Cities & Countries With The Best Fresh Water Supplies & Resources (& Cleanest & Safest Drinking Water & Tap Water)

In this guide, we consider which cities and countries across the world might have the best fresh water supplies and resources.

We look at measurables such as total amount of fresh water resources, how clean and safe tap and drinking water is, and other quantity and quality related factors for fresh water supplies in a given region or area.

It’s worth noting that the freshwater supplies of a city is one of the factors that contributes to how sustainable or green a city is.


*Note – this guide contain general information only, and not professional advice


Summary – Cities & Countries With The Best Fresh Water Supplies & Resources

There’s a number of ways to define the ‘best’ water supplies, and determine what criteria they might be judged by

‘Best’ involves a number of factors such as:

Quantity of water (volume and capacity),

Quality of water (suitable for it’s potable or non potable end use … and, free from pollution and contamination, and salinity),

Renewal of water (whether it renews naturally, and the renewal rate),

And, access to water (whether water can be accessed from a physical or economic perspective).

Read more about global water issues in this guide


In terms of total volume of internal renewable fresh water resources, Brazil, the US, Canada and China are some of the countries with the most water

In terms of per capita renewable internal fresh water resources, Greenland, Iceland, Guyana, and Suriname are some of the countries with the most water

Some of the biggest surface water sources in the world are the African Great Lakes, Lake Baikal in Russia, the North American Great Lakes, and the Amazon River

37 of the world’s biggest ground water aquifers are spread all over the world

Some of the countries with the cleanest and safest tap water includes the developed world, including but not limited to UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan [although, there’s several ways to measure water quality, specific States or provinces within these countries may test differently for the different criteria of water quality]

There’s about 187 countries world wide where tap water is deemed unsafe for tourists, but of those countries, some countries may have tap water that locals use.

Places such as Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East might be deemed high-risk for tap water in general

Some of the countries with the most poorly managed water resources are in developing or underdeveloped countries. These countries also tend to be places where there is a lack of basic access to clean and safe drinking water, and sanitation and hygiene.

But, regions or States/provinces in developed countries aren’t immune. Many regions of developed countries might face issues with water pollution or contamination. Cities like Cape Town also face water scarcity issues, and subsequent water problems.

Some of the most water stressed and water scarce countries now and heading into the future are located in the Middle East and North Africa

Some of the cities with the most sustainably managed water supplies in terms of efficiency, resiliency and quality are Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin – just to name a few

What we can observe from the data, is that it’s mostly not accurate enough to look at water supplies on a country wide level. It’s more accurate to look at supplies on a city, town or region specific level, as each geographic location can have different water quantities, quality, access, etc. that are accessible to them, different qualities of water, and so on


*Note – A qualified expert is the only person who can give a professional opinion on whether a water sample shows safe results, or whether water is safe to drink, consume or use. Additionally, people should make the decision to consume or use water at their own risk, and after doing their own due diligence


Cities & Countries With The Most Fresh Water Resources & Supplies – Total Volume Of Renewable Fresh Water Resources

Renewable fresh water resources refer to resources that are renewed or refilled by ‘precipitation, groundwater recharge, and surface inflows’.

In terms of a long term average of available fresh water, in cubic kilometres, the countries with the highest volumes of fresh water supplies are (accurate as of the year 2011):

Brazil – 8,233

The United States – 3,069 

Canada – 2,850

China – 2,840

Colombia – 2,132

[European Union] – 2,057

Indonesia – 2,019

Peru – 1,913

India – 1,911

Congo – 1,283

Venezuela –  1,233

Bangladesh – 1,227

Myanmar – 1,168

Read more of the top countries in the resource in the Sources list.



According to ‘The freshwater in Brazil accounts for approximately 12% of the world’s fresh water resources’


6 countries (Brazil, Russia, Canada, Indonesia, China and Colombia) have 50 percent of the world’s freshwater reserves (


What should be noted though, is that just because a country has high volumes of fresh water resources, it doesn’t mean they don’t experience water scarcity issues.

Water may be distributed unequally across the different States/provinces, and cities and towns across the country.

Variables such as finances, how the water resources are managed, and so on, can all impact how much water a region within a country ultimately has access to for drinking and non drinking purposes.


Cities & Countries With The Most Fresh Water Resources & Supplies – Per Capita/Per Person

In terms of per capita renewable internal fresh water resources, in cubic metres, the countries with the highest water supplies are (data accurate as of 2014, and 2007 in the case of Greenland):

Greenland – 10,662,187 (as of 2007)

Iceland – 519,265

Guyana – 315,701

Suriname – 178,935

Bhutan – 108,476

Papua New Guinea – 100,796

Gabon – 87,058

Canada – 80,423

Solomon Islands – 76,140

Norway – 74,359

New Zealand – 72,510



Which Factors Can Impact Freshwater Location & Availability In The World?

Geography and climate (especially rainfall) can be two of the main factors that impact how much natural water there is in one place, and how often it might replenish itself

Engineering, regulation, water pollution, competition for resources, and overall water management strategies may impact how much water is available to use in any one area, amongst a host of other factors


Biggest Sources Of Surface Water In The World

Fresh water is naturally found in both surface water, and ground water.

