Drinking water in South Africa, where tap water is clean and safe

Drinking water in South Africa is quite safe when taken from the tap or faucet  -  in fact our tap water is said to be some of the safest and cleanest in the world.

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry recently stated that the country's national standard compares well with the World Health Organisation's standards.

The responsibility to provide clean water rests with locally-based Water Services Authorities, who regularly monitor the quality of drinking water in South Africa.

Tap water undergoes treatment which ensures it is free of harmful micro-organisms and contaminants. In some areas, South African drinking water is rich in minerals, and may involve a bit of getting used to.

Avoid, however, drinking water from streams and rivers, especially in areas where there is human habitation. These may carry water-borne diseases. But if you encounter an unpolluted mountain steam, a drink should be most refreshing.

Should you find yourself in the unlikely position of not having clean water on hand, contaminated water can be disinfected by boiling for 10 minutes, or adding a teaspoon of bleach per 25 lites or a teaspoon of chlorine granules per 200l. In both the latter cases, allow the water to stand for 2 hours. Another method is to expose water to direct sunlight for at least 6 hours in a transparent container with a small airspace, shaking after filling and every hour after that.

Some tap and natural water may have a slight brown tinge from humic acid, which is harmless and does not affect drinking water quality in South Africa.

The market for bottled water is growing in South Africa, and supermarket shelves hold numerous brands, some of them well-known international names. Your choice includes Still and sparkling waters, and a range of fruit- flavoured types.