Hohhot’s Drinking Water Options
Water. We all need it. And we all want it to be clean. Below is all the information I know about what types of water are available in Hohhot. Please leave a comment with any additional information you have!
1. Tap water. For our family, drinking straight from the tap has never happened for more than brushing our teeth. However, the lady who cleans our house does it regularly. And I know other locals who drink straight from the tap/faucet. I’ve heard many people say Hohhot’s water quality is much better than other cities. My husband’s teacher at Nei Da said that some neighborhoods get their water from a well and that if so, it’s quite clean (by China standards). If they don’t have a well, however, it’s pumped in from the Yellow River. (I don’t have a source for this information other than Zhang Lao Shi) If you don’t know about the pollution in the Yellow River a brief internet search should convince you that drinking from it isn’t a good idea. There are also the following studies that show arsenic in the water in the rural areas surrounding Hohhot. I don’t know if this is a concern for the city’s water supply as well, but it’s still information that should be considered. http://users.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/arsenic/references/Huhot.pdf http://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/groundwater/health/arsenic/InnerMongolia.html http://users.physics.harvard.edu/~wilson/arsenic/countries/inner_mongolia/inner_mongolia_paper1.html
So in review, the water from your tap may be clean well water, water from the Yellow River, or contain arsenic.
2. boiled tap water This is the drink of choice for the vast majority of the citizens of Hohhot. Every campus, office, dan wei, etc have huge stainless steel tanks that boil and dispense hot water. It’s transported to dorms, offices, etc in those glass thermoses in plastic casing with a handle we have all seen. We occasionally drink boiled water and I cook with it often. There are huge amounts of mineral deposits from the water in our kettle and thermos. I’m not a chemist so I don’t really know what that means. I also don’t know exactly what gets boiled out and what doesn’t. Would arsenic get boiled out? I don’t know. What pollutants from the Yellow River would get boiled out? I also don’t know. Gee. If this post were on Wikipedia it would definitely have a “this post needs more information and citations” labeling. One word of caution about this method of drinking water: If you are drinking from one of those large machines, check the temperature gauge. Sometimes they are faulty and not actually boiling (just below 100 degrees) which means you are just drinking hot tap water not actually boiled water.
3. purchased bottled water Every supermarket large or small sells bottled water. I’ve never heard of scares or outbreaks or disease related to consuming bottled water here. We occasionally buy them when we’re out and about or traveling and we’ve never had a problem. I think they’re aren’t safety concerns with this method as much as cost (at least 1 RMB per 500 ml) and environmental factors (production of plastic bottles, transportation of millions of plastic bottles, etc).
4. large blue delivery bottles This water is the type of water that is delivered to your home and placed on top of a dispenser. (Or my Korean friend has a really cool hand pump you attach to the top and no need for a large, bulky dispenser and no lifting the bottle to a high location either!) This water costs somewhere between 10-15 RMB for 18.9 L/5 gal. I know each company has different offerings. The company we use has the following offerings: 纯净饮用水 clean drinking water. This one costs 10-12 RMB/bottle. 活性水 literally translate “activated” water. I’m guessing that means something like de-ionized water, but again, I’m no chemist or expert about any of this. It’s 13/bottle. They have a higher level that’s 15/bottle but I don’t have one here to see the actual name of the product. Next time we splurge for the fancy water, I’ll try to update this post. Some considerations for this kind of drinking water: I have some friend in another city in China who work for a company that employs large numbers of foreigners in China and their company recommends not buying the lowest level of water as they have linked it to higher incidences of kidney stones. We follow this advice because my husband has already walked the grueling kidney stone road twice and we prefer not to do that again and if a few RMB a week can help, we’ll do it. (Our family of four uses about 1.5 to 2 bottles of this water a week).
-mold. If you’re using a machine that heats the water for you, you need to take it apart and check it regularly for mold growing in the tubes inside the machine. We have check ours every couple of months and pour bleach water through the machine then rinse it well. We’ve had mold in there more than once and I know others have had the same problem, so check it out.
-BPA. I don’t know how to confirm this, but I know when I worked at a preschool in the US some parents complained about using these blue 5 gallon dispenser bottles because the plastic in the bottles contains BPA. I’m assuming if they contain BPA in the States, they probably do here as well.
My personal thoughts on this topic are that BPA is a dangerous chemical, however, arsenic is also dangerous. Giardia is dangerous. Yellow River pollutants are dangerous. I think you just have to decide what risks your family is willing to take.
5.filtered water It is becoming increasing popular to purchase a water filtration system for one’s home. I personally think this would be the best option. However, our house didn’t come with one already installed and the 5000 RMB or so to install one has been cost-prohibitive for us so far. (especially with the transient nature of expat life of never knowing for certain how long you’ll be in one place or one house) Some neighborhoods have them installed for the entire building or neighborhood. I personally wouldn’t like that option as much as one for my individual home because you have to trust that whoever is in charge of upkeep and changing the filters is actually doing his/her job. I would just like to be in charge of the system and know it’s being maintained myself. They are many outlets that sell these systems and some big department stores or electronics/appliance stores do as well. That I what I know about drinking water in Hohhot, and it clearly isn’t very much. Please, add to this discussion with your thoughts, comments, and additional information!