We all know that proper hydration is quite important and most of us (should) try to drink about 1.5 litres a day (perhaps more in hot weather or when exercising). But what sort of water?

Recent decades have seen a huge increase in the demand for bottled water. This water may be sourced from natural springs, dolomite lakes, treatment pants, etc. Typically, bottled water comes in plastic bottles. Bottled water is expensive and bad for the environment (plastics, microplastics, transportation, landfill use….) but is it healthier?

Tap water is generally supplied by municipalities, who run the water treatment and distribution service. In South Africa’s larger and well run cities the quality of tap water remains good in general and it is considered safe to drink. But is smaller municipalities the situation varies, with some doing a good job of water-supply and others not (reasons for this are beyond the scope of this article). Many South Africans just do not trust tap water. Tap availability is a problem for many people who live in informal settlements.

Bottled water is nearly always safe from a microbiological perspective: it is clean and uncontaminated by bugs. But it may certain BPAs and other chemicals that can leach from some types of plastic, especially when stored long term or used repeatedly. BPA-free bottles are increasingly widely used these days, which largely removes this concern.

Domestic water filters (various brands and technologies are available) are a smart option for improving the safety and taste of tap water. These make good options for middle-class families who can afford the initial cost of these filters (they are not cheap).

Reverse osmosis is a type of water treatment that is becoming more and more common. It is a simple and effective way to improve the safety and quality of tap water. Many small shops and supermarkets sell reverse-osmosis (RO) water. RO water is perhaps the cheapest and most practical option for most South Africans looking for better drinking water.

We all need to drink water. Most of need to drink more water. If you feel confident in your tap water, we recommend drinking that. We believe that most South Africans in large cities can trust tap water in mid-2021. If you are concerned we suggest trying reverse osmosis water or installing a water filter at home.