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

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.

    • 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.

        • 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’?

  • 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.

    • 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 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The best tap water in Australia can be found in Nhulunbuy, NT 0886. It tastes great and isn’t hard at all. I was told it comes from an aquifer that is between Northern Australia and New Guinea. I’m in Tassie now and the water is good too, but Nhulunbuy is the best.

  • In Lismore, the water comes out of the tap smelling like a dog has just been freshly washed in it. Funny thing is, after acclimatising, it was delicious! To this day whenever I see wet Labrador, I thirst.

  • I’ve travelled extensively around Australia (including 5 months in 2009) and I’ve always found the water to be okay. I guess this is partially due to only drinking tap water whilst growing up.

  • I live in Adelaide and i have to say that we having the worst tasting water is absolutely bullshit.

    Our water has to pass the same quality standards as the rest of the country. It has more to do with the existing infrastructure then quality of water, the tap water at my house is actually pretty clean but at my mates house which is older the water has a slight chalky taste.

    I would like to see a proper scientific study done on water quality from all around Australia and not just peoples personal opinions.

  • Im from Sydney, well I have always had tap water, except the scriptospiridium days, but nothing to it, open the tap and voila, fresh water, I don’t know what GOOD water tastes like, I know what bottled water tastes like, and I feel its a little flat for me. People at work see me with a weird face for just drinking straight from the tap, been drinking tap water since I was born, never had a problem.

  • I quickly skimmed through the comments and no one is right. I’m sorry to tell you it’s Darwin. With resevoirs three times the size of adelaide and with 1/5th the population. The water here is amazing. It’s purely redicuous how much water we have up here and its tastes great. oh yeah i spent the first 25 years of my life in adelaide before coming to darwin.

  • Swansea, Tasmania. I win hands down.

    Up until a couple of months ago, they did not even have any water treatment facilities, and residents/tourists in the area were urged to boil any drinking water prior to consumption.

    Now what’s my prize?

  • My partner used to live in Richmond, just at the base of the Blue Mountains in NSW – he had rain water in a tank and it was the best stuff ever!
    It’s so good when you have a shower, too – whenever I washed my hair there it always looked way better after it dried than if I’d showered at home (same as you, Angus – I’m all for boiling).

    Sadly the water at our current house (Sydney metro) turns white when coming out of the hot water tap. I’m scared to know why it does that. :S

  • Moved to Melbourne last year after living in Tassie all my life, and I do miss the Tassie water… it is just amazing. Although the Melbourne water is much better than Perth water.

  • I always found Canberra water fairly reasonable. When I first moved down to Melbourne I spent a week in a recently built but cheapish house an hour and a half out of town – water perfectly fine. Then a few weeks in South Yarra in a very old house – water perfectly fine. Moved into a hideously overpriced, brand new apartment in the CBD – water truly hideous, tasted like it was full of dirt, has to be filtered and then tastes bad, but bearable.
    It really seems to be the pipes or the particular house. Certainly around here, and the times I’ve been to Adelaide the tap water I had was actually okay, contrary to warnings from people I know who grew up there that it might come out of the tap brown.

  • From a former German’s point of view, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and any of the other places I’ve visited in Queensland water is pretty unappealing to my taste buds. Going back to Germany once in a blue moon is a water blessing. 🙂

  • Mt Gambier is hands down the best ive tasted. Its probably the only place in Aus that is “off tap” as it were.

    The blue lake (an old volcano) is the reservoir for it now. Nothing but water. Long running joke that the water makes people pregnant too, as its (i think, best check) the lowest age / demographic for births. Average age is ~16.

  • Grew up with country SA water which was basically unfiltered Murray River pipelined brown silt, which no one actually drank… rainwater for household uses.

    Moved to Melbourne and it was like Evian from a Tap 🙂 14 years later and I still relish in the taste of the basic tapwater here. I do use a Britta at home, but when I’m out and about… tapwater is never a non-option… (me fail english… that’s unpossible)

  • Taree water has always tasted like public pool water & now after the powers that be installed a new filtration system it’s even worse. Kinda like a weird mix of chlorine & plastic. Cannot brew beer with it !

  • Perth, especially north of the river, where the amount of bore water appears to be higher than that delivered south of the river. Becomes very apparent when making a cup of tea.
    Albany’s water is not great either, also being largely pumped from underground.

