Eau Dear: Which City Has Australia's Worst Drinking Water?

There are ways you can learn to love drinking water, but as Lifehacker reader AJ points out, the taste of water varies widely from city to city. What are your nominations for Australia's worst-tasting tap water?

Picture by Sara

I'll start the bidding with two obvious selections: Adelaide in SA and Armidale in NSW. I grew up in the latter city and the water was always vile, and it didn't taste any better when I returned for a school reunion last year. As for Adelaide, the water has such a toxic reputation that our Prime Minister has to warn reporters not to mention it.

In both those cities I'll be taking my water only after boiling it and using it in a hot beverage, but I imagine there are others just as bad. Which places would you nominate for water that can't be happily consumed straight from the tap? Tell us in the comments.


    I moved to Newcastle for a while from Melbourne and never managed to feel hydrated, the same thing with when I go to Brisbane. The BRITA filters etc don't seem to get rid of the taste either. Since I'm from Melbourne as far as I can tell the rest of Australia is mostly disgusting when it comes to water.

      ur rite

      I have lived in 5 states in Australia , arguably the best water from the tap is Tasmania , then Melbourne. Personally , educate yourself on what needs to be put in the water to kill bad bacteria . To make it easy for all to understand , the chemicals kill the bacteria that may kill us, if we have a compromised immune system. Then comes the part that I have been trying to get into peoples thick heads......these chemicals and heavy metals are toxic to us . They adhere to our organs , it is usually a slow process and then people get autoimmune diseases. Just get a water filter , do not trust what comes out of our tap!!!!!! It is like playing Russian Roulette. It would be easy to eliminate humans by putting something in the water, so do not be ignorant anymore .
      From an Angel

    Get a water filter, best thing to make sure the tap water always tastes great.

    When travelling you can get the Brita water bottles (standard exercise bottle size) with built in filter.

      Isn't bad that we have to get water filters in a developed country like Australia?

      Thankyouwater.org is providing clean water for those who are less-fortunate.

      And if we can't even provide clean water for ourselves, how are we able to help others?.

        Clean Water is not always the same thing as Nice Tasting Water. We have high standards for water cleanliness in Australia, some people just don't like the taste.


        Ignorant , sorry.... our water supply is from lakes etc. They are out in the open and subjected to many environmental organisms and environmental hazards.

    I was expecting a scientific breakdown of the constituents for some reason, rather than an overview of reputation. :-)

      Exactly. Where the information here?

        Travis, Lifehacker regularly asks readers for their experiences, which often results in us all learning stuff we didn't know before.

          As a daily reader I'm well aware of that. But this seems like the flimsiest example in a long time. I was also interested to note that my earlier comment criticising the article was never approved.

          I've re-worded it a little, and will be interested to see if this gets through....

          What is being asked for here are unsubstantiated, potentially biased, subjective views.

          The subjective views presented by commenters should at least be offset and informed by some accurate information.

          Tap water can vary from house to house, from suburb to suburb. There are many factors that can influence it's taste.

          It would be much more interesting to read about the actual quality of our water and compare that to peoples experience.

          We should be happy that we generally have safe, reliable drinking water supplies.

          Just for the record, I'm an Adelaidian... and yes, some houses here have quite chemical tasting water, others, like mine you'd never know the difference between bottled water and tap.

            @Travis -- your previous comment got deleted because it verged on being abusive. We do that around here.

            I still think you're over-reacting -- we're just asking people for their experiences. Yes, Australia has much better water than much of the world, but that doesn't mean it isn't interesting to find out how the supplies vary. While the variables you describe are a factor, it's pretty evident that water taste does vary on a more predictable citywide level in many instances.

            @Gomisan; so personal experience is deemed 'unsubstantiated', is it? Yes, I'd dearly love to see Adelaide's toxic water tested, but it will never happen - we're just not permitted to know, which is even more disgusting than the water itself. Perhaps our politicians need an up close and personal dose of the toxins they're so keen to contaminate our water supply with.

            I can say, from personal experience, that I've never been able to drink Adelaide tap water without becoming violently ill and I'd like to know why we're expected to believe that 'cleanliness' equate to 'necessarily toxic'?

    Tasmania and Melbourne have the closest thing that tastes to bottled water. The rest all have a weird taste

    I've found most urban Queensland water is good. Melbourne just tastes a bit...icky...and I've not had the misfortune of travelling to Sydney for over 10 years now.

    gold coast was pretty horrid a few years ago (2000).

    Sydney is pretty bad I reckon, I'm used to it, but when you've had NZ tap water or tap water from western europe...

    Was in Brisbane over the weekend for Splendor, but after drinking the water decided that the choice of drink for me wasn't water.

    Melbourne is very spoilt for water quality, in all my travels around the world I think there has only been one or two places that come close to how good Melbourne water is.

    C'mon, Angus! Armidale water has a taste to it, but is it really that unpleasant? I never objected.

      In winter, sure, Armidale water is crisp and tasty.

      In summer? Often not so much -- I recall being able to taste each algal bloom as it exploded in my mouth like a rancid backpack dripping with explosive pus....

      (This message clearly not bought to you by the Armidale Tourism Board. It's a great city, folks, really, it is...)

        Hey, former Armadillo here myself. Nice to see some others around here.

        To be honest we were on tank water in Armidale so it was always delicious. But I gotta say I never noticed anything up in the times I did drink the town supply. This is going on 8 years now tho.

