Stage Image water Basics.

Water Basics

Read our guide on drinking water in the UK

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Drinking water is essential – not only to life in general, as a beverage in its own right, but for making tea or coffee, preparing food, cleaning kitchens and more. In all these scenarios, users want the best possible water for their purposes. After all, proper hydration has a positive impact on health and productivity.

Our guide to water basics will help educate you on the water cycle and how the composition of water is affected by natural and man-made substances.



Drinking water is one of the most highly controlled foodstuffs in the Western world – and has strict limits on what it can contain. So, what is in tap water?

Water is often called the universal solvent, as it dissolves more substances than any other liquid. Consequently, water is usually more than simply H2 O – and its contents can vary greatly.

The most important categories are:

  • Substances from the natural environment (e.g. minerals)
  • Substances from water treatment (e.g. chlorine)
  • Particles from piping (e.g. rust, scale)
  • Residues from pollution (e.g. organic impurities, pesticides, hormones)
  • Microbes (e.g. Pseudomonas)


minerals are naturally occurring chemical compounds and consist of cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negatively charged ions).

Cations: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium

Anions: hydrogen carbonate, sulphate, nitrate, chlorine

The minerals in water also determine if the water is considered hard or soft.

Hard water contains more cations (dissolved magnesium and calcium ions), from coming into contain with substances such as limestone. Some water hardness is permanent, and some is considered carbonate.

Essentially, this means that carbonate hardness can be removed through boiling, which is what creates limescale in kettles and on showerheads, but permanent hardness must be treated with a water softener.



Organic matter in drinking water is highly controlled. There are very strict thresholds for many of these substances, for example, pesticides. Some are easily detected by the human senses of smell and taste, even in the minutest of quantities – such as the musty, earthy aroma and flavour of geosmin, associated with the smell of rain. Some examples:

  • Residues from pharmaceuticals, pesticides, solvents, industrial products such as paints
  • Natural substances, such as residues from algae and bacteria


Particles in drinking water typically originate from piping. Over time, rust and limescale are deposited in pipes in the water supply network. A water hammer (pressure surge) can dislodge these materials. They may then build up downstream in mains-fed equipment, such as coffee machines, causing faults. The majority of these particles are barely discernible with the naked eye, and range in size from 1 μm to 200 μm.

For comparison bubble: A strand of a northern European’s hair has a diameter of approx. 50 μm

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Treatment plants play a crucial role in purifying water and removing undesirable substances to make it safe to drink – a task they perform to consistently excellent standards. However, the resulting potable water can vary in terms of hardness, chlorine levels, aroma, taste, and more.

Certain substances are deliberately added to treat water – for example:

  • Substances to eliminate clouding (turbidity), e.g., iron or manganese
  • Chlorine for disinfection A small quantity of chlorine is added to disinfect tap water; chlorination is essential, as it kills potential pathogens. However, chlorine, combined with organic residues, can give water an unpleasant odour and unpalatable taste.


Despite having some of the cleanest water in the world, there can be tastes and odours in our water that is less than desirable. If you want the best water for your tastes and needs, there is a lot of benefits that a BRITA water filter can do for you:

  • Achieve the ideal mineral composition.
  • Remove undesired odours and off-tastes, such as chlorine and other particles.
  • Reduce carbonate hardness.
  • Lower maintenance and energy costs.
  • Minimise machine downtime.

For more information please contact us below

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