Do you drink the tap water?

Posted in: Forums > Food & Drink • 21 posts • NewestRSS

  • hapatofu
    May 21, 2013
    149 posts

    Recently on another forum somebody in Shenzhen mentioned that she drinks the tap water (straight from the tap, without boiling), and then somebody else (in Shanghai) said she used to drink it "before [she] knew better." I was quite shocked at this revelation and started searching online. Most people seem to advise staying away from it, but I did find some China Daily articles saying that for one up to 83 percent of urban tap water is potable and a 2007 article saying that Beijing's tap water had reached the national standards (which were said to be only slightly lower than international) for drinkable tap water.

    I also read accounts from travelers who drank it and then got sick, and I know friends who won't even use the tap water to brush their teeth or wash their fruits/dishes, etc. I also read another possibly questionable article claiming that more of the toxins in tap water (especially those from chlorine) are absorbed through the skin and inhalation at a much higher rate than by drinking it, and thus that even showers should be fitted with filters.

    So all that made me curious ... do any of you drink the tap water, straight from the tap? Why or why not?

  • westernguy
    May 22, 2013
    2 posts

    I did once because I was throwing up and my throat was parched and tore up and I needed some cold water asap. I didn't seem to suffer any bad effects from it (the vomiting was due to food poison, which I've had at least three times in Sichuan.)

    Someone told me that some years ago people used to drink the tap water in Chengdu, but some lunatic dumped a bunch of poison or something in the reservoir. It sounds like 90% BS but the locals here won't drink from the tap, so I try to avoid it. I do use the water for washing dishes, clothes, foods, brushing my teeth, etc.

  • msinglynx
    May 23, 2013
    52 posts

    I do drink the tap water and so do all my chinese friends, although they usually boil it first. You can see the heavy metal residues in the pot after boiling so I'm pretty sure it's not that great for my health but it also hasn't seemed to damage me any. I dont like the taste however, so I only uuse it for cooking, or mixed drinks like tea or coffee. For ice and drinking water I buy bottled (especially that minty water mmm).

    My most interesting water experience in China was once I visited my friends uncle's organic farm on a mountain top. No toilet facilities and no running water. the water dripped from a mountaintop glacier (supposedly. Are there glaciers in sichuan?) the bamboo pipes (like literally, hollowed out bamboo shoots, and the small thin ones, not big old ones). It had a kind of green earthy tasty and a bit sweet. I would be afraid to drink from any streams though.

  • merior
    May 23, 2013
    69 posts

    The tap water in Chengdu meets national standards - this means that it is drinkable and I have done so without any stomach upsets. Those stomach upsets experienced by tourists are almost certainly hygiene related or a response to the over-spicing of food with prickly ash and chillies.

    The residue that you see in the bottom of a pot when you boil water dry is almost certainly calcium since Sichuan's water is alkaline. If the residue is "heavy metals", as claimed, then the water would never meet the national drinking standards and people would be dropping like flies.

    There are, however, high concentrations of fluoride and aluminium in both the water and tea products in some areas of Sichuan which can and has caused fluorosis so it is probably inadvisable to consume large amounts of local brick tea or use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Anyone who is concerned about the effects of fluoride should have a dental check-up.

    Decent quality water filters are available in Chengdu. Bottled water is typically an unknown level of purity.

  • invisible
    May 30, 2013
    1502 posts

    @merior

    I don't think there are national standards for water. Bottled water may be even worse than tap water, even in China

    Industry leader Nongfu is currently facing some problems with their water quality.

  • Wag7heDog
    May 30, 2013
    3 posts

    Invisible - http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=Chinese+national+water+standards

    Amazing what you find when you take a few seconds to research before posting.

  • invisible
    May 30, 2013
    1502 posts

    @wag

    and you know that this is a standard that is enforced on a national basis? or is it a recommendation that is followed differently depending on the province? or is it all much more complicated than a superficial glance may tell?

    http://chinawaterrisk.org/regulations/regulatory-institutions/

    sometimes it takes a bit more than a few seconds of research

  • Wag7heDog
    May 31, 2013
    3 posts

    "On July 1, 2012, China's new national standards for drinking-water quality officially took effect. All 106 items included were adopted from the WHO guidelines for drinking-water quality. This is the first time a developing country has implemented strict regulations on drinking-water quality, and, in China, the first time the same standards have been applied in rural and urban areas. This is a milestone in Chinese environmental legislation, signalling a vigorous national effort to improve drinking-water quality and public health."

    It doesn't matter if it is enforced or not, or even if it is only a recommendation. It is a national standard.

  • invisible
    May 31, 2013
    1502 posts

    @wag

    Do you understand that there is a difference between paper and reality, recommendation and enforcement? Did you even check the link?

  • Wag7heDog
    May 31, 2013
    3 posts

    You have digressed. Is there a Chinese national standard for drinking water?

    Yes

    http://chinawaterrisk.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Municipal-Water-Parameters.pdf

  • invisible
    May 31, 2013
    1502 posts

    @wag

    So what happens if a city can't meet that "national standard"?

    Not much. And therefor it's not a national standard since it's not enforced and it's not that they didn't have enough time.

    quote
    In 2006, the latest revisions to the Standards for Drinking Water Quality stipulated that tap water quality across the country would be directly potable by July 1 of this year. The deadline came and went with no apparent recognition.
    Du Ying, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), announced the results of a 2011 report on drinking water. In samples from major cities nationwide, Du said the largest cities had an 83 percent rate of compliance, while medium-sized cities had a 79.6 percent rate. This means that for every 100 urban residents with tap water, roughly 79 have access to water that can be drunk straight from the tap without boiling.
    /quote

    http://english.caixin.com/2012-07-17/100411903_all.html

    But even if they claim to meet this or that criteria it doesn't mean one could rely on it 100%. That are just numbers that are reported to others anyways without independent checks.

