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Residents fill up containers of drinking water from a temporary standpipe, after a partial power failure at Hiu Kwong Street in Sau Mau Ping in June 2016. Photo: Sam Tsang

Better be safe than sorry: why Hong Kong is wary about drinking straight from the tap

  • Why take a risk drinking tap water, if you have easily available and safer alternatives?
I refer to the letter from Rebecca Spence, “ Why won’t Hong Kong go with the flow on tap water, and cut plastic waste in the bargain?” (November 1). Ms Spence is right to point out that it is common knowledge that in new buildings in Hong Kong, the tap water is very clean.
However, she forgets that some buildings in Hong Kong have poorly maintained plumbing, which can affect water quality, not least the smell and colour of the water. In fact, in 2015, several Hong Kong housing estates suffered a health scare from tainted water, with the lead content exceeding World Health Organisation standards.
According to Hong Kong’s Water Supplies Department, the consumer is responsible for the proper maintenance of the plumbing in a building. Thus, most places such as cinemas and restaurants are afraid to offer you water direct from the tap, since this may be unfiltered, which brings risks of illness.

Actually, it is not unusual for us to carry boiled or purified water from home when we are out and about, and this is relatively easy to do. This is definitely a much safer option.

I have heard of people who had the runs and diarrhoea for weeks, which their doctors told them was due to their long-term drinking of tap water without boiling it first.

Bottled water is stacked at a supermarket at Kai Ching Estate in Kai Tak, after drinking water in the complex was found to be tainted with lead in July 2015. Photo: Felix Wong

I remember having a funny feeling in the stomach after drinking water directly from the tap while I was in Primary Three or so. After that, my mother advised me against drinking water this way, for health and safety’s sake. And in this regard, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Why take a risk drinking tap water at all, if you have other, more easily available and safer alternatives in “Asia’s world city”?

Eunice Li, Shanghai