    Thankfully we have (only) rain water at home, and its taste is wonderful. We just do not think about what is floating in tank 🙂

  • Until my girlfriend moved in, I was happy to drink the tap water in my area of Sydney. However, these days we always boil the water before drinking as a matter of course. She jokes that she is allergic to the water as she has only lived in the country for a few years and gets stomach aches and other “problems” if she drinks the tap water.. but it’s a good habit to get into in general I think.

  • I know I’m late to the convo but just want to add that Adelaide water is truly awful…the pipes in my house are new-ish (21 years old), I’ve lived in this house since I was 2. The water has always been horrible, and at one point my mother was glad we had a white bathtub so she knew not to put my sister and I in – the water came out BROWN!

    We have a big rainwater tank and I drink that (unfiltered – wrigglers and all, protein yay!) or bottled water unless I have no choice. Ugh, Adelaide water. Of all the tap water I’ve tasted, Melbourne’s is the best and Sydneys is second. It’s also seriously corroded all our pipes – the faucet on our bath has had to be replaced once and is corroding through again.

    Adelaide’s is drinkable if you chill it really well first but otherwise, no. Ew.

  • You all seem to be complacent about the water situation in Australia. Frankly it’s a disgrace and most of you just accept that it’s normal and acceptable. Well it’s not! The water here in Adelaide is so bad that it is detrimental to our health. My wife has psoriasis on her scalp and it causes excessive redness & itchiness. This led me to have an independent analysis of our water and the results were shocking, basically the chlorine levels were disturbingly high. Don’t believe all the crap that our politicians say and don’t be blinded by the stupid ‘the lucky country’ statement because all it does is justifies the fact that we have the worst water in the world. I was in Zimbabwe recently and the tap water there was soft and clean. When I had a shower there I didn’t smell as if I had just stepped out of a swimming pool…. and that was in a 3rd world country. Water is a basic necessity for life and since we are forced to pay exorbitant prices for our water then we should be entitled to good quality water…..

  • Just moved to Armidale and I lived on tank water back at my parents house….big change for me. The water is really unpleasant at the moment(summer). Just found out that Armidale has the alga bloom toxic pollution crap in it and went and bought a 15L thing of water. I have been feeling very tired since moving here…may be something in the water…

  • yes hello we went everywhere in all 8 and a half states for the past 12 years! we didnt start til we were one and and so u can see we are experts
    melbourne: wow just wow i drink this at school everyday !! i bathe my children in this holy water
    tazzie: cool but not as COOL as melb
    adelaide: u need to move out of the country but sometimes very useful bc i use it to wash my butt
    NT: yeah 8/12
    sydney: yeah quite good nice nice overrated
    canberra: why does everyone like this water!!tony abbot uses it
    perth: i saw my life flash before my eyes when my aunty forced me to drink this.

  • Melbourne water seems to have improved. It used to be perhaps over-chlorinated. But now it seems alright. How about all the beautiful ancient aquifer water that is wasted to wash uranium in Australia? Shouldn’t we be drinking this rather than the chemically treated, fluoridated water that exists here? Taste some absolutely unfluoridated, unchlorinated water in say, Amsterdam. Then again, there is no real “chi” in this water, a result of reverse osmosis. When I got to Melbourne and had a shower it felt like fun, a good sign that the water was alive in some way. This is a fascinating discussion on lifehacker, but you should all try bottled (glass) Pellegrino water that has been left to go flat. Now that’s a pure taste. And if you don’t drive a petrol car maybe you can factor in the carbon footprint. Melbourne used to have very nice water back in the 70s. ’77 I believe was the year they introduced fluoridation that apparently can be mostly removed by soaking holy basil in the water. Most people who haven’t had a special diet have had their brains corroded by fluoride. So how can you explain that to people who already have the corrosion? Tumeric, tamarind get’s it out of your system. I’m looking forward to one day getting to Tasmania — their water sounds maybe the best. All things said though, once you’ve had a stomach problem some chlorine starts to seem just fine! The thing that recurs in these discussions is that people GET USED TO things. It’s best to get used to not ingesting lots of chemicals, and feel just a whole lot more alive.

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