When in China, you have to do as the natives do, and that means boiling tap water before you can drink it. Although some hotels and all restaurants offer boiled water to their guests, and you can buy bottled water, anything that just runs from a faucet is not safe to drink. Although the water is fine to bathe in, it is recommended that none of the water from the shower head be ingested for fear it will make you ill. Experts also say that tourists should use bottled water to brush their teeth. That’s how lethal the local water is. There are definitely serious and widespread drinking water problems in China.
The lakes, rivers, and groundwater in China have all become very polluted by industrial and agricultural wastes and spills. All of this pollution coupled with China’s high population and the millions of people who live in rural areas has created a problem that the Chinese government is working to alleviate. In addition, China does not have adequate natural sources of fresh water, and of the water they do have, 70% is so polluted that it’s considered unsuitable for human contact.
Three and a half million tons of sewage is produced in China every day. This means that the country should have at least 10,000 sewage treatment plants in operation to treat even half that much. Unfortunately, they have far fewer than this number operating at this time. This means that scores of rural Chinese drink water contaminated with human and animal waste and filth. Even in the country’s major cities, the municipal water pollution level is far higher than federal standards allow.
The largest cash crop produced in China has always been rice which is grown in paddies filled with water. With so much of the available water being toxic, people are reluctant to eat rice which may have been produced in unsafe water. This is devastating to the national income that depends heavily on rice production. People in China eat the rice and drink the water, and these things are responsible for outbreaks of serious diseases and other health issues.
Although government agencies are tightening industrial waste standards as well as those governing safe drinking water, the problem of polluted water in China has gotten so out of hand that it will take years and billions of dollars to get it back under control.