Beijing researchers abstain from drinking city's 'deteriorating' tap water for 20 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 6:45pm

Nitrate levels in Beijing’s water system are edging dangerously close to the maximum limit set by the state, according to a Beijing couple engaged in water research, who have not drunk a single drop of local tap water for almost 20 years.

According to Zhao Feihong, a researcher, levels of nitrate in Beijing’s tap water have reached a little over nine millilitres per standard litre, or nine parts per million (9 ppm) – very close to the 10 ppm national standard, the People’s Daily reported on Sunday.

Water containing excess nitrate levels indicate a greater concentration of particles from garbage, organic pollution and even fecal matter. Higher nitrate levels are found in groundwater usually as a result of leaks from septic tanks, sewers, fertiliser runoff and erosion from natural deposits.

“This is an indisputable fact,” Zhao said. “Beijing’s tap water quality is deteriorating and not everyone needs to be a victim.”

Zhao, who heads the Beijing Health Association Professional Committee for Drinking Water and along with her husband, a member of the Industry Committee of the National Development and Reform Commission’s Public Nutrition and Development Centre, are both self-proclaimed experts in water. 

"Our family probably drinks the most water in Beijing. No other [family] is more particular about their water than ours," she said. 

The couple has abstained from drinking and even cooking with Beijing tap water for nearly two decades.

The couple have opted to use high-end bottled water exotically sourced from the "volcanic rocks of Hainan Island" to mountain springs in northeast China’s Changbai Mountains.

In response to the article, the Jinan Daily newspaper criticised the couple in an editorial on Monday titled "Not everyone can afford to 'not drink tap water for 20 years'".

The editorial accused the couple of having double-standards and questioned how high-income government officials, researchers and scholars, who had a choice not to drink tap water, could do so little to provide "the most basic of public services" to a modern city of nearly 20 million people.

The editorial brought up the subject of inequal access to resources and related it to how rich Chinese send their children abroad to elite schools in order to escape the public education system at home.