Fetching that Glass of Tap Water in Seoul

Drink Tap Water Add. lol.
Image credits [HERE]
I was reading this recent report on how people spent half a day, or rather, half of their lifetime, fetching water from the source to the place of consumption. It is extremely difficult to think that people still have to go through that painstaking process just to get clean water when all I have to do is open my tap. Roll that tap open and magically see water appear.

Take a moment to appreciate how amazing that really is. Of course, if you are living in Kathmandu, chances are that the water runs dry after a few hours of appreciation, but still you have running water at some point in the day at your home.

While in some parts of the world people struggle to get hold of water, people here in Seoul, including your blogger, struggle to trust what flows from their tap. Strictly a first world problem, I presume. So why this distrust?

Korean Herald, one of the leading English Daily, reported recently stating that:
According to a survey conducted by the Environment Ministry on 12,000 individuals in 2013, only about 10 percent responded that they drank water directly from the tap, whether it is boiled or not. About 55 percent said they drank tap water only after boiling to ensure safety. 
Only 10% of quite a respectable survey sample does show a general distrust on city's water supply. Considering..
As of 2013, 82 percent of Americans and 78 percent of Japanese replied that they drank tap water. 
and the fact that they have lower water standards and higher chlorine in the water does not deter them from having a pop directly from tap does say a lot about how water conscious Seoulites really are.

Back when I was a part of the Seoul International Student's Forum, we were taken to Arisu, the government run city water supply unit, and shown around the state-of-the-art facilities. According to the dramatic video that we had to witness, with all the background drumming and video editing, they stated that the quality was incomparable anywhere in the world and that UN, of all organizations, has accepted that very fact. UN does have a way of putting a nice, glossy feel on anything doesn't it?

Here's what the city supply does not actually state though. Every bit of water, whether it's running down from all that dish washing you did post-party, or the number two flush you made or the three times a day shower regime that you have come to succumb to, they all eventually end up in Han River. That's how the system works. The drain is first processed and then ejected out to the river. The city water supply then strategically takes the same river as a water source. Which means the same water is recycled.

But that's not why people in Seoul distrust the city water supply; in fact most people are oblivious to the fact until and unless they go see the facilities and witness how water is ejected and taken in from the river at several different points.

It was actually back in 1991, as the Korean Herald reports, "an undiluted solution of phenol was leaked twice from an electronic component factory in Daegu into the Nakdonggang River" and as people drank the water straight from city's water supply, they naturally became ill. A national wide distrust spread among people, betting on the fact that such accidents can happen anywhere, anytime.

Another issue, that most people complain, is about the aged water pipes that the H2O is supplied through. Most water pipes have a life of about 20 years but as the city ages, and more people look for cheaper housing and move into older buildings and apartments, the likely hood that those pipes now have deep rooted rust and need changing is quite obvious.

What the report, however, does not mention is the business aspect how companies have used this wide distrust and simply made ton of money. You are frequently bombarded and brainwashed on media about how this brand or that brand has a better purifying system when in fact, as Prof. Choi Suing-il of Korea University states:
"Water filtered through purifiers may seem safer but it can actually lower the water quality unless the filters are regularly replaced. The interior cleaning of purifiers is systematically not easy, and the purifier’s faucet can increase bacteria propagation as it is exposed to the air,” 
Given the fact that the whole of BK International House that i reside in relies on ONE water purifier, I wonder if anyone even bothers to change the filter once in a while. Is it just better to go ahead boil the tap water instead?

I am not sure where I am heading with this but the more I seem to look into it, the more confused I seem to be regarding the safety of water that I consume on a day to day basis. However, given the fact that I come from a third world country, and have seen a dead frog (couple of times) pulled out from the tank that supplied the same water drinking tap that I frequented to, I can't really complain.

In other words, I had worse, dead frog infused water.
Here's to happy drinking. 


Popular Posts