    There are cases of independent testing of bottled water for example where tests find violations against "standards". What's the outcome? Can the company continue to sell the product? Yes. Does the company sue the testing lab and the media that publish the results? yes. And that's what is just visible on the surface to the outsider.

    Again: if there is a central government body with a clear hierachy that publishes standards and forces provincial and local institutions and companies to meet the criteria by sanctioning those who don't and those who report fake numbers, if the central government body goes out and does unannounced visits at any given time and sents out teams across the country to sample water, if they can publish the results without fear of revenge, if third parties (ngos, university researches, concerned citizens) can go out in the field test for double checks and publish the result, then we speak of a national standard.

    But this is getting all too political and that's not what the board intended. So I leave it at this.

    If in doubt you may ask the expats who work at Veolia Chengdu if they and their children drink the tap water all the time without additional treatment since it meets "the national standard".

  • American Hero
    May 31, 2013
    1 post

    @invisible

    You said:
    "So what happens if a city can't meet that "national standard"?
    Not much. And therefor it's not a national standard since it's not enforced"

    Woah there Nelly. It looks like you misplaced your dictionary. A standard is defined as

    - A required or agreed level of quality or attainment

    ...required OR AGREED level. As wag already stated, a standard has been agreed upon. Does everywhere meet that standard? No. But that is the point of a standard. To set a level to which all sources can be compared to. What you keep barking on about are issues that we all know are endemic in the PRC.... A lack of laws, regulations, transparency and enforcement.

    FYI, though my work in Chengdu, I have had the pleasure of meeting an expat who worked at Veolia. He stated that the water produced at his plant was potable. Now, what happens to that water between the plant and your faucet could change that. I never inquired as to if he himself or his family drank the water. Probably not.

  • clayuk
    May 31, 2013
    120 posts

    We bought a Japanese water filter that fits onto the main water pipe. So we can drink straight from the tap. Cost around 1000rmb, but worth it.

  • invisible
    December 19, 2013
    1502 posts

    in other news

    Two wastewater treatment plants in China fail to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria

    http://news.rice.edu/2013/12/16/superbugs-found-breeding-in-sewage-plants/

  • invisible
    April 24, 2014
    1502 posts

    more other news

    13 GUANGZHOU BOTTLED WATER PRODUCTS CONTAIN HIGH LEVELS OF BACTERIA

    http://www.thenanfang.com/blog/13-guangzhou-bottled-water-products-unsafe-high-levels-of-bacteria/

    > 10 of these bottled water products (not the hand-size, but the kind Louis CK had thrown out of a window) exceed legally allowed limits for bacteria. An examination of Ganlong Water showed that it contained bacteria that is 3100 times over the legal limit.

    China says more than half of its groundwater is polluted
    Number of groundwater sites of poor or extremely poor quality increases to 59.6%, Chinese government says

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/23/china-half-groundwater-polluted

  • helsic
    April 25, 2014
    11 posts

    Since I'm in Chengdu I always use to cook and drink bottle water from the supermarket and never tap water, because tap water here taste weird, in my country I used to drink tap water and the water have no taste. When I lived in Henan province I got poisoned and pretty sick for food and tap water so I don't want to repeat the experience again.

  • WoogiEnglish
    June 12, 2014
    2 posts

    Perhaps the tap-water is drinkable but it's better to be safe so I boil all tap-water before drinking or just drink bottled water. That has been going well for the past 4 years. The occasional stomach issues are often due to (slight) food poisioning or simply too spicy food (sichuan peppers having a party in your belly).

  • kneehigh
    June 19, 2014
    6 posts

    So the tap water is poison and the bottled water is poison which means we really can't drink anything that has water in it or eat soup or hot pot or beer or soda or juices or what about that the food has been washed in water before cooking ?
    And all that information we seek on the internet that we report and then wonder if it's true or false. People like invisible research, report, then are questioning the very facts they report. So, what is the solution ? Drink freshly squeezed fruits that are bathed in pesticides—You can't escape being poisoned by foods or drinks these days— we are the mutant generation—deal with it and follow your nose—the best we can do is to not poison our minds with paranoid thoughts—we are the servants of industry—the mutant generation—and you nerds can't and won't do a damn thing about it..So don't be paranoid my fellow mutants except the poison that you are. . . .

  • corygo
    September 3, 2014
    76 posts

    Buy a good water filter.

    There is a noticeable difference in taste between tap and filtered water.

    Even most Americans filter their water somehow like using a Brita, Pur, etc.

    In Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, etc. you can buy a nice Panasonic water filter for $6x.00 (4xx RMB).

    If your coming from the US, you can buy a 10 stage water filter on Amazon for $80.00 which is what I've been using for the past 4 years.

    If your not interested in buying a water filter then just boil your water like the local people do.

    Bottled water is always a gamble since there is no government agency checking the quality of the water.

    It is the same unfortunately in Western countries unless people are getting sick and the government is forced to actually investigate.

    Also the plastic containers are made from petroleum so bottled water may contain traces of PCBs/BPA and/or other harmful substances.

  • RobertaM
    September 22, 2014
    15 posts

    I've been living in China for 11 years and aside from boiling it I have always drank it from the tap. Filtered water is MUCH better tasting but it is still 'tap' I suppose. Just an FYI for all you drinking bottled water thinking your safe, many water companies just filter tap water.

  • RobertaM
    September 22, 2014
    15 posts

    I've been living in China for 11 years and aside from boiling it I have always drank it from the tap. Filtered water is MUCH better tasting but it is still 'tap' I suppose. Just an FYI for all you drinking bottled water thinking your safe, many water companies just filter tap water.

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