    Each time I visit Tasmania, I'm shocked as to how good the tap water tastes. I don't know how bottled water companies manage to sell anything over there.

    Perth tap water seems to vary between 'not great' and 'just awful', depending on area.

    I think Canberra water tastes pretty good. Brisbane water is palatable but kind of odd tasting as well. It's much thicker than Canberra water.

    I was originally from Broken Hill.
    Our water supply comes from the menindee lakes. Remember that drought we had? Yeah, it wasn't uncommon for the tap water to be muddy at times or simply taste like dirt and chemicals. Several places around town started offering bulk water purification services. My parents installed rainwater tanks with outflow filtration systems (lead dust from the mines is a common contaminent).
    The treatment plant was recently upgraded and because of the floods the lakes have refilled but for the decade preceding that water was a very precious commodity.

    Oh, and Cobar's water was pretty bad too.

    To be drinkable in Australia, what does the chemical make-up need to be? Does this differ state to state or something?

      5ppm (or similar) Chlorine at the farthest point of the line is what they test for.

      So depending on how far along the line you are and how long the line is from the treatment works, the taste can/will vary quite dramatically!

    Brisbane water isnt great, a bit chemical, but drinkable.

    Bowen in North Queensland however cannot even be used for tea or coffee. It's disgusting.

    Every time I leave Perth, I feel like the tap water in my new location tastes horrible. So, either Perth wins, or it's just what I've become used to.

    On the other hand though, I have stupid looking, unruly hair, which always seems to be more manageable when I wash it interstate.

      oh my lord u nvr been to melb or tazzie or syd

        Why are you digging out 4 year old comments to reply to?

          Serial if you haven't had Melbourne coffee It's better than water ! That is and absaloute latté

    Dubbo water has about as much chlorine as a public swimming pool

    I live in Adelaide and I drink the tap water all the time, and don't see the problem that people have with it. A few years ago i was visiting a friend in Sydney and one of the first things they got me to do was drink the tap water to show me how much better it was and i honestly couldn't see what the big deal was. Didn't seem to be that much better than what it was at home

      I lived in Adelaide for 18 years and thought the same, until I moved away. I've now lived almost the whole way around Australia, and whenever I visit Adelaide I cannot stand the taste of the water!
      I'm currently in Melbourne, and the water is pretty damn good, but I think the top prize for me belongs to Darwin. I lived there for 5 years and the water was nothing short of brilliant. It's the only place I've drank water and enjoyed it.

      I grew up in country South Australia where our potable water supply was rain water (unfiltered). I used to despise the taste of Adelaide water when I moved there (at 17) and initially just drank cordial. In my early 20s I started drinking the Adelaide tap water. I think it took a few weeks to get used to the 'taste'. Now I don't notice it.

      An interesting side note: I didn't visit a dentist in a while and when I did I had to get numerous fillings (>10) even though I religiously brushed twice a day. I've always suspected that it was largely influenced by the cordial that I drank, especially at lunch time.

      I actually like Adelaide tap water - it's got good body to it, you know you're drinking it. I'm an Adelaide resident and I've tasted the tap water in every capital city in Australia.

    Perth and its bore water, tastes like salty thick mucus.

    I'm born and raised in Sydney, so that's my obvious favourite.

      If you mean what the locals call bore water you aren't meant to drink that, it's for the garden. If you mean the groundwater fed through the mains, it's pre-mixed with dam and desal water.

      I think the Perth water tastes fine, as long as the pipes and fittings in the house aren't ancient.

    I find it's the pipes from which the water comes rather than a specific location. We live in Brisvegas, in a rather old house that was built by my great-grandfather and the kitchen pipes are probably almost as old. Drinking from them tastes tinny, the water is often discoloured, and I'm sure it's not good for you. But the bathroom was renovated a couple of years back, the water is clear and I prefer drinking water from the sink there.

    When all else fails, get a purifier or pay for your bottled (tap) spring water I suppose. We are lucky to have water at all.

      +1 - I think the pipes have the most to do with it.

    After coming from NZ I couldn't drink Melbourne water. It tasted like swamp water and I could also smell it every time I ran the tap. But after 6 months I can't taste the difference. I guess that's how long it takes you to lose your sense of taste and smell.

    Went to adelade in january, froze some water in a bottle overnight, upon taking a sip I almost hurled, there was about a teaspoon worth of salty sediment sitting ontop of the ice

    Adelaide. There are times when it is drinkable..and there are times when I would question giving it to my dog. The smell can be putrid at times. Not to mention the taste.

    I loathe parting with money to buy bottled water, but it just seems necessary at times. Chocolate was once considered a treat. Now, it's water!

    A place that I used to live, I asked the local council why the water was so disgusting, his answer was that it was a mix of rain, bore, desalination and city water.

    However, it tasted really nice if you compared it to the France bottled water I got from the Australian Open Tennis.

    ours is drinkable, but smells foul when it first comes out of the tap :-(

    Having travelled extensively around Australia, I can tell you that my hometown of Hobart has the cleanest, nicest tasting drinking water in Australia. 90% of it comes from one of the most beautiful and pure water reservoirs on the planet. It seriously makes bottled water taste like crap.

    I've lived in Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Geelong and they are all the same, disguisting at the start but after a couple of months you aquire the taste, when i now visit these places all of them taste gross.

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