Where does your drinking water come from?

Your drinking water comes from one of four sources:


Freshwater stored in underground aquifers is pumped to the surface, treated and distributed as drinking water. All of these processes use a lot of energy, and some aquifers are mined at a rate exceeding their natural recharge, meaning they carry less water over time.
groundwater aquifer

Surface water

Rainfall, snow etc. that collects in lakes, rivers and ponds is an important freshwater source in many countries. Dams and reservoirs are often fed by surface water. It usually has to be treated before it can be used as drinking water.
surface water


Saltwater and/or brackish water is treated extensively in desalination plants. The water is then used for irrigation or even for drinking. Desalination offers a constant water supply which does not depend on rainfall. However, it uses a lot of energy. Reverse osmosis, the most common desalination technique, typically uses 4 kWh per cubic metre of drinking water 1.

Reclaimed water

Wastewater is increasingly collected and treated for reuse in agriculture or industry. Some places, notably Singapore, treat sewage to such an extent that it again becomes potable water.
recycled water

Tracing the journey taken by a droplet of drinking water

Just like the water cycle, our drinking water goes through a cycle as well. First, coming from one of four sources (see left column) it goes from the water treatment plant to our tap. Used water from our sinks, toilets and showers is transported to a wastewater treatment plant. There it is filtered and cleaned, then returned to the water cycle. Watch the video below to learn more!

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