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Sip, Sip Hooray: 11 Countries With The Cleanest Water In The World

Amber McDaniel


You use it every day for (almost) everything, but how clean is your water, really? And how does it compare to countries with the cleanest water in the world?

According to the World Health Organization, around 1 in 4 people lack safe, clean drinking water, while others are blessed with natural resources, dedicated government officials, funds, and infrastructure to provide their citizens with pure H2O.

Unfortunately, even the cleanest drinking water in the world is under threat. With a changing climate, drought, and a rise in pollutants like agricultural chemicals, antibiotics, and microparticles, even the cleanest water will likely get a little, uh…less clean in years to come. 

So in the meantime, let’s inspire some change by tapping into the best tap water in the world to fill up your plastic-free water bottle.

1. Finland

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As a country scattered with thousands (168,000 to be exact) of lakes, 85% of which have received good or excellent environmental evaluations, it’s no wonder Finland boasts some of the purest water in the world. These lakes and their tributary rivers are where most of their water comes from, though Lake Päïjänne alone is responsible for the bulk.

Once considered by citizens to have “ugly water,” it wasn’t uncommon to find cancer-causing remnants in Finland’s water until environmental monitoring and wildlife restoration turned the (water) tables.

Now described as an “essential part of Finland and the Finnish character”, environmental authorities ensure water quality is excellent, ecological, and cost-efficient. It’s so clean that it barely needs added chemicals or processing.

However, because agricultural runoff is still a concern, it’s processed in UV-treatment pools for about 24 hours before it ends up in a home tap.


2. The Netherlands

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The Netherlands takes a different approach to drinking water. Instead of the chlorine or fluoride used in countries like the US, the country transforms surface water into some of the cleanest drinking water in the world through a holistic approach—namely protecting water sources, maintaining the piped distribution system, and utilizing good purification practices. 

Groundwater provides about two-thirds of the country’s water, while the other third comes from surface water, including that found in natural sand dunes. Sand is actually one of the most effective water purification agents in its own right, a process called sedimentation.

Water may go through additional sand filtration, ozone treatment, carbon treatment, filtration, and treatment with UV light before it comes out of the tap as non-chlorinated “super-water”.


3. Iceland

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With “above exceptional” water, a staggering 97% of Icelandic residents think theirs is the best drinking water in the world, and even encourage travelers and tourists to drink the glacial-cold, clear water straight from streams (though we always recommend purifying water first to be safe).

Samples are taken in Reykjavik every year to test for water quality, meeting 99.44% of water compliance standards.

While 6% of Iceland is covered by freshwater lakes, rivers, and glaciers, 95% of the country’s water comes from underground aquifers and fresh springs—meaning it’s free of nitrates, chlorine, and calcium and thus doesn’t need to be treated. The remaining 5% is subjected to UV treatment.

Hot water comes from geothermal origins, so it may have a slight sulphuric smell. 


4. Norway

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According to Norse legend, if you consume water directly from a glacier, you might live to be 100. While science and the discovery of parasitic glacier ice worms has debunked this notion, it’s hardly any wonder this pristine nordic country is home to arguably the cleanest tap water in the world.

Approximately 98.82% of Norwegians have access to clean water, and around 90% get water from more than 1,500 waterworks that are approved and strictly monitored by the government. Scattering the country are 455,000 lakes and several rivers—so naturally, 90% of Norway’s water supply comes from ponds, lakes, streams, and brooks.

While low levels of heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants, and other unwanted substances are reported, it undergoes an intensive disinfection process. 


5. Switzerland

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Swiss water has a better ecological balance than bottled mineral water—but it wasn’t always that way. Over time, the country developed sophisticated purification and testing systems, and is now recognized by the UN as having some of the world’s cleanest water.

80% of the water comes from underground sources (naturally filtered through gravel and stone), 40% from Alpine springs and the rest from lakes. As such, minimal processing is needed. Only 33% of the drinking water requires multi-level treatment: membrane technology, ozonation, carbon filtration, water softening, and decalcification. 

