The 8 Types of Water Explained: The Ultimate Guide to Drinking Water

By Bob Fear

The 8 Types of Water Explained: The Ultimate Guide to Drinking Water

In this article we’ll take a look at all of the different types of water there are available to you to drink. We all know we need to stay hydrated to stay healthy, but what’s the best type of water to drink? The answer may depend on a number of factors particular to your own situation, so read on to find out more.

Why should I know about the different types of water?

There are quite a few different types of water. The obvious one comes straight out of a tap, but is this always the best water to drink? Maybe you spend lots of money buying bottled water, but is this the most cost-effective way to drink plenty of healthy water ? And what’s the difference between mineral and spring water? We have all the facts about all the different types of water available to you so you can decide which one you’d rather be drinking on a daily basis.

The 8 different types of water explained

1. Purified water

Purified water shouldn’t contain any nasty or unnecessary contaminants that wouldn’t normally be there at its natural source. Because our tap water is exposed to a whole host of invasive elements and processed at water treatment plants, it needs to be purified to restore it back to its natural self.


Purified water is free from chlorine, bacteria, sediment, silt, scale, dirt, rust, sand, microplastic, pesticides, herbicides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other organic matter - a pretty comprehensive list of all the things you wouldn’t really want to be drinking that could be found in tap water.

If you live in a hard water area, purifying your tap water gets rid of the scale that can easily form.

This type of drinking water should retain the naturally occurring healthy minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Purifying your own water means you don’t have to continue buying expensive water in single-use plastic bottles.

Purified water contains less contaminants than water from a filter jug. A decent water purifier will draw directly from your mains and chill or heat it for you on demand, so it’s much more convenient.


Water purifiers are an additional cost. Even so, it’s still cheaper than buying lots of bottled water if you drink enough of it.

Tap water

Tap water is the stuff that’s piped to your property from your local water treatment works. Your mains water will originally have been surface water (from rivers, lakes and reservoirs), groundwater (from the cracks and spaces in underground rocks, soil and sand) or wastewater (from the sewers) that’s been treated by your local water authority.


Your tap water should always be safe to drink

This type of water is cheaper than buying bottled water


If you live in a hard water area, you may be able to see and taste the scale that can easily form.

The quality of your tap water may vary, depending on a number of factors such as where you are in the country, how far you are from the water treatment works and even the weather. Yes, really! When it’s hot, surface water may contain more algae than normal. In certain weather conditions more treatment may be needed, such as increased chlorination, and you may smell and taste the difference. Here is what you need to know about the levels of chlorine in our tap water and when you should choose a different type of drinking water.

Water that’s potentially travelled miles and miles through aged pipes from the water treatment works may pick up rust and dirt. If your tap water sits for a long time in your pipes it may grow bacteria as the chlorine evaporates.

The UK’s drinking water inspectorate (the DWI) recommends that we filter our tap water if we can detect chlorine and don’t like the taste and smell. They also say:

-Only drink freshly drawn water from the cold water tap directly off the water mains, usually the cold tap in your kitchen

-If you haven’t run any water for several hours, fill a washing up bowl before drinking any tap water. Don’t drink water which may have been standing for a long time in your pipes

-Don’t drink or use the water from your bathroom taps for cooking as it usually comes from a storage tank in the loft so won’t be as fresh as from your kitchen tap

Distilled water

Distilled water is tap water that’s been boiled until it’s just a lot of steam. That steam has then been cooled back down and returned to its liquid state. This is water purification at its most serious as it removes absolutely everything from H20 apart from the H20 itself. 


Distilled water is used in medical facilities and laboratory tests as it’s the cleanest it can be.


It’s so clean that it doesn’t contain any healthy minerals that would naturally have been present in groundwater.

As it has no vitamins or minerals, it can taste flat.

To try and restore its mineral content, distilled water can pull in minerals from anything it touches. If kept in a plastic container, it may absorb trace amounts of plastic. It’s best kept in sterilised glass as this won’t leach anything. It could even try to pull in minerals from your teeth and body!

Explore more about this type of water with our handy comparison: filtered water versus distilled water.

Mineral water

Mineral water is directly pulled from a named, naturally occurring underground mineral spring that’s constantly flowing. Its original purity should be maintained and its composition, which should be on the label, must remain stable over time. Therefore, mineral water needs to be bottled at source, free of any contaminants and not be chemically treated. It should also be officially recognised by the local authority.


As its name suggests, mineral water contains lots of healthy, naturally occurring minerals found in groundwater that our bodies can’t create on their own. 


Buying lots of bottled mineral water, enough to keep up our recommended daily fluid intake, can be a costly enterprise. Choosing this type of water can also be detrimental to the environment, if bought in single-use plastic bottles.

