to understand the composition of their tap water and the presence of any potential risks, if any. Once this is clear, you can then decide whether to install a water purification system in your house or not. 

Global disparities with respect to the quality of water supply still exist. While it is easier in developed nations to access clean drinking water directly from taps, it may not be entirely possible in developing countries due to factors such as pollution, infrastructure etc. It is, therefore, imperative to be aware of the quality of water supply being distributed into your household. 

Finally, answering whether the water flowing in your taps is safe to drink depends on the many factors listed above. However the common theme is awareness and to be informed about the different processes involved in treating water. Regulatory bodies need to be held to high standards as water is an essential commodity in our lives, and its cleanliness ensures the quality of our lives. 

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