Tap water

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A simple indoor water tap

Tap water (also known as running water, piped water or municipal water) is water supplied through a tap, a water dispenser valve. In many countries, tap water usually has the quality of drinking water. Tap water is commonly used for drinking, cooking, washing, and toilet flushing. Indoor tap water is distributed through indoor plumbing, which has existed since antiquity but was available to very few people until the second half of the 19th century when it began to spread in popularity in what are now developed countries. Tap water became common in many regions during the 20th century, and is now lacking mainly among people in poverty, especially in developing countries.

Governmental agencies commonly regulate tap water quality. Calling a water supply "tap water" distinguishes it from the other main types of fresh water which may be available; these include water from rainwater-collecting cisterns, water from village pumps or town pumps, water from wells, or water carried from streams, rivers, or lakes (whose potability may vary).


A synonym for tap water is piped water, a term used by the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation by WHO and UNICEF to describe the situation for access to drinking water in developing countries.[1] Piped water is not necessarily of drinking water quality but does count as an "improved water source" in the logic of Sustainable Development Goal 6. Other improved water sources include boreholes, protected dug wells or springs, rainwater, and bottled or water delivered by tanker.[1]: 12 

Fixtures and appliances[edit]

An outdoor drinking water tap at Desa Dasan Geria Village, West Lombok

Everything in a building that uses water falls under one of two categories; fixture or appliance. As the consumption points above perform their function, most produce waste/sewage components that will require removal by the waste/sewage side of the system. The minimum is an air gap. See cross connection control & backflow prevention for an overview of backflow prevention methods and devices currently in use, both through the use of mechanical and physical principles.[citation needed]

Fixtures are devices that use water without an additional source of power.

Fittings and valves[edit]

Potable water supply systems are composed of pipes, fittings and valves.

Water flow reduction[edit]

Water flow through a tap can be reduced by inexpensive small plastic flow reducers. These restrict flow between 15 and 50%, aiding water conservation and reducing the burden on both water supply and treatment facilities.


The installation of water pipes can be done using the following plastic[2] and metal[2] materials:


  • polybutylene (PB)
  • high density cross-linked polyethylene (PE-X)
  • block copolymer of polypropylene (PP-B)
  • the polypropylene copolymer (PP-H)
  • random copolymer of polypropylene (random) (PP-R)
  • Layer: cross-linked polyethylene, aluminum, high-density polyethylene (PE-X / Al / PE-HD)
  • Layer: polyethylene crosslinked, aluminum, cross-linked polyethylene (PE-X / Al / PE-X)
  • Layer copolymer of a random polypropylene, aluminum, polypropylene random copolymer (PP-R / Al / PP-R)
  • polyvinyl chloride, chlorinated (PVC-C)
  • polyvinyl chloride - not softened(only cold water) (PVC-U)


  • carbon steel, ordinary galvanized
  • corrosion resistant steel
  • Deoxidized High Phosphorus copper (Cu-DHP)
  • lead (no longer used for new installations due to its toxicity)

Other materials, if the pipes made from them have been let into circulation and the widespread use in the construction of the water supply systems.

Lead pipes[edit]

For many centuries, water pipes were made of lead, because of its ease of processing and durability. The use of lead pipes was a cause of health problems due to ignorance of the dangers of lead on the human body, which causes miscarriages and high death rates of newborns. Lead pipes, which were installed mostly in the late 1800s in the US, are still common today, much of which are located in the Northeast and the Midwest.[3] Their impact is relatively small due to the fouling of pipes and stone cessation of the evolution of lead in the water; however, lead pipes are still detrimental. Most of the lead pipes that exist today are being removed and replaced with the more common material, copper or some type of plastic.

Remnants of pipes in some languages are the names of the experts involved in the execution, reparation, maintenance, and installation of water supply systems, which have been formed from the Latin word 'lead', English word 'plumber', French word, 'plombier'.

