Drinking water

Drinking water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so take precautions if necessary.

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry maintains that South Africa's national standard of water quality compares well with World Health Organisation standards. 

The responsibility to provide clean water rests with locally-based water services authorities, which regularly monitor the quality of drinking water in South Africa. These authorities are also rated by the department according to the Blue Drop Certification System,  which continually asseses, among other things, their water safety planning.

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 drinking water from streams and rivers, especially in areas where there is human habitation. These may carry water-borne diseases.

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 variants.