Is this Water Safe to Drink?

Wendy and I was in a decent restaurant the other day. A well-dressed couple from Florida were seated next to us. We chatted a little bit when they seek for help to order the Chinese dishes.

After they completed the order, the lady pointed to the glass of water before her and asked: “BTW, is it safe to drink the water here?”

“Well. I think so”, I answered.

Safe or Not? What is the Standard

I know they just arrived in Shanghai and had started a short vacation in Shanghai. The whole route was arranged by a professional foreign tour agency, and they just want to grasp something to eat before the dinner arrives about 3 hours later. It seems we are the only persons to ask whether it is safe to drink water in Shanghai.

I can understand their questions. Just as I just landed in the U.S., I suspect the water is different from Shanghai and asked the question to myself. It is even so when they just arrived in a city in which the average water quality is not as good.

Don’t Drink Water directly from the Pipe

It is for sure that do not drink un-boiled water in Shanghai. Although it is still safe to drink the water (I think), it is not recommended.

In restaurants, I think it is pretty sure to assume the water in the glass is drinkable.

14 thoughts on “Is this Water Safe to Drink?

  1. I drank tap water in Shanghai before when I ran out of bottled water, but did not get sick (although there was a filter installed).

    Then I realized, I’ve been drinking it the whole time since I drank fountain soda at KFC, McDonald’s, etc. (I’m not sure how it is in China, but in the U.S. fountain soda = carbonated tap water + soda flavored syrup)

  2. When I travel to a different city in the U.S., I always ask the hotel staffer whether the local tap water is drinkable because the water quality does vary by geographical location (due to geological reasons). For example, gulf-coast states such as Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, or Mississippi (I don’t personally know about Florida, the home state of the couple you met) are infamous for having undrinkable tap water. On the other end of the spectrum, northern cities around the Great Lakes enjoy rather sweet tap water.

    Many Americans know never to drink water that’s not from a commercial bottle in Mexico (due to poor water-treatment) and some would apply that same principle in any other 3rd-world countries.

  3. I agree with Bigbro the water here in Ohio is quite safe.

    I try not to run out of bottled water in China. Most hotel rooms have boiling pots that boil to a rapid boil for the tap water if necessary. I have never become sick as long as I boil the water.

  4. In a pinch, I’ve drank the SH tap water after boiling it. It does remove the bacteria, but not any heavy metals like lead or mercury that may be in it… so I wouldn’t do it too often. Also, I would never do this if a baby or small child were to drink it.

  5. Korean Visitors show us the way to clean up our act. I think every Chinese should be very ashame of this behaviour on their own backyard. Including the worst habit of spitting anywhere they want.

    Published on ( show us the way to clean up our act.htm

    Visitors show us the way to clean up our act

    Created: 2005-10-17 CST, Updated: 2005-10-17 CST

    ON October 2, more than 80 South Korean tourists, including some 30 children, spontaneously began collecting rubbish in the Nanshan Tourist Zone in Urumqi while they were on a visit there. This made many Chinese people feel embarrassed as well as ashamed.

    The Korean tourists expressed their surprise to see such a beautiful scenic spot strewn with rubbish everywhere. It was not until 20 minutes later when they finished picking up all the rubbish that they continued on with their sightseeing.

    Such a humiliating situation is no longer rare. In some public toilets in Australia, signs have been put up in Chinese to remind Chinese visitors to flush the toilet after use. In many scenic spots in foreign countries, similar posters ask Chinese people to speak in softer tones.

    Many people consider the posters to be an insult and others feel indifferent and even pay no attention to them.

    Now that Koreans are teaching us a lesson in our own country, should we still remain unmoved?

    Copyright © 2001-2005 Shanghai Daily Company

  6. Apart from water sanitation, potable water supply, we should emphasised the general public health drive, if we really love this city and the inhabitants.

    I think if there is any important point to promote health. The simplest thing will be for any Health committee can do is banning the smoking in all public places.

    There is a good example for years now, no smoking in the buses, train, or subway.

    If we took what happened in Singapore, the business establishment like Restaurant, Karaoke etc do not suffer from business losses because they banned smoking.

    Also I would like to see more public pressure to reinforce the drive to ban smoking in China not only Shanghai. 64% male smoke, and in today Shanghai Daily, boys start smoking since at school. The remaining of the society is a passive smoker and I am quite sure that many suffer quietly because of this. Those suffered real problem should consider taking the case to the court for legal redressing.

    And this is something that had to be given a standing ovation:

    The local government of Luwan District held a non-smoking movement on Huahai Road M.

    Let us together make Shanghai a civil place, a civil society with healthy mind body and soul. If Singapore can do it why not us?

    Here is a clip from today’s Shanghai Daily for your reading, at least this is a start.

    Published on ( team for health.htm

    Promotion team for health

    Created: 2005-11-21 CST, Updated: 2005-11-21 CST

    THE city announced the creation of the Shanghai Committee for Health Promotion over the weekend, to coordinate measures to build Shanghai into a “Healthy City.”

    The committee is the first governmental organization of its type in China.

    The announcement was made at the International Forum on Healthy Cities, which opened yesterday in Shanghai. More than 400 government officials, WHO representatives, medical experts and ecologists are expected to take part in the three-day meeting.

    The concept of a “Healthy City” was proposed by the World Health Organization in the 1980s to make urban areas places where living conditions promote good health and quality of life through improving physical and social environments and expanding community resources.

    About 1,200 cities worldwide are involved in the program, including about 100 from developing countries.

    Shanghai is the first in China to pledge to become a “Healthy City” and the results from its first three years (2003-2005) of efforts have achieved some success, officials said.

    “Healthy City provides a concept that prevention is the key for modern medical services. Healthy environment, qualified health protection and effective education are important to promote public health and social development,” said China’s Minister of Health Gao Qiang. “An efficient health network under the program is also essential for controlling diseases, such as the present bird-flu campaign.”

    Gao said, in addition to developed cities like Shanghai, China as a whole has improved health services since the 1950s by building some 300,000 medical facilities.

    Foreign experts hailed Shanghai’s achievements, while claiming there are still many challenges ahead.

    “Shanghai should put more emphasis on building an energy-saving city, as the demands on resources are increasing along with the soaring economy and enlarged population,” said Wilfried Kreisel, director of the WHO Kobe Center.

    Copyright © 2001-2005 Shanghai Daily Company

  7. did you guys hear about the water pollution outbreak in Wuxi? I would not consider tap water safe in any of Chinese cities. Even if you boil it, the toxins can not be removed, which are cancerous in most cases. The cancer rate in Shanghai in the past few years is increasing dramatically. It is a big shame to see that the public awareness is so poor and sometime the public is even self-defensive when issues come to the point of reducing environmental damage.

    Cities like Shanghai can never become modern if the mind-set of people is limited to how many high-rises can emerge in per unit time (of course, this is also the mind-set of the policy making of the current government).

  8. what is the criteria of safe water?

    what advice will you give to purify water in your community?

  9. Another advice: never drink tea in a resterant no matter what resterant it is. A frind of mine told me that most resterants are only buying very bad tea at very cheap price to provide the geust free. These tea sometimes are toxic and harmful to health.

  10. The water is quite safe, just tastes awful. They spoil beautiful delicate teas with the chlorinated water. I am spoiled though, we drink rain water at home.

    I try to acclimatise myself where ever I am because you inevitably get the local product, they wash the salads in it, the ice in drinks for example.

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