A few months ago, I visited China on vacation. One of the challenges I faced was creating a balance between enjoying my trip and being cautious about what I drink or eat.
Is bottled water safe in China? Bottled water in China is considered generally safe for consumption. The popularity of bottled water in China is mostly because many people do not trust the safety of tap water for human consumption.
Various brands of bottled water are available in China. However, not all bottled water in China is safe for consumption. It is essential to understand how to ensure the safety of your bottled water, types of bottled water available in China, and how to request for bottled water in a restaurant or hotel.
Safety of Drinking Water in Hotels
Many hotels in China provide guests free bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth. The safety of tap water in China is a serious concern. Consider buying bottled drinking water or boil tap water before consumption.
Safety of Drinking Water in Restaurants
Many restaurants in China also sell bottled water. In some cases, the bottled water sold in restaurants may be quite costly.
- There are several ways to ask for water in Mandarin:
- Bing Shui means water with ice
- Kai Shui means boiled water, which is usually served hot
- He Shui means drinking water, which is generally served warm or hot
Most restaurants in China serve hot or warm drinking water because they believe cold water is not suitable for your health.
Safety of Drinking Water on the Go
Finding safe bottled water in China is not very difficult. Chinese towns and cities have many convenience stores and drink stalls.
If you are looking for the cheapest bottled drinking water, consider buying Chinese brands. However, you can find imported bottled water brands in convenience stores.
Some of the bottled water brands may look familiar because of the presence of international bottling companies in China. Whether you choose to buy local or international bottled water, make sure the cap seal is intact.
Types of Bottled Water
Small-scale traders sell a good majority of bottled water in China. Sellers of bottled water in China are local entrepreneurs with deep ties to their communities.
There are many types of bottled water in China is including:
- Purified water
- Mineral water
- Sparkling water
- Artesian water
- Spring Water
As the name suggests, spring water is obtained from water springs, which are natural underground water formations that flow with water to the surface of the earth. For bottled water to be classified as spring water, it must be:
- Collected at the spring
- Collected through a borehole that taps into the source of the spring
- If the water has to be obtained through an external force, the water must:
- Be obtained through the same channel as the spring
- Have the same physical properties before processing
- Have matching composition and quality as the water that comes out of the spring
- Purified Water
This type of water is obtained through distillation, reverse osmosis, or deionization. The water must undergo a purifying process whose standards are set by relevant authorities.
Purified bottled water can also be named according to the process that was used to purify the water. For instance, purified water may be called:
- Distilled water if it was produced through distillation
- Deionized water if it was produced through deionization
- Reverse osmosis water if it was produced through reverse osmosis
The term “drinking water” may be added to any of the purifying terms defined above. For instance, purified drinking water, purified deionized water, or purified reverse osmosis water.
It is essential to know there is a distinct difference between tap water in a bottle and purified drinking water. Purified bottled water has undergone strict processes to keep it sterile and purified.
Once the water has undergone the purification process, it is bottled under sterile conditions and sold to consumers. The label on purified bottled water must disclose the water source.
The standard definition of mineral water is water that contains more than 250 parts per million dissolved solids. There is a distinct difference between mineral water and other types of bottled water products.
Unlike other types of bottled water products, mineral water has specific levels of trace elements or minerals. The water should not contain additional minerals added to them other than the required amounts.
Sparkling Bottled Water
This type of bottled water has undergone treatment and has been infused with carbon dioxide. Sparkling bottled water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide as the water from the source.
There are different names for this type of bottled water, including:
- Sparkling drinking water
- Sparkling spring water
- Sparkling mineral water
- Artesian Water
This type of bottled water originates from a well or confined aquifer. An aquifer is a layer of rock underground that taps water.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Bottled Water
Bottled water may not seem like a necessity in many countries with reliable and safe tap water. However, some countries, such as China, still need bottled water for consumption.
Many people use bottled water to stay hydrated when on the go. The main reason why many people prefer to use bottled water in China is that it is safe and affordable.
Although some brands produce bottled water in glass containers, many companies produce bottled water in plastic containers.
Some people prefer to buy sugary beverages to bottled water. However, bottled water has many advantages.
A significant benefit of drinking bottled water in China is it provides superior hydration. Drinking bottled water provides your body with the essential elements it needs to stay hydrated.
When traveling in China or any other country, it is quite easy to become dehydrated during your excursions. Having bottled water that you can carry with you on the go allows you to meet the needs of your body quickly.
Whether you choose to buy bottled water or request for a bottle of water in your hotel, bottled water is something you can take with you almost everywhere. Most tourist sites in China will allow you to come with bottled water to take care of your hydration.
The convenience of bottled water is undeniable. You may use a reusable container to fill it up wherever you are, or you can decide to buy bottled water at convenience stores in China.
If you have a bottle of water that you have not opened, you can store it indefinitely. The only thing you need to do is to store the water in the right environment.
Most bottled water can be stored for a year or longer before consumption. Bottled water is considered a food-grade product in many countries, and it requires the same hygienic conditions for storing food.
Consider storing your bottled water in a refrigerator instead of leaving it out in the open or unhygienic conditions. Keep your bottled water away from chemicals, fumes, and dangerous solvents to maintain its quality.
Dispose of your bottle of water if it:
- Has an unusual smell
- Has algae growth
- Does not have a clear color
One of the reasons why people prefer bottled water to tap water is the rich flavor of bottled water. Tap water in China may have high levels of chlorine, which is not only unsafe, but it can also have a funny smell and taste.
Most bottled water does not have excessive levels of chlorine or other chemicals. In addition, it is conveniently available in stores throughout China.
