If tap water is drinkable or not is a very common question people ask when in a new place. Tap water quality varies greatly across the world and in many places it either tastes very bad or is actually dangerous for your health.
How about the tap water in Brighton? The tap water in Brighton is not dangerous to your health. It is safe to drink according to the local and the national government. It may taste strange if you are not used to it, but this is true for almost all tap water.
The question is of course not that simple. Government-regulated tap water is very safe in most of Europe, but this does not mean that it is perfectly clean or free from chemicals. Some people argue that no tap water is really safe these days. Specifically, because it has trace chemicals and additives in it. In this post we will take a look at the elixir of life, the Brighton variant, and if you can drink it.
On tap in Brighton
Water is the source of all life, still we humans have been very afraid of it over the centuries. In the 15th and 16th centuries, people believed that beer and wine were safer than water. In the 18th century, people refused to bathe since it was thought that water gave syphilis (it didn’t).
Even though there is a lot of water on the planet, only about 1% is drinkable freshwater. Lake water, river water, and underground water are what we use to make tap water.
The tap water in Brighton comes from underground sources. Underground water is water that has filtered down through the earth for a long time, sometimes up to 1000 years. This is generally the safest water to drink with the least pollution from human activities.
The drawback of using this source of water, in the Brighton case, is that it contains a lot of calcium. This is known as hard water. Hard water is not dangerous but it can leave deposits in your shower, sink or cookware. This is particularly true in your kettle where calcium removal is necessary. Also, when you use soap or shampoo it might not make the same lather or bubbles as you are used to.
The tap water in Brighton tastes good according to most sources. Tapwater, a site that monitors tap water quality globally, states that 77% of inhabitants in Brighton think the water is both safe and tastes good. That is 9% points more than the UK average, a very good sign.
Only 9% of people from Brighton think tap water is unsafe. Usually, in the western world around one in ten, or 10%, think that any tap water is unsafe. This might seem alarming but don’t worry, we’ll look at why a bit further on.
Brighton has not had any outbreaks of diseases carried by water after the second world war. 75-years is a rather long time after all. Many of the diseases that are common in warmer climates do not exist at all in the UK. The diseases that do exist are kept away using modern technology and are nothing to worry about today.
The tap water is not “pure” in any way though, apart from calcium there are also other naturally occurring groundwater chemicals as well as some that are added. This is almost always the case as drinking 100% pure water is actually dangerous!
The calcium in the water is also good for your body in the same way that drinking milk, which has a lot of calcium, is good. Thought does leave scale in your kettle.
Clean and pure are not the same thing though. Safe and clean are not even the same thing. The tap water in Brighton is safe to drink, but let’s have a look at what is added and why some think it is not safe.
What is Added to the Tap Water in Brighton
In Brighton, as well as England in general, two things are almost always added, chlorine and phosphates.
Chemicals added to water in Brighton
Chlorine is added to kill bacteria. Not only the bacteria that are in the water but also bacteria in the pipes and water distribution network. Without chlorine, many disease-causing bacteria could travel the water distribution network and cause epidemics.
Phosphate is added to stop lead from pipes leaching into the drinking water. There is no lead in the water in Brighton to start with, but in old houses, there are often lead pipes. Lead pipes were very common up until about 50 years ago.
The phosphate that is added at the water treatment centre is added to stop the lead in these old pipes from going into the water itself. Lead in the water is very dangerous, not adding phosphate makes the water more dangerous.
Fluoride, normally added to tap water to increase dental health, is not added in Brighton. Adding fluoride to water is very controversial in parts of Europe and North America. In the UK there are normally natural levels of fluoride in a lot of groundwater, such as the water used in Brighton.
Why do so Many Think Tap Water is Unsafe?
Governments decide if something is safe using statistics. Basically, this means that tap water is safe if no one gets sick from it.
The “no one” is, of course, a statistical “no one”. A national government may decide that water is safe if less than 1 person in 100.000 people gets sick in one year from drinking tap water. This figure varies but 100.000 to 1 million people is not uncommon.
People, however, do not think like governments. If there is something in the water that can be dangerous then the water might be dangerous too. Statistically speaking it is not, but that does not mean that people will not think this.
On the other hand, governments may not know exactly what is making people sick. Perhaps cancer is caused by something in tap water? This line of reasoning is what leads up to 10% of the population to assume that there is something dangerous when we do not know.
Is there something dangerous in the water? As far as we know, using science and medicine, there is nothing directly dangerous in the water.
All in all, if you are still worried about tap water in Brighton you can think as they did in the 16th century: Beer is less dangerous than water! And I can guarantee there is beer on tap in Brighton as well as water.
What about those Lead Pipes?
Lead is a heavy metal. It is very toxic to humans. Unfortunately, this was not known when pipes were installed in many parts of the world.
Working with water characteristics that keep the lead in the pipes is very important in countries that have them. It was the failure of doing this that led to the lead contamination crisis in the city of Flint in the US.
In Flint there were lots of old pipes made out of the lead. As Flint had been experiencing some serious financial problems they decided to save money on their water. One thing they did was save was on the phosphate treatment. A whopping140 dollars per day in savings.
The phosphate treatment they did not do to save $140 is on is the same one that Brighton is doing. It probably costs about the same too.
Lead pipes are not good and they should be replaced whenever possible. But using the additives makes them safe enough so that almost no lead gets in the water.
And what about Dihydrogen Monoxide?
There is a lot of dihydrogen monoxide in the Tapwater in Brighton. About 99% of the tap water in Brighton in DHMO! It is practically full of it!
Don’t worry! Dihydrogen monoxide is one of the several technically correct chemical terms for water. That is, it is water.
The dihydrogen monoxide parody is a well-known hoax that has been around since the 1980s. Since it sounds very “chemical” and also a bit like carbon monoxide, which is very dangerous, many have fallen for this hoax. Including 49% of finish people in a pre-election poll.
There are other versions of this hoax, like hydroxyl acid, that sound bad but the Dihydrogen Monoxide is the most common one. If you hear that name, someone is out to trick you!
Can you Drink the Sea Water in Brighton?
Drinking the seawater in Brighton is not recommended. But this wasn’t always the case. It was in fact in 1750, a physician named Doctor Richard Russell wrote a paper stating that seawater was good for the health and highly recommended people to take the waters here, over inland spas like Bath.
It is heavily suggested that without Dr Russell’s input in 1750 that Brighton, may never have flourished to the extent it had, and could today still be just another seaside fishing town.
Doctor Richard Russell has a plaque on the wall outside the Albion Hotel dedicated to him that reads. “If you seek his monument, look around”
Tap Water for the Win
Tap water has one major benefit over bottled water, there is no plastic bottle waste produced. Small particles from plastic items are also one of the worlds biggest pollutants in water.
So if you filter your tap water, drink it straight or fill a tub with it, it is probably the most environmentally friendly water there is. Our final evidence is that many Brightoneans seems to do fine drinking it.
If you are still in doubt, remember once more the 16th-century folks and their beer solution. It can work wonders as well but remember to drink water to stave off the hangover.
Drink responsibly but you don’t have to worry about the water!