I can’t remember when it was that I read this, but I’m quite certain I had read in a travel guide that Hong Kong water was potable out of the tap. Though I generally do boil my water here in HK, as most locals do, I occasionally have taken a sip directly out of the tap. Every time I’ve mentioned this practice to anyone here in HK – local or expat – they tell me to stop immediately.
I’ve always rejected these protests immediately, especially having grown up in one of the best tap water cities on the planet, and also because I’d never experienced any issues with the water in Hong Kong. But I have to admit, I did notice heavy residue in my tea kettle, which is almost impossible to get out (even when I try vinegar and every other trick I can find), and I have been disgusted with how brown the water runs after the building conducts its regular water tank maintenance.
But it was not long ago, when I had issues with my water heater that I decided there is no way I will drink HK tap again.
What had happened seems entirely unrelated, but my water heater was not functioning right, and the shower water was either scalding hot or unable to be heated at all. I called the Town Gas man to come by (it’s really wonderful – each bill you pay something like US$1 a month for “maintenance”, but when the day comes when you do need this service, it’s free!) and he suggested clearing out the pipes by running it at full blast without any filters.
The water from all my taps were brown. Worse, the water in my bathroom sink had serious particulates and was a dark reddish brown. Plus, it took a couple of tries before it ran clean!
The Town Gas man explained that all HK buildings tend to have some major filth in their pipes – for what reason I was not sure, but he said this was in both the old and new buildings. He suggested that not only do I do this water wasting exercise after the regular water tank maintenance at my building, but possibly every month!
When doing some research for this post, I learned that HK’s water actually comes from China (no surprise there, since just about all our consumables come from that way). And check out this incredibly long and ongoing thread on Asia Expat — it seems this is a never-ending topic of discussion for the folks who live here.
But either way, I’ve made up my mind for myself and I will keep boiling water at the very minimum. Though it looks like not only should I boil it, but I should also be filtering it.