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To drink or not to drink? That is the question for Beijing residents, according to water quality expert Zhao Feihong.
Her answer: No. She advises anyone who can afford it to switch to bottled water, claiming it is a safer alternative.
Technicians test the water quality at Beijing No 9 Water Factory on Monday. [Photo/China Daily]
"I have not drunk tap water for 20 years," said Zhao, a researcher on drinking water at the Beijing Healthcare Association. "The capital's water has gotten more polluted in recent years."
Many of her friends and relatives also shun tap water because of health concerns, she said.
"In the past we used to drink directly from Miyun Reservoir (on the outskirts of the city), which was built in 1958 and is one of the largest in North China," she said. "The water quality at the reservoir at that time was on a par with Germany, which has strict standards for surface water. But not now."
Beijing Waterworks Group, which is responsible for the water supply, assures residents that tap water is safe and meets the national water quality standard.
"In addition to treatment plants, we have an online monitoring system for real-time quality supervision," Liang Li, the group's spokeswoman, said on Monday.
She said that starting from Jan 15 the capital will release information on drinking water quality to the public online every three months, including concentration levels of nitrate, the degree of hardness and turbidity.
Zhao does not deny that the quality complies with the national standard. Tests she conducted several days ago, as well as those by the waterworks group late last year, show the concentration of nitrite in tap water is more than 9 milligrams per liter, under the national standard of 10 mg/l.
However, it is the significant change that she has seen in quality that worries her.
"The figure was within 2 mg/l six years ago and within 5 mg/l in 2011," she said. "It's an indisputable fact that the city's water quality is getting worse at an alarming rate."
She said that Guanting Reservoir in the capital's northwest Yanqing county, which used to be a source for drinking water, is now a backup water source due to pollution.