In terms of surface water sources, some of the biggest in the world are:


[Of all the surface water in the world in lakes, swamps, and rivers, there is] 29% in the African Great Lakes, 22% in Lake Baikal in Russia, 21% in the North American Great Lakes, and 14% in other lakes. Swamps have most of the balance with only a small amount in rivers, most notably the Amazon River



[Of all the surface water in the world …] The American Great Lakes account for 21 percent, Lake Baikal in Russia holds about 20 percent … Lake Victoria, which spreads across the African countries of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, is the second largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area … Africa’s Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest freshwater lake, and holds the second largest volume of fresh water. It’s the longest lake, and extends across Burundi, Zambia, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo



Brazil – The Amazon Region in Brazil contains over 70% of the total fresh water in Brazil. 

Russia – Lake Baikal, the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, is located in Russia. Baikal holds up to approximately 1/5 of fresh water in the world.

United States – Approximately 77% of the fresh water is surface water and 23% is underground … There are thousands of lakes in the US, including the world-famous Great Lakes.

China – Poyang Lake which is situated in Jiangxi Province is the largest freshwater lake in China



Largest Ground Water Sources In The World, & Where They Are Located

The resource in the sources list at the bottom of this guide has a graphic/map that shows where the 37 largest ground water sources are located across the world.

They are spread out over many different countries.


Interestingly, writes:

Twenty-one of those aquifers have exceeded their sustainability “tipping points,” meaning they lose more water every year than is being naturally replenished through processes like rainfall or snow melt

Out of those 21, eight were found to be “overstressed,” meaning there is “nearly no natural replenishment” to restore water used by humans


Cities & Countries With The Best Drinking Water & Tap Water (Cleanest, Safest & Best Quality)


… tap water is safest in the developed world, including: UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan

Some of the major countries where you can drink tap water include:

The UK





The US






Saudi Arabia



Refer to the resource in the sources list for the full list of safe tap water countries lists the top 9 countries with the cleanest tap water:




Finland (According to the United Nations, Finland ranks amongst the best in the world for its tap water quality)



New Zealand





Switzerland (because of good rain, melt from glaciers, and good water policy)

Canada (because of geography, and a regulated filtration process)


New Zealand



Scandinavia & Finland also mentions that:

Germany has one of the most ‘safe and most inspected’ water products in the world

[Although Greenland has one of the cleanest water sources in the world] the inhabitants of Greenland use mainly processed water from local lakes and rivers mentions that Voss in Norway has clean water – Voss is the bottled water you see in some places.


Factors That Can Affect Drinking Water & Tap Water Quality

There’s many factors that can impact water quality, but some of the major ones might be:

Levels of water pollution and contamination to surface water and ground water storage sources

Levels of salinity in fresh water storage sources

Whether the water is naturally filtered by geography such as soil, clay, rock, and surrounding environment

How the water is treated, purified and filtrated by man made technology (how many levels of filtration it goes through, and water is removed or added from the water)

How stringent quality control is i.e. testing and monitoring quality of the water

What the water is actually being tested for

Whether the water is contaminated in the public supply pipes (via leaching)

Whether there is a government ministry or body dedicated to achieving and monitoring water goals

Whether there is a Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, or other Water Acts in place to specify guidelines for fresh water

Whether the water in a region has received an international ISO water quality certificate has this to say about tap water quality:

The purity of tap water really comes down to two things – the source it originates from and the level of filtration it goes through before it gets to our taps

[Storage sources regularly being topped up with rain water and effective water treatment/filtration technology can both lead to clean tap water]


How To Find Out The Drinking Water Quality In A City

Type into a Search Engine – ‘drinking water quality in [insert your state or city name here]’

You should be able to find an official government water quality reporting site, a water quality index, and other relevant water quality resources and information.

If you rely on third party assessments of tap water or drinking water, such as non government online resources, it is at your own risk.

Always refer to the official assessment of the water quality from a government or similar professional body first, and also do your own due diligence before consuming or using water in any region in any country around the world.


Differences Between Online Information Relating To Tap Water Quality, & Government Information

There can often be differences in information about water quality between online resources, and official government resources.

Just one example of this is with Latvian tap water:

We found at least one unofficial online resource that mentioned Latvian tap water is clean and safe

BUT, an embassy for the republic of Latvia states ‘It is recommended not to drink water straight from the tap. The water should be boiled or filtered through a special water cleaner before drinking.’ (


Cities & Countries With The Worst (Potentially Unsafe) Drinking Water Or Tap Water

Tap water that is listed as dirty or unsafe may be unsafe for everyone, or it may just cause problems for tourists and visitors (whose bodies aren’t adapted to the water).

Make sure you read the government’s tourism website or water quality websites for some clarification on this.



… there are 187 countries in the world where tap water is deemed unsafe or unpalatable for tourists. 