Distribution systems and contamination[edit]

Modern plumbing delivers clean, safe, and potable water to each service point in water distribution system, including taps.[4] It is important that the clean water not be contaminated by the wastewater (disposal) side of the process system. Historically, this contamination of drinking water has been one of the largest killers of humans.[5]

Most of the mandates for enforcing drinking water quality standards are not for the distribution system, but for the treatment plant. Even though the water distribution system is supposed to deliver the treated water to the consumers' taps without water quality degradation, complicated physical, chemical, and biological factors within the system can cause contamination of tap water.[4]

Tap water can sometimes appear cloudy and is often mistaken for mineral impurities in the water. It is usually caused by air bubbles coming out of solution due to change in temperature or pressure. Because cold water holds more air than warm water, small bubbles will appear in water. It has a high dissolved gas content that is heated or depressurized, which reduces how much dissolved gas the water can hold. The harmless cloudiness of the water disappears quickly as the gas is released from the water.[6]

Water supply[edit]

A girl collects clean water from a communal water supply in Kawempe, Uganda.

Water supply is the provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations, community endeavors or by individuals, usually via a system of pumps and pipes. Public water supply systems are crucial to properly functioning societies. These systems are what supply drinking water to populations around the globe.[7] Aspects of service quality include continuity of supply, water quality and water pressure. The institutional responsibility for water supply is arranged differently in different countries and regions (urban versus rural). It usually includes issues surrounding policy and regulation, service provision and standardization.

The cost of supplying water consists, to a very large extent, of fixed costs (capital costs and personnel costs) and only to a small extent of variable costs that depend on the amount of water consumed (mainly energy and chemicals). Almost all service providers in the world charge tariffs to recover part of their costs.

Comparison to bottled water[edit]

Bottled water may have reduced amounts of copper, lead, and other metal contaminants since it does not run through the plumbing pipes where tap water is exposed to metal corrosion; however, this varies by the household and plumbing system.[8]

In much of the developed world, chlorine often is added as a disinfectant to tap water. If the water contains organic matter, this may produce other byproducts in the water such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, which has shown to increase the risk of cancer.[9] The level of residual chlorine found at around 0.0002 g per litre, which is too small to cause any health problems directly.[8] The chlorine concentration recommended by World Health Organization is between 0.0005 and 0.0002 g/L.[10]

The documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and more ecologically sound than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has received largely positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle. Yet, as many people remain generally unaware of the negative health and environmental impacts associated with bottled water, recent research in environmental psychology has started to investigate how to reduce the public's consumption of bottled water.[11][12][13]

United States[edit]

Contaminant levels found in tap water vary between households and plumbing systems. While the majority of US households have access to high-quality tap water, demand for bottled water increases.[14] In 2002, the Gallup Public Opinion Poll revealed that the possible health risk associated with tap water consumption is one of the main reasons that cause American consumers to prefer bottled water over tap water.[15]

The trust level towards tap water depends on various criteria, including the existing governmental regulations towards the water quality and their appliance. In 1993, the cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, led to a massive hospitalization of more than 400,000 residents and was considered the largest in US history.[16] Severe violations of tap water standards influence the decrease in public trust.[17]

The difference in water quality between bottled and tap water is debatable. In 1999, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released controversial findings from a 4-year study on bottled water. The study claimed that one-third of the tested waters were contaminated with synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic. At least one sample exceeded state guidelines for contamination levels in bottled water.[18]

In the United States, some municipalities make an effort to use tap water over bottled water on governmental properties and events. Voters in Washington State repealed a bottled water tax via citizen initiative.[19][20]

See also[edit]

  • ASTM B75-02 Specification for Seamless Copper Tube, B42-02e1 Standard Specification for Seamless Copper Pipe, Standard Sizes, B88-03 Standard Specification for Seamless Copper Water Tube
  • Automatic balancing valves – Component of central heating and cooling systems
  • Fountain – Architecture which pours water into a basin or jets it into the air
  • Pipe support – Mounting element that transfers loads from a pipe to supporting structures
  • Plumbing – Systems for conveying fluids
  • Water fluoridation – Addition of fluoride to a water supply to reduce tooth decay
  • Water supply – Provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations or others
  • Water pipe – Systems for conveying fluids


