Whenever you're visiting a country for the first time, your first source of information on general health matters should be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. government agency that deals with such things. Log on to its "Travelers' Health" website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/, select the country you plan to visit, and scroll down the display to the "Staying Healthy During Your Trip" topic, where you'll find the "Be Careful about Food and Water" section. There, along with some broad recommendations made about every country in the world, you'll find the item on drinking water.
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-- Additional warnings for these countries typically advise, "Do not eat food purchased from street vendors; make sure food is fully cooked, and avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized."
-- For most of Western Europe and such other advanced countries as Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, however, the site omits any specific recommendation about water, meaning that CDC thinks the drinking water is OK.
The site also includes a lot of other information about travelers' health. And although much of it is pretty much of the "any idiot" variety ("avoid insect bites" and such), you will find some of the warnings well worth your attention. Note especially any reports of contagious disease outbreaks.
In my experience, CDC errs a bit on the side of caution. Even in some places where it says, "avoid the tap water," on the advice of experienced travelers and resident expats I've occasionally used the tap water without any problems. That tends to be the case in some big cities in countries where you wouldn't drink the water in smaller towns or the countryside. But CDC doesn't make such distinctions.
As a cross check, you can also consult one or two guidebooks, which typically have something to say about drinking water and ice cubes. Fodor's and Frommer's generally track with CDC recommendations.
If you're traveling in a country with questionable water, keep in mind that you have to avoid exposure to local water in all of its forms. That means no ice cubes (other than in high-end hotels that promise use of bottled water in their ice-making), brushing your teeth with bottled water, and avoiding taking in any water when you shower. Yes, it's often a fuss, but a bad bout of diarrhea is much more of a fuss.
On the other hand, keep in mind that the hotels and restaurants have a vested interest in pushing the bottled water on you whether you need it or not. Their mantra seems to be, in Cole Porter's words," Never give anything away that you can sell." Even in countries where the tap water is perfectly OK, the default seems to be to try to sell you the bottled stuff.
In all my travels, I've had only one serious case of water-based sickness -- in Jerusalem. But that once was enough; when in doubt, go for the Evian, Vichy, San Pellegrino, or, as someone I know calls it, "Prairie Water."
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at email@example.com. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through www.mybusinesstravel.com or www.amazon.com)