Chula to Offer Free Tests of Salt Level in Bangkok Tap Water

Suwat Kanjanawaha, 58, collects a water sample on Feb. 15, 2021 from Tha Chin River in Nakhon Pathom. Suwat, an orchid gardener, has had all his crops die since the river’s salinity reached levels as high as 4 grams per liter.

BANGKOK — Starting on March 1, experts from Chulalongkorn University will offer to test if the tap water and filter in your home has too much salt – free of charge.

The free service is part of a campaign to raise awareness about the ongoing phenomenon of salty tap water in the capital, which officials blame on the rise of the sea level that spilled onto Bangkok’s water supplies.

Residents concerned that their tap water may be too unhealthy are encouraged to bring their samples to Professor Aroon Sorathesn Center of Excellence in Environmental Engineering, which will open to the public Mondays to Fridays, from 9am to 4pm.

“People have a limit of salt per day, and that limit is 2000 milligrams,” Pisut Painmanakul, a professor in environmental engineering at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Engineering, said by phone.


“Since the water is already 200 or 250 milligrams per liter, and you drink maybe two liters per day, you have to make up for that by eating less salty food.”

Pisit warned that the problem of salty tap water would only escalate in the coming days due to rising sea levels and Chao Phraya tributaries being diverted for agricultural use.

He added that people should decrease their intake of mineral water, since the salty water already has an ample amount of minerals. Those living upriver from Bangkok should also try to conserve water usage.

Both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say that drinking water should have no more than 0.2 grams of sodium per liter, but Bangkok is seeing as much as 0.33 grams as of press time, down from levels of 0.96 in earlier February. 

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Orchid farmers in Nakhon Pathom hold up their orchids that have died due to salty river water on Feb. 15, 2021.

Although that’s time-worn advice previously given by government officials, Pisit illustrated just how much sodium is in Thai food.

“To put it easily, one fried snake skin fish has 1,200 milligrams of sodium. One tablespoon of fish sauce is almost the daily limit,” he said.

Ingesting too much salt puts one at the risk of kidney disease and high blood pressure. The professors recommended that people use Reverse Osmosis filtration systems.

Chulalongkorn University said in a statement that its experts have been working on creating water filter membranes that minimize wastewater and are longer-lasting than common ones. The professors have used electrodialysis, a method which separates salt from water, used ultra membranes to filter out pollutants.

Director Jenyuk Lohwacharin of the environmental engineering center said the university did not have plans to create and sell filtration systems yet, but if they had the budget they could create filtration systems for areas in dire need of them.

The public is also advised to avoid filling up their water jugs with tap water anything between 2pm to 5pm – since it’s the time of the day when the sea levels are at the highest.

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The Professor Aroon Sorathesn Center of Excellence in Environmental Engineering. Photo: Chulalongkorn University

To bring in your water samples or filters for testing, go to the Professor Aroon Sorathesn Center of Excellence in Environmental Engineering (ศูนย์ความเป็นเลิศด้านวิศวกรรมสิ่งแวดล้อม) on the third floor of the Department of Environmental Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University.

The center is open from 9am to 4pm, and is a walkable distance from either BTS Siam or MRT Sam Yan.


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