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July 11, 2008

Don’t Drink the Water

I visited a Beijing water treatment plant today to see just what goes into creating potable water. Watching sewage flow through filter upon filter until ready for human consumption has me more convinced than ever -- unless you’re planning on moving to the city on a permanent basis, don’t ever drink water from the tap. Bottled water is available throughout Beijing, often for less than a quarter. A full gallon of bottled water should cost about $1 when purchased from a supermarket. My hotel even provides a 5-gallon bottle of water in the room with free refills whenever needed. With easy and cheap access to safe water, there’s no reason to risk your health for convenience’s sake. This extends beyond filling a glass from the tap in restaurants -- showering is fine, but don’t use tap water to brush your teeth. You should also consider avoiding raw fruits and vegetables that have been washed with tap water. The plant I visited was quite impressive -- the finished product certainly looks clean, but I have no reason to risk it. The city uses GE Zenon membrane filtration systems to clean the water, such as the one seen below.



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You also have to be careful using tap water for shaving. I have heard of several nasty skin infections resulting from using tap water.

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