14
Aug
2009

London H20

Sometimes it fizzes, sometimes it smells, sometimes it leaves marks in the shower. What is it? No, this is not a bad joke and, no, I am not discussing some uncouth bodily function. I am talking about London’s water, the life juice that pollutes your kettle with limescale and leaves a film in your tea cup. 

After moving down from bonnie Scotland to the Big Smoke last September I was flabbergasted by the water. There was white gunk it my kettle, irremovable drip marks in my shower and a chalky aftertaste every time I had a glass. Soon I was denouncing the water to anyone and everyone who crossed my path.  

Now about to move out of my current flat, I have spent the last month battling with the glass doors of my shower which are coated with chalky drip-marks despite frequent scuffles with the glass cleaner. As it turns out, I needed an industrial-style foaming product that almost bit off my hand as it flew out of the nozzle. Another sign of the water quality, I thought. By now, I was furious. Why was this so much work? Poised to write to my MP, I decided to do some research.  

City of the Brita Filter, I have news for you. London water ain’t so bad. Indeed, according to the Drinking Water Inspectorate’s annual report published earlier this month, the tap water in the Thames region is the best in England. Maybe you need to hear that again: your tap holds better drinking water than you would find in the Lake District or Northumberland, those magical places where rivers run through valleys and every day doesn’t start with steamed milk lattes.  

Amazed? I was shocked. I am forever hearing that London water has gone through seven, nine, 12 people before it even hits my lips. Indeed, this fact is almost as familiar to Londoners as the oft-repeated line: ‘In London you are only ever four, three, two feet away from a rat.’ Taken together, these two ‘facts’ could give Londoners the sense that they are constantly rolling around in Dickensian filth. 

So now for the science bit; apparently the limescale that haunts your kettle like the sickly ghost of teas past is mineral residue from ‘hard’ water being heated and it doesn’t mean the water is dirty. Likewise, cloudy water can just be a sign of excess air (although if the cloudiness doesn’t shift from the glass when it is set down, you should phone your water company).  

So it seems I got it all wrong. I better cancel my bottled water delivery then.

Image by Jim Linwood courtesy of Flickr

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