BANGKOK — Drought and a surge in sea levels is why Bangkokians’ tap water is tasting saltier than usual – and the authorities are not planning to do anything about it.
The high concentration of sodium in the water, which is harmful to children and people with heart diseases, will continue throughout February at the very least, Metropolitan Waterworks Authority deputy director Raksak Suriyahan said on Wednesday. Another waterworks official said the phenomenon will lessen when rainfall raises the dam levels.
No one knows for sure when that would happen. Thailand’s rainy season won’t begin until May.
A notice released by the Department of Public Health said the brackish-tasting water is generally safe to drink, but it should not be consumed by infants, young children, the elderly, and pets.
People with liver problems, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are also advised to refrain from drinking the tap water.
The Department of Public Health’s statement suggests filtering the water through a Reverse Osmosis system, or – here’s the super green advice – switch to drinking bottled water.
But whatever you do, do not boil the tap water before drinking – it will only increase the concentration of salt, the statement said.
Beyond those pieces of advice, the government has not yet presented any solution for the salty tap water.
Sodium can also be found in everyday foodstuffs like snacks, MSG, fast food, and fish sauce. A daily intake of sodium should not exceed 2,000 milligrams.
Saltier Than Crait?
Bangkokians can check their tap water salinity levels at this real-time map. Each water testing station lists the amount of sodium found per liter – Greater Bangkok area on Wednesday is seeing levels as high as 0.96 grams per liter.
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.
It could get worse. Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmueang said on Monday that some water stations registered sodium levels as high as 12 grams per liter.
Water supply in Bangkok comes from the Samlae Raw Water Pumping Station and the Mae Klong Dam in Pathum Thani, which process the water from Chao Phraya River and other sources upriver.
Due to low water levels in upriver dams, there is less water available to dilute the salt content in the river water processed at Samlae. When combined with a sea level surge in the river, this contributes to a higher salt content in the water.
Residents can also queue up for free water every day from 8am to 8pm at the following Metropolitan Waterworks Authority offices branches: Suvarnabhumi, Minburi, Samut Sakhon, Bang Khen, Sukhumvit, Phra Khanong, Phaya Thai, Maen Sri, Lat Phrao, Prachacheun, and Soi Samakkhi 30.