Many rural communities developed their own water supply networks over a century ago and still manage them successfully today. Swiss law requires them to deliver “safe water in sufficient quantity”.

They also have measures in place to protect water sources and minimize pollution—like banning phosphates in laundry detergent—and supporting sustainable agriculture practices to reduce pesticides and fertilizers. 


6. Luxembourg

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Like Germany, drinking water is the most strictly regulated and tested resource in Luxembourg. Over 2,000 tests are conducted every year to ensure that microbiological quality, hardness, nitrates, pesticides, fluoride, and lead are within reasonable levels. 

An ultrafiltration system is used to ensure cleanliness and purity of the tap water, 57% of which comes from groundwater. The Esch-sur-Sûre reservoir provides the remaining 43%. 

When it comes to the purity of the country’s eleven lakes, however, no systems or infrastructure are needed, as they’ve received “excellent” status from the European Environment Agency for being free from pollution and safe for humans and the environment.


7. Austria

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Just one-fifth of Austria’s land mass is suitable for industrial production and intensive agriculture. Most is covered by forests, rugged alpine peaks, alpine meadows, crystal clear lakes, and natural springs, which provide 50% of the country’s water (the other 50% comes from underground sources).

Austrian law ÖNORM M 6222-1 has made high quality drinking water mandatory, and 90% of water supply facilities are directly controlled by the government. Extensive protection measures applied to certain water basins ensures the water is clean enough to bypass treatment before it ends up in your glass.


8. United Kingdom

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Roughly 80% of all UK water comes from the Thames and River Lee, so the UK’s place on this list is impressive given the Thames was once London’s sole destination for waste throughout the Industrial Revolution. Sourcing water from what was then nicknamed the “Great Stink” led to the spread of Cholera and other diseases.

Today, the Thames still provides water for London but it’s made a remarkable recovery thanks to infrastructure and advanced filtration processes (although it does utilize chlorine).

Using a decentralized system with independent inspectors, millions of tests are performed annually to ensure that water is of the best possible quality. In 2022, water quality compliance rates were a remarkable 99.97%.

Plus, considered one of the rainiest places on Earth, all those downpours regularly replenish the groundwater supply, which provides about one-third of the country’s drinking water. 


9. Germany

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Strictly regulated by the government, Germany has some of the best water in the world. Just ask the the hundreds of loicals and tourists you’ll find on any given summer day swimming and surfing the Eisbach River running right through the heart of Munich.

As one of the country’s most regulated resources, water standards adhere to a stringent water ordinance (called Trinkwasserverordnung). Among other things, this means no hard chemicals like chlorine and fluoride are used to purify water. More than 99.99% of monitored samples comply with the country’s strict requirements regarding chemical and microbiological quality.

70% of the country’s tap water comes from spring water and groundwater. The rest is sourced from reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and wells near rivers and lakes. It’s then analyzed and, if necessary (though it’s often not), processed. 


10. Sweden

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It’s the norm to drink tap water in Sweden, even though it passes through relatively minimal two-stage purification process: 1) Decontamination with mechanical and mild chemical methods; and 2) Organic pollutant extraction using slow sand filters.

Tap water is considered a better alternative that’s just as clean and fresh as bottled water, which is why they have programs in place to protect it—especially since about half of Sweden’s water comes from surface water via one of its 95,700 lakes.

Frequent testing is administered to ensure drinking water safety. 


11. Greenland

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Renowned as some of the finest in the world, water from Greenland has actually been used as a baseline for zero pollution in other countries’ water tests. 

All water is minimally treated and purified before it reaches its thirsty citizens. With such a naturally high quality, only a small proportion requires heavier processing at a reverse osmosis plant. 

Since most of Greenland’s water comes from surface water, either freshwater lakes or rivers, many activities are banned around the freshwater lakes (driving a snowmobile, walking a dog, etc.) to reduce the risk of pollution. 


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