Jodi Xu of the TIME Beijing Bureau writes in a post entitled Now it’s Fake Water that really got us wondering about the RMB6 tubs of water that we get in our apartment:
This morning, I heard the news that half of Beijing’s bottled water is counterfeit. I was horrified. It seems that illegal factories fill the used plastic bottles from the tap or with perfunctorily filtered water. The bottle tops and tape that they use to seal the bottle look identical to the genuine ones. The bottles aren’t sterilized and the number of mold fungi and e. coli bacteria that have been found in such water can easily make drinkers sick. An industry report quoted by Beijing Times calculates that more than 100 million bottles of such water were sold last year. The profit derived from these illegal sales exceeded 1 billion RMB, or about $12 million. As a Chinese, I am used to reading about dangerous fakes. But this case really enraged me. This is water that many of us drink every day, after all. And the whole reason people pay extra for bottled water is for the quality—and safety. The Beijing Times did a story a couple of days ago that revealed the illegal business has been going on for five years. One unlicensed water bottler told the newspaper: “I filter the tap water before filling the bottle because I am a moral person and I don’t want to get people sick.”
A whole spate of headling-grabbing environmental and water issues have hit China one after the other lately – algae lakes, desertification and now fake water. It’s no wonder the government seems to be scrambling to action to make sure none of its thirsty 1.4 billion people will die for lack of water.
And they’ve looked to an unlikely source of help – tiny Singapore, which with few natural water sources had to depend on Malaysia for most of its water. Prickly relations between the two and Malaysia’s threats to cut off water supply led Singapore to look to other sources – desalination and recycled water.
In its bid to cut reliance on other countries for water and to build a sustainable water supply, Singapore developed NEWater, which could best be defined as recycled household water, or more crudely as distilled piss. NEWater became the butt of a million jokes when it was first launched in 2003, but has gained interest worldwide as water problems everywhere become more acute.
Pictured here is Chinese commerce minister Bo Xilai taking a swig of NEWater, and the verdict? “Good”, he said. “It tastes very normal”.
Beijing and Singapore are in talks on the possibility of building an eco-city in China, and have just signed a memorandum of understanding on the improvement of the urban environment and integrated utilisation of urban water resources cooperation. So who knows, maybe we will all soon be drinking our own piss in Shanghai!
Picture from Lianhe Zaobao.