Water Around the World

May 16, 2022

Explore the divide between countries with the cleanest drinking water and those with the poorest quality water

About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in water. Many of us are fortunate to have access to a clean drinking water source, but about a quarter of the world’s population still drinks dirty water today. 

This article will assess the water quality in regions around the world, discuss the setbacks in clean water production in developing countries, and consider the solutions to contaminated water supplies. 

10 Countries with the Best Drinking Water 

A TripHobo article lists the following 10 nations as having the cleanest tap water: 

  1. Denmark: Denmark’s water quality is vastly superior to other countries around the world. It’s thought that this is because Denmark gets its water from underground aquifers that aren’t prone to pollution or contamination
  2. Iceland: If you’ve ever wondered why so many bottled water companies source their products from Iceland, it’s because the country’s water is 100% clean and safe - and tasty, too, as it comes from natural mineral springs. 
  3. Greenland: Greenland’s water is healthy and plentiful, and more than 97% of the country’s inhabitants have access to clean water. 
  4. Latvia: This country has one of the richest freshwater water resources, largely due to the small size of its population. 
  5. Singapore: While Singapore has limited water resources, it monitors its water quality carefully, and its tap water quality is well within the country’s regulations.
  6. Germany: Germany’s tap water quality is also strictly regulated by the government and is one of the cleanest in the world. 
  7. Sweden: Sweden has a suitable, high-quality water supply, and more than 95% of people are satisfied with their tap water. 
  8. United Kingdom: The UK’s water is among the best in the world, due to the strict standards that apply to piped drinking water. 
  9. Canada: This country’s water quality is “grade A” and is one of the cleanest water sources in the world. 
  10. Italy: Italy’s water quality is excellent, and tap water in the country is widely available and safe to drink. 

10 Countries with the Worst Drinking Water

According to a U.S. News article, the 10 nations with the worst drinking water are: 

  1. Mexico: An estimated three-quarters of people in Mexico drink bottled water due to the poor state of their tap water.  
  2. Congo: Only 21% of people have nearby access to water in Congo’s rural parts. 
  3. Pakistan: This country has the biggest gap in hygiene between the richest and poorest people. 
  4. Bhutan: An estimated two-thirds of Bhutan’s water is contaminated. 
  5. Ghana: About 50% of Ghana’s population doesn’t have access to proper sanitation services. 
  6. Nepal: Although an estimated 80% of people in Nepal have access to drinking water, the water isn’t considered safe or adequate. 
  7. Cambodia: At least 5% of Cambodia’s population is reliant on delivered water. 
  8. Nigeria: While this country’s water quality is vastly improved, around 15% of people still drink from contaminated water sources. 
  9. Ethiopia: Around 43% of Ethiopian people still don’t have access to safe drinking water. 
  10. Uganda: Just over 20% of people living in Uganda don’t drink clean water, and nearly 90% don’t have safe sanitation facilities. 

Why Some Countries Still Have Poor Water Quality 

A lack of resources, money or access to water are some of the most common reasons for poor water quality in some countries. 

Although the quality of drinking water has noticeably improved in recent decades, a UNEP report notes that widespread degradation still occurs - largely due to demographics, climate change, and economic growth. 

According to the report, freshwater systems in both developed and developing countries are facing pressure to tackle harmful chemicals, and “severe organic pollution” is a problem in some of the biggest rivers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Municipal water treatment is too expensive, and developing countries in particular are struggling to expand their systems to match their growing populations. 


Solutions to Poor Water Quality Around the World

It’s clear that a country’s financial status is closely tied to its water quality. Rich countries can afford to meet their citizens’ basic needs with clean water, while poorer countries cannot. 

Still, the UNEP report highlights technical and management options that are suitable solutions to poor water quality around the world. These include: 

  • Preventing pollution: To ban, reduce, avoid or eliminate contamination at the source. 
  • Treating polluted water: Using a wide range of treatment options, both conventional and non-conventional, to make polluted water safe to drink
  • Safely using wastewater: Accessing wastewater, including storm water, domestic wastewater, and household greywater, and safely managing and treating this water for re-use. 
  • Restoring and protecting ecosystems: To protect lakes, reservoirs, rivers and groundwater, which play important roles in providing drinking water, energy production, flood prevention, nutrient cycling and a means of transportation. 


There is still a clear divide between the countries with the cleanest drinking water and those with the poorest quality water. A lack of finances and resources, and a lack of ability to provide for a growing population, is usually a major reason for poor water quality. 

While improvements have been made to water systems in many developing countries, we can still do more to enhance the quality of water around the world – including the water in many developed countries. 

About the Author

Brian Campbell