Is tap water safe to drink in Northern Ireland?

There has been a lot of activity in Northern Ireland news about the recent algal bloom in Lough Neagh. Find out about the quality of drinking water and if tap water is safe to drink in Northern Ireland.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae, scientifically known as Cyanobacteria, are a diverse group of photosynthetic bacteria that inhabit various aquatic and terrestrial environments. Despite their name, these microorganisms exhibit a wide range of colours, from blue-green to red and even black. They can be found in both fresh and marine waters, thriving especially in warm and nutrient-rich conditions. Often mistaken for true algae due to similar characteristics and habitats, blue-green algae actually belong to the bacterial kingdom. One of their notable features is the ability to produce cyanotoxins, which are harmful toxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals if ingested. These algae are responsible for the occurrence of harmful algal blooms, which manifest as dense, paint-like scum or ‘blooms’ on the surfaces of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. The colour of these blooms can vary from green to red or brown.

Is tap water safe to drink in Northern Ireland?

Glacier Water Systems - Tap

Lough Neagh provides over 40% of Northern Ireland’s drinking water, so are there any risks to drinking your tap water? NI Water has stated that tap water in Northern Ireland is safe to drink. They have stated that their water treatment works that use Lough Neagh’s water have been “designed with the potential for algae to be present”. Therefore there is no need to worry about blue-green algae or its toxins being present in your tap water.

However, the processes used leave behind lots of other chemicals that can leave your tap water tasting or smelling unpleasant. A chemical that will certainly be used in much larger quantities is chlorine. Chlorine stands as the most prevalent disinfectant utilized in residential settings. Moreover, the water industry employs this substance extensively to uphold sanitary conditions within the network of public water supply pipelines.

Many people are much more sensitive to the taste and smell of chlorine in water which can make tap water undrinkable for them. Furthermore, heavily chlorinated water can cause unwanted effects on your hair and skin. If your hair becomes wet from chlorinated water, it will absorb the chlorine, causing the hair to be stripped of its natural lubricant. This will severely dry out your hair and cause split ends. Chlorine also has the same effects on your skin, stripping it of its natural oils and drying it out. This can make your skin feel itchy and tight. For those with skin conditions such as eczema, it can also exacerbate their symptoms.

In Northern Ireland, the chlorine level is heavily regulated, however, even these levels can cause the aforementioned issues for anyone who is highly sensitive to chlorine.

Can you drink bathroom tap water in Northern Ireland?

Bathroom tap water in Northern Ireland is connected to the same mains as the rest of the faucets in your house. Therefore bathroom tap water is as safe to drink as the water from your kitchen tap, however, it can carry the same chemicals as mentioned before. Although, there is one piece of advice that applies to all taps in your house: don’t drink out of the warm water tap. The cold water tap of every faucet is directly connected to mains water, with no tank in between. This is not the same for warm taps, which are instead connected to a tank in your attic used for heating water. Contamination and impurities can build up in this tank and come out of your warm water taps.

What are the health risks of blue-green algae in tap water?

Blue-green algae has a huge range of potential side effects ranging from mild irritation to life-threatening effects. Furthermore, these effects can affect animals as well as people. It is crucial that you are vigilant when partaking in activities in or near large bodies of water. Drinking water contaminated with blue-green algae, particularly during a bloom, can have various health effects on humans. The toxins produced by these algae can result in symptoms ranging from mild discomforts like skin and eye irritation, diarrhoea, and vomiting, to more severe conditions that impact the liver and nervous system. Prolonged exposure to the toxins can lead to long-term health complications, while neurotoxins may cause tingling, numbness, dizziness, and muscle weakness. In the most severe cases, ingestion of these toxins can be fatal. Hence, it is crucial to avoid any contact with and consumption of water suspected of being contaminated with blue-green algae.

Pets can also succumb to the effects of blue-green algae toxins. It is a good idea to keep your pets away from Lough Neagh especially, but also any other bodies of water which may be contaminated with blue-green algae. Should a dog consume water contaminated by blue-green algae, it could exhibit symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea, decreased appetite, or increased salivation. More serious indicators of toxicity can include respiratory distress, convulsions, confusion, or sudden collapse. Rapid onset liver failure is a possibility, occurring anywhere from a few hours to several days following ingestion.

Our whole house water filter can solve this

GW5 8x19 Homepage Replacement Water Filter

Our GW5 whole house water filter can provide fresh, filtered water to your entire home. From the faucet in your kitchen to your bath or shower, you can enjoy the benefits of effectively filtered water. Our water filter uses a unique 5 stage filter made of natural activated carbon which will remove all of the nasty chemicals, such as chlorine, while leaving all the minerals your body needs.

For just £650 you can have a whole house water filter installed by a professional plumber in your home. Book now by calling 028 2589 0000 or emailing us at to improve the quality of your tap water today.

With one filter lasting up to 2 years, you can be sure that this is a worthwhile investment for your and your family’s health and well-being.

Need something smaller?

Under Sink Water Filter GW1

We also provide the GW1 under sink water filter for just £260 for a full kit. This kit provides the filter and everything else you need to install it under an existing tap. It’s so simple you can do it yourself, so we include a DIY instruction manual with each order.

The GW1 can provide all the same benefits as the GW5 filter just for one tap in your house. That’s all you need to enjoy the benefits of safe, filtered tap water and get rid of that jug filter and your need to buy bottled water. One filter lasts up to 3 years, meaning for the low price of £260 that is just £0.24 per day to enjoy filtered water for up to 3 years. Add a filter replacement for just £235 and you won’t even notice the cost of such a benefit. Call now at 028 2589 0000 to get your under sink water filter.