… places such as Central America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East are deemed high-risk

[Places where you can’t drink tap water include:]








South Africa






… Refer to the resource in the sources list for the full list of 187 countries


Per, parts of the following countries may have unsafe drinking water:


Turkey in some locations – specifically out of the major cities (where water pipes are poor quality)

Hungary (outside of the major cities) (also, ‘around 30% of the country’s public potable water has failed to meet EU requirements)

Serbia (outside the major cities)





Bulgaria (18 out of 28 districts in the country were home to substandard levels of drinking water)


Mexico (around three-quarters of the population consume packaged water)


San Pedro de Atacama in Chile

Parts of Bhutan (only 44.3% of the Bhutanese water supply is safe for human consumption)


Parts of China

Parts of India

Parts of Jamaica

Cuba (majority of households in the country will customarily boil the tap water before drinking)


Per, it may be best to avoid the tap water in all or parts of the following countries:


The Bahamas







Puerto Rico



Costa Rica







The Maldives




Nicaragua (only 59 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water)

Dominican Republic



In countries with potentially unsafe tap water, tourists may stick to consuming only bottled water that is marked safe to drink.

Locals in some of these regions may boil their water, use purification tablets, and/or purify it with a water purifier, or may rely on special deliveries from water trucks.


Countries & Cities With Clean Fresh Water Storage Sources 

Before water is extracted, treated and delivered via taps to homes and buildings, it sits naturally in storage sources such as ground water and surface water.

Some of the countries with the cleanest water storage sources and natural water bodies (separate to the end product of tap water) are:

Chile (Puerto Williams reportedly has the cleanest water in the world, and some very clean water is also found in Torres del Paine)

Canada (specifically, Springwater near Toronto … achieved by unique mountain ecosystem around the city that makes water decontaminated flowing through several layers of soil, clay and sand)


Austria (has the Austrian Water Pact in place)

Iceland (has layers of volcanic sediment through which the water pours to the surface perfectly filtered … and doesn’t need additional chemical treatments)




From, some of the purest and cleanest water bodies and sources in the world are:

Alaska, US

Crater Lake, US

Elmvale, Canada

Lake Malawi, East Africa

Gold Mines, South Africa

Puerto Williams, Chile

Yotei Mountain, Japan

Mount Emei, China

River Thames, England (regarded as the cleanest river in the world that flows through a major city)

Caragh River, Ireland

Tara River, Montenegro

Blue Lake, New Zealand

Yarra Ranges, Australia

Lake Vostok, Antarctica


Countries & Cities With The Most Poorly Managed Water Supplies

When assessing accessibility, availability and quality of drinking water, these countries have the most poorly managed water:



Nigeria (although, it’s fast improving)


Nepal (quality of water issues)

Ghana (access to water issues)

Bhutan (quality of water issues)

Pakistan (quality of water issues)

Congo (access to water issues)

Mexico (quality of water issues)



Cities & Countries That Might Manage Their Water Resources Most Sustainably (Resiliency, Efficiency and Quality)

The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Water Index list the cities that rank highest in terms of how sustainably they manage and maintain water, but also against their natural risk and vulnerability across three pillars of water sustainability – resiliency, efficiency and quality. 

The top 30 cities overall are:

Rotterdam – 85.5%

Copenhagen – 85.4%

Amsterdam – 83.9%

Berlin – 82.9%

Brussels – 79.8% 

Toronto – 79.6%

Frankfurt – 78.2%

Sydney – 77.1%

Birmingham – 76.4%

Manchester – 76%

Melbourne – 75.9%

Paris – 75.4%

Washington – 74.6%

New York – 72.9%

Houston – 72.6%

Boston – 72.2%

Philadelphia – 71.8%

Dallas – 71.3%

Madrid – 71%

Chicago – 70.9%

London – 70.4%

Singapore – 69.9%

Seoul – 69.5%

San Francisco – 67.6%

Tokyo – 66.9%

Istanbul – 66.9% 

Los Angeles – 66.8% 

Rome – 65.3%

Moscow – 62.8%

Hong Kong – 62.2%

… cities in North America tend to outperform other world cities when it comes to water quality, [but] U.S. cities are more exposed to natural risks than peers in Europe [and tend to rank worse in resiliency]

View the full list of rankings at the resource link in the sources list below

You can sort cities into the three above mentioned categories


Countries With Good Recycled Water & Waste Water Standards

Denmark (especially strictly observes the treatment of industrial waste water)

Germany (levels of waste water treatment is very high in specific parts of Germany)

Greenland (to treat waste water here, a special permit issued by the government must be issued)



Australia and the US have extensive regulations and guidelines for recycled water, and, Singapore is a world leader in water recycling technology


Other Resources On Fresh Water Quality

Countries & Cities With The Most Water Pollution & Contamination

How To Research If Water Is Safe To Drink In A Specific Country Or City

Understanding The Water Quality Standards For Potable & Non Potable Water







4. Miaschi, John. “Which Country Has the Most Fresh Water?” WorldAtlas, Sept. 24, 2018,





9. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides











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