Ask LH: Is My Office’s Unfiltered Tap Water Safe To Drink?

Ask LH: Is My Office’s Unfiltered Tap Water Safe To Drink?

Dear Lifehacker, When refilling my water bottle in the office, does it really matter if I use the normal tap or the filtered water tap? I’m assuming the origin of the water is the same. Thanks, H20 Chugger

Tap water picture from Shutterstock

Dear HC,

Generally speaking, Australian tap water is safe for human consumption. Our country’s water supplies are carefully managed to insure against harmful pathogenic microorganisms. This is one of the chief advantages of living in a first world country and something most of us take for granted.

You should only become suspicious if you notice a sudden change in water quality or tap flow; particularly during periods of extreme rainfall or flooding. Otherwise, you can rest assured that your tap water is safe to drink.

While there’s no need to filter tap water that has already been treated, the process is thought to improve the taste and temperature (i.e. — it comes chilled straight out of the tap.) It also brings additional peace of mind, especially during contamination scares.

With that said, you shouldn’t assume filtered water is 100% safe either. As explained in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, the filters need to be maintained and replaced as per the manufacturer’s instructions. If your office admin is slack or forgetful, those filters are probably useless. Time to send a reminder email…

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I used the filtered water at work solely because its chilled. Otherwise, tap water’s never done me wrong.

    But it does vary from state to state, and region to region. Areas that dont florinate for example will taste different to those that do, and depending on the individual, may cause different reactions accordingly.

    • Are you talking about fluoride? That has no bearing on the taste of water at the levels that are used. I’m also pretty sure there are no known reactions to it either or we wouldn’t have it on such wide scales.

      • Thats it, knew what I wrote was wrong, couldnt be bothered figuring it out though 🙂

        Whether fluoride tastes different or not is debatable though. I dont think it does either, but I know others that swear it makes a difference and that water tastes sweeter with it. As for reactions to it, just look at the paranoia about it in Queensland, where there are quite powerful lobby groups doing everything in their power to prevent it being used.

        Wasnt really the main point though, which was more that water will seem different depending on where you are and where it comes from. Tap water in South Australia tastes a lot different to New South Wales for example, and Queensland varies quite considerably depending on where you are as well. The source of the water makes a difference, no matter what the filtration process is.

        • What do the lobby groups have to gain by people having a higher pecentage chance of having cavities?

          People love to freak out about nothing. It’s being used in countries all around the world and Australia. And from everything I have read on it, no you can’t taste it. There are a huge number of things in water that can alter the taste though.

          • I have absolutely no idea. To me they are down there with various other groups that are crazy and dont deserve my time, but they’ve managed to get their view to be the prevailing one across a significant stretch of Queensland. Their mentality seems to be around it being a poison…

            Its scary to me that a globally proven method is being ignored and risking the health of the states entire population, on the back of a fear with no rational evidence. As you say, people love to freak out about nothing.

            I know of groups that are paranoid about banana’s being radioactive, just because they contain potassium… Go figure.

          • Sodium Fluoride was still being used as late as the early 80’s as not only a pesticide but as a rat poison as well, and is still listed as toxic by most poison information centres. BTW there is plenty of rational evidence out there.

          • Yes, but at what dosage? The amount present in tap water is nowhere near the amount to cause harm to humans. Literally everything you consume is poisonous at a high enough dosage, including plain old H20.

          • You should hear about this stuff called water. Thousands die in it every year.
            And this stuff called panadol – people have taken this AND DIED!!!
            Also, oxygen is extremely fatal, I suppose you have never heard of oxygen toxicity.

            Obviously we are talking about safe levels of fluoride that have been proven to be safe over many decades in countries around the world and the rest of Australia.
            When you have some rational evidence, come back and contribute to the discussion.

          • Wait, are these actual proper lobby groups from business or just a whole bunch of fringe lunatics like gundolini?

          • Having read papers & done research about the toxicity of fluoride from such organisations such as the Harvard School of Medicine & the Australian Governments National Health & Medical Research Council and the banning of fluoride in the water in the quite a few western European countries @darren I don’t appreciate being labelled as a fringe lunatic.

          • But you are as there is no science to back up what you are saying. Anything is lethal in large doses and perfectly safe in small doses.

            You would succumb to water intoxication well before having any health problems with the level of fluoride that is currently put in drinking water. This is a fact that cannot be refuted by a rational person.

            Just because countries have banned it does not really help your argument. Look at how many stupid things the government had done or banned/allowed here.

            Interestingly, fluoridated salt is easily available in many of these European countries that do not have it in the water, naturally or not.

  • I had a filter on my fridge for 5 years before changing it and i never got sick or even noticed a change in taste.

    If you live in a newish house or work in a recent building then there shouldn’t be any issue with water because of the PVC pipes but older houses that probably use copper pipes it probably wouldn’t hurt for a filter. Go to your local bunnings, they sell a DIY kit that just attaches to standard kitchen tap fittings.

  • The filtering/chilling system at my work is currently broken. I tried regular tap water and it was so gross. Smelled like chlorine.

  • Melbourne here. Out waters beautiful from the tap.

    The Chilled water at work is filtered though. You shouldn’t need to filter it.

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