Woman Drinking Water

Is Perth Tap Water Safe to Drink? [2021 Update]

Perth, we know the eastern states like to brag about the quality of their tap water. Whether you’re a tourist headed to the western state’s capital or a longtime resident, you might be curious to know how safe it is to drink tap water in Perth, Western Australia.

How does Perth drinking water compare to the rest of the nation? Does it meet drinking water guidelines? Or are you better off ditching Perth’s water supply and drinking bottled water instead?

Metropolitan Plumbing has your expert plumbers in Perth. We’re going to run you through everything you need to know about Perth drinking water so you can keep yourself and your family safe.

Perth Water Supply

Perth residents are supplied with water under Water Corporation’s largest scheme, the Integrated Water Supply Scheme (IWSS). This scheme supplies water from four different sources – desalinated water (43 per cent), surface water dams (15 per cent), groundwater (39 per cent) and groundwater replenishment (3 per cent).

Perth water supply
Source: Water Corporation

The IWSS has access to 13 surface water dams where water is stored from both regular run off water from streams as well as desalinated water and groundwater. This ensures year-round access to water, regardless of the climate we’re facing.

Perth still relies heavily on groundwater for its water supply, but with the decreased rain, more groundwater sources are needed. Climate-independent sources such as desalination and recycled water are also becoming more important.

By 2030, Water Corporation hopes to be sourcing up to 57 per cent of its water from desalination methods. The company is also working to reduce water use in this scheme by 12 per cent and rely more on and recycled water. By 2060, up to 20 per cent of Perth’s water supply could be from recycled water.

Why Does Perth Tap Water Taste Bad?

Tap water taste ultimately comes down to your own personal preference. There are a few things that go into giving it its flavour, however.

On its way from the treatment plant to you, it picks up a variety of things that give your water a distinct taste. There are an array of factors that affect how your water tastes, and it can even change over time and across different locations.

You will find minerals, salts, metals and a whole host of other materials in your water. These are the total dissolved solids (TDS).

Studies have shown which specific TDS components make water taste the best. Highly rated water had relatively high concentrations of bicarbonate, sulphate, calcium and magnesium ions along with a higher pH. Poorly rated tap water, however, had higher concentrations of sodium, potassium and chloride ions. Other studies have shown that water activates the sour taste receptor cells on your tongue.

That said, too many minerals are generally associated with poor tasting water.

TDS and water quality
Source: Water Corporation

All of this is to say is that there are a lot of different components that go into making your Perth water taste bad or good, and two people drinking the same water can have entirely different opinons of it.

Perth Water Treatment

Before your water supplier delivers water to your home, it undergoes treatment. This can affect its taste as well. Water Corporation has a basic water treatment process to ensure your Perth drinking water is safe:

  1. Disinfection – chlorination/ultraviolet
  2. Fluoridation
  3. Water storage/IWSS
  4. Possible ongoing disinfection
  5. Customer supply

Depending on the water source, Water Corporation might also treat your water with the following methods:

  • ultra-filtration
  • desalination
  • electrodialysis reversal

These methods are all performed within safe levels for consumption, so you don’t need to be concerned about chlorine or fluoride affecting your health negatively.

How Is Perth Water Quality Checked?

perth desalination water supply with city skyline

Water Corporation conduct extensive testing to ensure Perth water quality is safe and meets expectations. In order to do this, they have a robust monitoring and incident management system in place to identify and rectify issues as soon as they occur. This includes critical control points across the IWSS and other schemes, verification monitoring and appropriate incident responses.

Annual reports are also available publicly, so you can check out the quality of your water for yourself through the Water Corporation website.

Is Perth Tap Water Safe?

Generally speaking, yes, Perth tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Water Corporation’s 2019-2020 report showed that every region in Perth that supplied a sample met the health-related Guideline requirements which tested for:

  • microorganisms such as E. coli and thermophilic Naegleria
  • fluoride
  • hydrocarbons – petroleum oil
  • metals e.g.: heavy metals
  • nitrates
  • pesticides
  • radiological
  • trihalomethanes
  • other general health-related concerns

Furthermore, the Perth, Western Australia, region also met nearly all the aesthetic guideline requirements. While not health-related aesthetics refer to the taste, odour, colour, turbidity, salinity, hardness and temperature of your drinking water. These tests assessed:

  • alkalinity – calcium carbonate
  • pH
  • water hardness
  • aluminium
  • chloride
  • iron
  • silicon
  • sodium
  • manganese
  • TDS
  • true colour
  • turbidity

There were only a few areas of note for Perth water quality in this report.

Water Hardness Perth

water hardness guidelines
Source: Australian Drinking Water Guidelines

Part of water quality guidelines tests water hardness. This is a measure of the concentration of minerals in your Perth water. A high concentration of minerals is considered ‘hard’ and a low concentration is ‘soft’. It is measured in milligrams per litre (mg/L).

Water hardness across Perth ranged from 45-228mg/L on average with most localities falling in the good quality 60-200mg/L range in 2019-2020. Only two localities were found to have an average water hardness greater than 200mg/L and this was characteristic for the water supply.

While not harmful to our health, hard water does have a number of disadvantages, including:

  • leaves a white solid residue on your tapware which requires more cleaning products to be used
  • soap is more difficult to lather up, making washing dishes and showering more challenging
  • watermarks and limescale residue can be left on clean dishes
  • freshly washed laundry can feel stiff from limescale residue left behind
  • hard water can taste unpleasant

Too soft water also has its disadvantages, but it is uncommon to find this. Only two regions did not meet the hard water criteria, as the water supply for these areas is characteristically hard. A water softener can help mitigate the effects of your water hardness level in Perth, however.

Sodium in Perth Tap Water

There is one aesthetic quality that concerns a group of people, however – sodium. Guidelines suggest that salinity should not exceed 500mg/L. These guidelines often use TDS to measure salinity. Some districts in Perth have the highest salinity water in Australia, so much so that the water can taste salty!

Sodium is one of two elements in the chemical structure of salt. 20mg/L of sodium per litre of water is the maximum recommended amount for those on a low sodium diet. The average sodium concentration in Perth districts ranged from 20 – 126.3mg/L in the 2019-2020 report by Water Corporation. If you drink at least one litre in a day, that’s more than six times the recommended limit for low sodium diets in your drinking water alone!

While this is clearly a problem for those who must stick to a low sodium diet, Australians overconsume salt and most of this comes from processed food. For those in a high sodium water area, your water might play a bigger part than you anticipated.

While you can’t control the quality of your water supplies, you have some control over the quality of your drinking water. No one wants to be drinking bottled water forever, so if water quality is a concern to you, contact Metropolitan Plumbing. Whether you need a plumber to install a water softener or a filter, we can help improve your water quality in Western Australia.

Want to know how your city’s tap water stands up against the rest? We’ve also assessed the quality of tap water in Adelaide, Brisbane, and Melbourne.


Published: 7 Sep, 2020

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