Shop-bought water in plastic bottles has been shown to contain ‘a few hundred’ pieces of microplastic. Tests revealed that 93% of bottled water shows 'some sign of microplastic contamination'.  

Spring water

Spring water comes from a named underground source and is free of any contaminants. It must be bottled at source, ensuring that this type of drinking water doesn’t pass through any community water system and isn’t chemically treated. 


Should be naturally clean, healthy and tasty.


Spring water is one of the different types of bottled water that isn’t subject to as many regulations as mineral water is in the UK, so while it still may contain as many minerals, it might have more, it might have less. There’s no legal obligation to tell us what spring water constitutes.

Many spring water sources may be the same as our mains water sources, so you’re effectively paying to buy the same stuff that comes out of your tap (minus the chlorine and other contaminants it might pick up along the way as detailed above).

As with mineral water, buying lots of bottled spring water, enough to keep up our recommended daily fluid intake, can be a costly enterprise. And detrimental to the environment, if bought in single-use plastic bottles. Check out how bottled water compares to purified water with our quick guide.

Just as with mineral water, drinking spring water from plastic bottles might expose you to hundreds of tiny pieces of plastic. If you want to find out more about bottled water and the risks of microplastic contamination, we covered all you need to know in our article.

Alkaline water

A different type of water you should know about is alkaline water. lkaline water has a higher pH level than normal water due to the amount of alkaline minerals it naturally contains, such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. The pH level, from 0 to 14, measures how acidic or alkaline something is. Water’s normal pH level is a neutral 7 - right in the middle of the scale. Anything pH 1 will be super acidic, while anything pH 13 will be alkaline.


Alkaline water may be able to help with symptoms of acid reflux and reduce inflammation in our digestive systems.

Research has shown that drinking alkaline water can help athletes improve their performance. In tests, alkalized water enhanced hydration, helped flush lactic acid out of muscles faster and improved anaerobic exercise performance (such as high intensity interval training).

None of the latter health claims above have been universally proven, so more research is needed.

Drinking lots of alkaline water may reduce acid in our stomachs, therefore dampening our natural ability to kill off bacteria. Drinking too much of this type of water may also trigger metabolic alkalosis, where our bodies lose too much acid.

Ionised water

Ionised water is similar to natural alkaline water in that it has a high mineral content, but those minerals have been electrically charged.


Ionised water is usually the commercially available equivalent of alkaline water. Therefore, If you buy alkaline water, it may be labelled as ‘alkaline ionised water’.


Ionised water has been chemically treated by an ioniser to give it a similar pH level to naturally alkaline water. That doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, it’s just not the natural stuff.

Borehole water

Borehole water, or well water, comes straight out of the ground. A deep narrow well is dug to tap into naturally occurring groundwater, which is then pumped up to the surface. This type of water is raw and untreated. 


The convenience of having your own water source in your back garden is pretty amazing. If you’re lucky enough to be sitting on top of a nice bunch of aquifers, you effectively have your own source of entirely natural mineral water that doesn’t need treating. Result.

Water from your own well is usually safe to drink, but it must first be checked to make sure. The National Ground Water Association recommends you check your borehole water at least once a year for bacteria, nitrates, nitrites and any other contaminants.


As borehole water comes straight from the ground, depending on where you are, it may contain high levels of iron, magnesium, calcium or other minerals as well as some bacteria. While not always harmful, anyone vulnerable (including babies) should be careful.

You may need to treat this type of water before it’s safe to drink. Getting it regularly tested will keep you on top of this. If it’s coming out brown and smelly, that’s not a good sign.

Drilling a borehole may cost anything between £10-£16K, depending on how far you need to drill. This includes getting a geological survey beforehand. Annual costs may be anything around £160, including the cost of electricity to run your pump and any replacement filters needed.

If the costs above are less than you normally spend on water, then in the long term this could well be a pro!

What are the best types of water to drink?

All the above types of drinking water are safe, although if you have your own borehole water supply you need to get that checked regularly.

Tap water should always technically be safe to drink, but you may not like the look and taste of your local hard water or you may catch a chemical whiff of chlorine.

Bottled water seems like a convenient and healthy alternative to tap water, but not only are single-use plastic bottles polluting the planet, the water itself has been shown to contain microplastics. Who wants to be drinking microplastics?


In many ways, your own water sourced from a borehole seems like the ideal solution - if you can afford the upfront cost and happen to live on the right patch!

Perhaps the best solution is to purify your tap water. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water and you spend lots of money buying bottled water, then investing in a countertop water purifier could be the best, most cost-effective, long-term solution - not only for your purse and your palate, but for the planet as well.

Next, check out all the amazing benefits of increasing your water consumption, no matter the type of water you choose to drink on a regular basis. Or if you’re struggling to drink more water, we’ve got the best tips for you, here.

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