?What's in tap water and is Tasmania's really the best in Australia

| 14.02,19. 07:29 PM |


What's in tap water and is Tasmania's really

?the best in Australia


Photo: Tasmanians like to brag they have the best tap water in the country. (Unsplash)

There are a few cities that claim to have Australia's best tap water — Hobart and Melbourne among them.


If you've ever travelled to either and remarked on the tap water, you'd likely be familiar with the resulting bragging from locals about how wonderful their local drop is.


ABC Hobart ran a poll on social media which garnered more than 1,400 votes, with 77 per cent of people voting Tasmania's water tasted the best.


But are Tasmanians right to be so boastful? The ABC spoke with two academics and a senior manager at the state's water authority to find out what affects the way tap water tastes, how it differs across the country and if Tasmania's water superiority complex has any basis.


What gives tap water its taste?


Taswater system performance and productivity manager Lance Stapleton said while pure rain water had no taste at all, most tap water was sourced from various different catchments which could influence the flavour.


"Sediments can impart a taste to the water, like iron or manganese in dams and lakes," Mr Stapleton said.


Iron sediments can give water a metallic taste, while algae that grows on rocks in waterways can make it taste swampy.


Different types of rocks at water sites can also affect the flavour, either purifying it or reacting with water.


If the rocks are reactive, they can infuse the water with various naturally-occurring chemicals, though these generally change the appearance of the water rather than the taste.


Leon Barmuta, a freshwater ecologist at the University of Tasmania, said water in Australia was naturally on the saltier side, making that the major issue water companies must tackle in the treatment process.


"Most of Australia's surface fresh water is dominated by sodium and chloride ions because a lot of our rain comes off the ocean, so a lot of wind-blown salt comes into our catchments," Associate Professor Barmuta said.


It also comes down to who's drinking it, as some people are a lot more sensitive to changes in chemical balances than others.


"People vary quite a lot in what the concentration has to be for them to pick up a change in flavour," Associate Professor Barmuta said.


"There's a considerable perceptual element for these sorts of things."


Agricultural runoff, types of vegetation, animal activity and household fittings can also change the taste.


What's tap water like across the country?


According to Western Sydney University water scientist Ian Wright, Perth and Adelaide's drinking water is often considered the worst.


"Australia really is the most water-deprived continent, and Adelaide and Perth really cop it," he said.


Water in those two cities is saltier than the rest of the country, when measured in total dissolvable solids (TDS) in milligrams per litre.


Adelaide has to grapple with being at the end of the Murray River, where water picks up different organic and inorganic contaminants on its way to South Australia.


"Even Canberra's toilets discharge into the Murray-Darling River, so farmer's livestock, humans, mining, that can all release and mobilise contaminants into their water," Mr Wright said.


Meanwhile, he said Perth is "getting on 45 years of drought", creating a reliance on groundwater, which generally has a higher salt content than water from catchments.


Mr Wright's research shows Melbourne, Darwin, Canberra and Hobart have the least salty water.


How does Tasmania's boast stack up?


The Apple Isle has a good reputation for its fresh water, with H2O from Barrington in the state's north even winning the best tasting water in Australia at the 2016 Water Industry Association of Australia awards.


Mr Wright said Hobart has very pure water, and that's mostly because of the rocks.


"The catchments around Hobart have a lot of really old basalt and granite geology and that creates a very pure sort of water."


"It has more H2O in it than anything else," he said.

B

ut Mr Stapleton said water quality does vary depending on the catchment.


"We collect water from 70 catchments statewide," he said.


"Lake Barrington is pristine, while Esk rivers and parts of the Derwent River are highly impacted — so it all has to be brought up to standard."


Taswater has a designated taste panel of certified tasters that have been trained to instantly identify specific chemicals, even at very low levels, which Mr Stapleton said are almost as accurate as testing in the lab.


Following years of parts of Tasmania being forced to boil their water for fear of bacteria, Mr Stapleton said there are no more boil water or do not consume alerts statewide.


So is Tasmania's water the best?


It's hard to say it's the best, but it's certainly pretty good.


Melbourne is the stiffest competition, with slightly less salt and a lot of loyal followers.


In response to the social media poll, punters in the comments voted in favour of the water in Victoria's capital city.


"Tassie water is very good, but the best water in Australia is Melbourne water," Eric Lehtonen said.


Jamie Watson agreed, saying: "Have you tasted Melbourne water? Plus it's not cold out of the tap like it is in Tassie."


But there was plenty of support for the island state's water, including from Mr Wright.


"I've been down to Tasmania to study lakes and rivers and you've just got so much more beautiful water than the rest of water-deprived mainland Australia."


"Australia has great water generally, but Hobart's is better than most."


abc


(Votes: 0)

Other News

Detention centre to reopen, PM says, as Senate passes medevac law Queensland man who buried wife's body 18 years ago found not guilty of her murder Senate passes controversial refugee evacuation bill, Scott Morrison says new laws 'weaken our borders' Townsville flood authorities confirm death from soil bacteria, several others in intensive care Structures at Jubullum Aboriginal community destroyed as bushfire emergency grips NSW Hakeem al-Araibi arrives in Australia after spending two months detained in a Thai prison Hakeem al-Araibi to return to Australia after Thai court rules extradition case be dropped Queensland police investigate shooting of 40-year-old woman at Karawatha property Cyclist dies after being hit by a truck on the Federal Highway at NSW and ACT border Chinese billionaire wants political parties to pay back his donations Nine rescued from flash flooding as severe thunderstorm hits Sydney Qantas officially cancels Airbus A380 order as manufacturer struggles to maintain production Cyber security breach on Parliament likely a foreign government attack AMP executives facing potential criminal charges over fees for no service, Federal Court hears NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn and chair Ken Henry resign in the wake of banking royal commission Emergency warning for bushfire in Forrestdale, south of Perth, as homes, schools threatened CCC releases CCTV showing police punching man seven times during Fremantle arrest Townsville flood clean-up to begin in earnest as severe weather eases Parking fines issued by the hundreds on residential streets by NSW Police forces backflip Townsville flooding continues as hundreds wait for waters to recede Unsafe gas levels found on Sydney party boat where woman died Banking royal commission report takes axe to sales culture in finance Townsville flooding forces hundreds to evacuate, leaves police clinging to trees after dam gates fully opened Police officer dies in hospital after head-on Sydney crash Child dies at home in Sydney's west Woman in her 30s dies on party boat on Sydney Harbour Townsville flooding could worsen with more heavy rain and dam releases Former policeman succeeds in $1 million claim from driver's insurer after fatal crash Disaster declared in Townsville, landslip from heavy rain threatens properties Two drivers, including police officer, critical after multi-vehicle crash in Sydney's south