  1. ^ a b Progress on household drinking water, sanitation and hygiene 2000–2022: special focus on gender. New York: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO), 2023
  2. ^ a b "Takagi T-KJr2-IN-NG Indoor". tanklesses.com. 2020.
  3. ^ Troesken, Werner (2006). The great lead water pipe disaster. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-20167-4. OCLC 70176961.
  4. ^ a b Board., National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Public Water Supply Distribution Systems: Assessing and Reducing Risks. National Research Council (U.S.). Water Science and Technology (2006). Drinking water distribution systems : assessing and reducing risks. National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-10306-1. OCLC 71294470.
  5. ^ Plumbing: the Arteries of Civilization, Modern Marvels video series, The History Chfifr5tyk A&E Television, 1996
  6. ^ "Why is my tap water cloudy?". www.mwra.com. Retrieved 2023-03-27.
  7. ^ "Public Supply Water Use". www.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2021-10-03.
  8. ^ a b Petraccia, L.; Liberati, G.; Masciullo S.G.; Grassi M.; Fraioli, A. (2006). "Water, mineral waters and health". Clinical Nutrition. 25 (3): 377–385. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2005.10.002. PMID 16314004.
  9. ^ "Final Report – Health Risk of the Trihalomethanes Found in Drinking Water Carcinogenic Activity and Interactions – Research Project Database – NCER – ORD – US EPA". epa.gov. 3 September 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  10. ^ World Health Organization, "How to measure chlorine residual in water" WHO – Technical Notes for Emergencies, Technical Note No. 11, 4 Draft revised: 7.1.05 (pdf) Archived 7 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ van der Linden, S. "Exploring Beliefs About Bottled Water and Intentions To Reduce Consumption: The Dual-Effect of Social Norm Activation and Persuasive Information". Environment and Behavior. doi:10.1177/0013916513515239. S2CID 220350200.
  12. ^ Santos, Jessica; van der Linden, Sander (2016). "Changing Norms by Changing Behavior: The Princeton Drink Local Program" (PDF). Environmental Practice. 18 (2): 1–7. doi:10.1017/S1466046616000144. S2CID 130162044. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Persuading the public to reduce bottled water consumption" (PDF). European Commission. 3 September 2015.
  14. ^ Doria, Miguel F. (2006-06-01). "Bottled water versus tap water: understanding consumers' preferences". Journal of Water and Health. 4 (2): 271–276. doi:10.2166/wh.2006.0023. ISSN 1477-8920. PMID 16813019.
  15. ^ Saylor, Amber; Prokopy, Linda Stalker; Amberg, Shannon (September 2011). "What's Wrong with the Tap? Examining Perceptions of Tap Water and Bottled Water at Purdue University". Environmental Management. 48 (3): 588–601. Bibcode:2011EnMan..48..588S. doi:10.1007/s00267-011-9692-6. ISSN 0364-152X. PMID 21643837. S2CID 22067616.
  16. ^ Mac Kenzie, William R.; Hoxie, Neil J.; Proctor, Mary E.; Gradus, M. Stephen; Blair, Kathleen A.; Peterson, Dan E.; Kazmierczak, James J.; Addiss, David G.; Fox, Kim R.; Rose, Joan B.; Davis, Jeffrey P. (1994-07-21). "A Massive Outbreak in Milwaukee of Cryptosporidium Infection Transmitted through the Public Water Supply". New England Journal of Medicine. 331 (3): 161–167. doi:10.1056/NEJM199407213310304. ISSN 0028-4793. PMID 7818640.
  17. ^ Pierce, Gregory; Gonzalez, Silvia (2017-02-01). "Mistrust at the tap? Factors contributing to public drinking water (mis)perception across US households". Water Policy. 19 (1): 1–12. doi:10.2166/wp.2016.143. ISSN 1366-7017.
  18. ^ "The Truth About Tap". NRDC. January 5, 2016. Retrieved 2021-04-24.
  19. ^ McNamara, Neal (December 2, 2010). "Washington state says goodbye to bottle and candy taxes". Federal Way Mirror. Retrieved 2 April 2022.
  20. ^ "Initiative Measure 1107 Concerns reversing certain 2010 amendments to state tax laws". Washington Secretary of State · Elections Division. Retrieved 2 April 2022.

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