Water is an essential part of everyone’s day-to-day lives. Tap water for instance is so readily accessible to us all, to a point where we probably take it for granted. We are all used to the process of turning a tap to access drinking water, but where does it actually come from? And what is in it? What is the difference between hard water and soft water? In this short blog post, we are going to understand the journey water takes to reach our taps.
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Does tap water come from the ocean?
Although this does not apply to the UK specifically, there are 120 countries (Saudi Arabia, Israel, and India – to name a few) that source a percentage of their drinking water from the ocean. This process is called desalination. However, this process requires a lot of power, so is very expensive and can also cause harm to life in the oceans.
Where does UK tap water come from?
Half the UK’s water is collected from rivers and reservoirs. River water can either be sent straight to a treatment centre, or to other local reservoirs. Reservoirs can form naturally, but there are also man-made ones. Man-made reservoirs have been in effect since the late 1800s when the demand for accessible, clean drinking water rose.
The other half of our drinking water comes from underground water sources. These large pools can be found anywhere from 10m to 100m beneath the surface.
All water is then treated to remove any impurities, parasites, and bacteria, at a water treatment centre. From here the clean water is then pumped through a water distribution system, through various pipes straight to our homes.
What is in Tap Water?
Is our tap water safe to drink? In short, yes. The UK has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world. With this said there are a few chemicals and minerals that can be found in our tap water. These are:
- Chlorine – During the process of treatment, a small amount of chlorine is added. This isn’t harmful to ourselves, but it is an important step. Using chlorine we are able to purify the water, removing any harmful bacteria and parasites.
- Fluoride – This is a naturally-forming mineral that can not only be found in tap water, it is also found in toothpaste. Fluoride helps strengthen our enamel and prevent tooth decay.
- Calcium and Magnesium – When water comes into contact with the ground it can pick up minerals such as calcium and magnesium. This then turns the water into hard water. The degree of your water hardness can vary depending on the region that supplies your water.
- Lead – The opposite side to hard water is soft water. Where hard water can lead to limescale build-up, it is then able to protect itself from the lead pipes. Soft water on the other hand cannot protect itself in this way, which is why some household’s water may contain small amounts of lead. However, replacing lead pipes with copper, for example, can solve this issue.
Is Hard Water safe?
As mentioned before hard water is made up of calcium and magnesium after water comes in contact with the ground. Although these minerals are not toxic within our drinking water, they can potentially cause damage to your home, clothes, skin, and hair.
Limescale build-up in your homes is caused by hard water. This can potentially damage your household appliances, piping systems, and also your central heating system. Which could mean your heating bills may have increased because of hard water.
Dirt can also be left behind by hard water, which means your hair can be harder to clean, your clothes may still be slightly dirty, or can even make fabrics rougher. Hard water can also be damaging to your skin, which can especially affect anyone with skin conditions like eczema.
We can now understand the journey tap water takes. From naturally forming in the clouds which then collect in pools underground, in rivers, and in reservoirs. Our water is then pumped into treatment systems, where it eventually finds its way through a region’s waterworks pipeline and eventually our taps.