Another advantage of drinking bottled water in China is it is guaranteed to be of high quality. Most bottled water products in China are products that strictly monitored during the manufacturing process.
Not all bottled water is safe for consumption. It is vital to ensure the water you drink is safe for consumption.
When you cannot access clean water in your hotel or restaurant in China, buying bottled water is an excellent way to ensure you do not consume products that may be harmful to your health.
Chinese authorities have set standards and regulations for the presence or amount of contaminants in drinking water, including:
- Well Regulated Product
Bottled water in China, especially the international brands, is a well-regulated product. Manufacturers are required to follow strict guidelines for the production of bottled water.
Tap water in China is not recomended for consumption because it may contain pesticides that have washed down the streams, rivers, and other sources. Even the pipes that supply water to your hotel or restaurant could contaminate the water.
Wide Range of Options
There are many options to choose from as far as bottled water in China is concerned. People who rely on tap water for consumption have no other option.
When you are shopping for bottled water in China, you have many options to choose, including:
- Mineral water
- Purified water
Using bottled drinking water is quite sustainable because it uses limited freshwater resources. Bottled water uses less than five percent of groundwater resources.
Even with a drought, local water bottling companies can adjust their manufacturing processes to minimize their impact on water resources.
Water is not the main component of the bottling process. Contrary to the common misconception, there is little wastage in the water bottling manufacturing process.
Used water bottles do not make significant portions of trash. Convenient-sized bottles make less than two percent of all waste produced in China in a year.
Efficient recycling programs that have been developed in China will help reduce the wastage even further.
Although bottled water has many benefits, there are a few drawbacks of consuming bottled water in China.
Unlike tap water, bottled water is quite expensive in China. People who are consuming tap water have the least expensive resource on the planet.
It is possible to meet your drinking needs with tap water for a fraction of the cost of bottled water. Some bottled water products cost a hundred times more than the same amount of tap water.
If you decide to filter your tap water in China, you will probably pay ten times less than you would for the marketing, transportation, and retail cost of your bottled water.
Bottled water in China is not always safe; it can cause a whole host of health problems. Water in old water containers may contain harmful chemicals.
In addition, bottled water may be prone to algae and mold growth depending on how you store it. Storing your bottled water near harmful agents such as fumes and chemicals may render the water unhealthy with time.
Some bottled water in China may have contaminants. In some cases, bottled water in China may be tap water.
The bottled water industry in China generates billions of dollars in revenues each year. What some tourists in China may not realize is some water products may just be purified tap water.
The regulation standards for the different types of bottled products in China vary. Some of the regulations may not meet international standards.
Tips for Ensuring the Safety of Your Bottled Water in China
Many people in China drink bottled water because they are not sure about the safety of tap water for human consumption. More than 300 million people in China do not have access to clean drinking water.
This situation has partly been caused the rapid industrialization and urbanization in the country. In addition, many people are concerned about the effects of pollution on the quality of water in China.
China’s Water Situation
Water quality in China is a growing concern because of the adverse pollution of water resources in the country. More than half of the groundwater in Chinese cities is polluted to some extent.
Close to 20 percent of water bodies in China are so polluted their waters can be harmful even on contact. The source of the pollution of water bodies in China include:
- Industrial spills
- Sewage effluent
- Manufacturing emissions
- Agricultural runoff
What makes the water crisis in China serious is the fact that more than half the population depends on groundwater for its drinking supply. Unfortunately, pollution is not the only problem affecting China’s water resources.
Water resources in China are not only polluted, but they are also scarce. More than half the cities in China are considered water-needy.
Only half of the water resources in China are used effectively. On the other hand, the agricultural industry is the leading cause of waste of water resources in China.
Water quality has been a significant problem in China for many years. Several incidents have contributed to the decline of water quality in the country:
In January 2013, a chemical spill caused widespread pollution of the Zhuozhang River. The 39-ton spill was only reported five days after the incident.
In February 2013, China admitted the existence of villages whose residents have been so adversely affected by cancer due to contamination of water bodies by carcinogenic pollutants
In March 2013, the Huangpu River was contaminated by 16000 dead pigs dumped into the river from swine farms instead of being properly disposed of
In March 2013, residential and industrial discharge caused the Suzhou River in Shanghai to turn black
The fact that tap water in China is suspected to be contaminated does not mean that bottled water is safe either. Several water companies have been investigated amid claims that their water was contaminated.
However, the extent of contamination is more adverse in tap water than in bottled water. If you suspect the quality of bottled water in China, stick to reputable and recognizable brands.
Make sure the bottled water in your hotel room dispenser is clean and fit for human consumption. In addition, consume bottled water within a month of opening.
Make sure the dispenser carrying your bottled water has been cleaned with bleach or vinegar.
Although there are strict guidelines for water testing in China, the guidelines are not usually followed in some cases. The disparity in water quality in various treatment facilities in China can be attributed to multiple factors, including:
- Lack of transparency from local authorities about water testing
- Infrequent testing
- Lack of independent water testing agencies
- Contamination from piping
Generally, there is little transparency about water quality in China. Therefore, residents and visitors cannot be sure about what they are putting into their bodies.
Boiling water is an effective way of improving water quality. However, boiled water is only microbiologically safe, but not necessarily free of toxins.
The concern about water safety in China has led to the rise of water purification companies. Foreign brands dominate the Chinese water purification industry.
Mounting public pressure is starting to drive authorities to set up mechanisms for ensuring the safety of drinking water in China. This is good news for both residents and visitors in China.