Water quality in Scotland ranks among the highest in the world. 99.91% of samples passed The Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland’s stringent tests and Scottish Water regularly tests drinking water across Scotland.
pH balance is an integral part of our wholesome, healthy tap water.
However, if you stay in a region of Scotland that relies on a private supply it’s your responsibility to ensure pH stays within a healthy range.
What is pH?
pH is a measurement of electrically charged particles in a substance. In this case, we’re using pH to refer to how acidic or alkaline (basic) water is. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14.
- Acidic water has a pH lower than 7. Strongly acidic substances, like battery acid, have a pH of 0
- Alkaline water has a pH of 8 or above. Baking soda, sodium, and limestone are strongly alkaline, and can have a pH as high as 14
- Pure water has a pH of 7 and is considered “neutral” because it has neither acidic nor alkaline qualities. Human blood leans on the neutral side
When testing potable water, a helpful comparison is that a pH reading of 6 (such as milk) is ten times more acidic than water, while seawater and eggs (pH 8) are ten times more basic than water.
pH value and tap water
Many parts of rural Scotland rely on a water private supply. Private water supplies are any dwellings not supplied by Scottish Water.
If you’ve ever holidayed in the North or West Coast of Scotland, you might have experienced brown or even red, rusty tap water.
Brown, discoloured water is usually due to naturally high concentrations of iron or manganese in the private water supply. Sometimes there are particles floating in the water. You might even turn on the tap and be confronted with the smell of rotten eggs!
Tap water with a funny taste, smell, or colour might be an indicator that pH levels are outside the acceptable range. pH levels vary according to the naturally occurring minerals in particular parts of the country and seasonal factors like heavy rainfall.
Whether you’re visiting the Highlands on holiday or planning a move to rural Scotland where you’ll be drinking water from a private supply, our guide will tell you all you need to know
about Scotland’s tap water, pH balance and how to achieve wholesome, delicious drinking water.
Does pH affect drinking water quality?
pH can alter drinking water quality in a number of ways.
- High pH levels can cause a bitter taste, crust up appliances, and reduces the effectiveness of chlorine disinfection
- Low corrodes pipes
- Heavy metals in water become more toxic to humans as they’re more available to the body
- Hard water containing lots of minerals can make detergents less effective and reduce water pressure
What is the best ph level for drinking water and tap water?
In Scotland, water is monitored by the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland. It suggests that pH values optimal for human consumption should be between 6.5 and 9.5.
Most of Scotland’s water has a naturally low pH or “soft water”.
This means the water needs to go through treatment processes to meet Regulatory standards.
One solution is to pass water through a bed of limestone chippings to achieve better pH levels.
Is all Scottish water soft?
Most drinking water in Scotland is classified as soft by DWQR, the drinking water inspectorate for Scotland.
Soft water occurs when the ph level is below 6.5.
Is Scotland’s tap water the best? Although most of Scotland’s water is soft and the water quality is considered excellent, soft water isn’t without issues.
Soft water can cause
- Higher levels of metals such as iron, manganese, copper, and lead
- Damage to metal pipes from high acidity levels
- A metallic or unpleasant taste
- Blueish green stains on sinks, drains and laundry
What are the risks of unbalanced ph levels?
Water that’s extremely acidic or alkaline can cause undesirable water colour, taste and smell.
Imbalanced pH can also contribute to corroded pipes, pose health risks and contribute to your overall energy levels.
pH levels below 6.5 can cause:
- Heavy metal poisoning from metals like lead, arsenic and copper (low pH water draws in heavy metals)
- Corrosion of tooth enamel and greater risk of cavities
- Poor bone health
- Magnesium Deficiency
- Corrosion to pipes which can cause heavy metals to enter the body. Symptoms of metal poisoning include with symptoms such as stomach cramp, nausea and diarrhoea
Elevated pH levels haven’t been shown to be harmful to human health, but can cause dry, itchy and irritated skin. If your skin is sensitive to pH levels, making tap water more neutral can help.
In contrast to acidic water, high pH or alkaline water can carry added health benefits.
The benefits of alkaline water
In contrast, the body can benefit from drinking alkaline water.
Reported benefits include:
- Boosted immune system
- Helps reduce acid reflux
- Improved hydration in the body
- Helps reduce high blood pressure
Water with high alkalinity is generally considered safe to drink. However, be careful not to drink too much as an excess of alkalinity can cause gastrointestinal issues.
How to test pH level of your private water supply
There are 3 ways to test your water’s ph level.
A pH meter comprises a digital or moving coil pH meter and two probes. Your test kit should also contain a stirrer, pH electrode, calibrated cylinder, a jar, sample of deionised water and buffers.
A pH meter will help you test for chemicals in your private water system and ensure its fit for consumption. The closer to 7 on the meter the more likely it is that your supply contains pure water. You can buy a pH meters online.
pH test strips
pH test strips are another method to test whether your potable supply has acidic, neutral or alkaline water.
Fill a clean container with a water sample deep enough to cover the test strip.
Dip a pH test strip into the water sample for a few seconds. When the strip changes colour, match it to the colour chart provided to discover the pH levels of your water. pH tests strips are widely available.
The final way to test your water’s pH is using litmus paper. Be aware that litmus papers will only tell you whether water is acidic or basic.
Fill up a clean container with test water as before. Next, dip the litmus paper into the container for a few seconds.
The paper will turn either red or blue. Red litmus paper that turns blue indicates basic water. Blue litmus paper that turns red indicates acidic water. Neutral water with a pH value of 7 will not change the colour of either blue or red litmus paper. You can buy litmus paper relatively cheaply online.
When to call a drinking water company
Potable water should be kept between a 6.5 and 8.5. pH range.
If the pH value of your private water supply falls outside this range, it’s time to call one of your local water companies.
Experts will visit your residence or site premises to professionally test your water quality. As pH imbalance often indicates water contamination, further tests might be needed to check for the presence of other bacteria, chemicals, and contaminants.
While your water is being tested you can use a water filter so that you can keep drinking your supply. Brita are popular water filter systems that can help remove strange textures, tastes and smells from your drinking water.
Your local water company should return with your test results and a detailed report specifying further steps within a couple of weeks.
Remember not to panic! While pH levels can pose health risks a neutral balance is achievable. It’s also worth remembering that pH value is considered an aesthetic quality.
If you run a guest house, Airbnb or business with high human activity, and use a private water supply, an annual report is recommended.
A reputable company will ensure an acceptable pH value for your water supply, leaving you with wholesome, tasty drinking water.
pHX provide water hygiene services and Legionella Risk Assessments to anyone using a private water supply in Scotland. Whether you’re a business or domestic property, we’ll get your supply tasting as it should!
Contact us today for private water testing.