Nongfu Spring water is sold in Beijing. The brand saw its sales of bottled water drop after a newspaper investigated its quality standards. Photo: Ricky Wong
China still follows regulations adopted from the Soviet Union to test bottled drinking water, the Beijing News reported on Thursday.
"When the World Health Organisation updated its detection methods, [we] updated the standard for tap water, but not for bottled water," an unnamed expert with the Institute for Environmental Health and Related Product Safety in Beijing told the paper.

According to these arcane regulations, China's national health inspectors do not test bottled drinking water for acidity, or pH level, or for substances including mercury and silver. 

More than five times more indicators are used to test running water than bottled drinking water, the paper said.

"Bottled drinking water regulation is lagging behind," Wang Xiuyan, an adviser on mineral water for the Beijing Mining Industry Association, told the paper. "We should follow international standards."

The bottled water market in the country is booming amid a general anxiety over tainted food productions and environmental degradation.

Sales of bottled water grew from US$1 billion in 2000 to US$9 billion last year, according to Euromonitor. By 2017, sales are expected to climb to US$16 billion. 
Weeks earlier, the Beijing News' main competitor, the Beijing Times, published an expos é on Nongfu Spring bottled water that led to a dramatic drop in sales of the brand's mineral water.

The report alleged that Nongfu Spring's quality criteria for arsenic and cadmium were below tap water standards.

Nongfu Spring denied the allegation in a microblog post, in which it blamed a Shenzhen-based competitor for spreading rumours. The competitor has since threatened legal action.
In an online survey on the East Money portal, 87 per cent said they would not buy Nongfu Spring water anymore, 69 per cent said they believed the report to be true.
"If the government fails to voluntarily upgrade industrial standards, enterprises will stay silent over cost concerns," Wang Guojun, a consultant with the China Food Industry Association, told Xinhua.
Beijing health authorities in 2011 halted the sale of 31 brands of bottled water after they discovered bacteria colonies in random sample inspections.