Though food scandals tend to take center stage in China, the water crisis in Beijing arguably has more serious implications. We spoke to four students from the British School of Beijing Shunyi to find out their thoughts on the Beijing’s most precious resource and about what we can all do to spread the word about water conservation.
What’s your family’s method of water delivery?
Julia: We have water delivered and have water filters on the tap. My dad works for a Swedish company and they’re really concerned about health.
KP: All our drinking water is delivered. The brand is Nestle, though we’re not really certain that it is genuine.
Amy: We have drinking tanks and filters. Otherwise, we boil water and leave it in the kettle.
Jack: There are quite a few filtration systems in my house but for drinking water, we drink out of bottles. My mum gets very on edge about water. She just doesn’t want to take any chances.
Do you ever drink unfiltered tap water?Jack: It’s pretty ill-advised to drink it because of the different chemicals coming from the pipes.
KP: Where I come from, we usually drink our tap water. I tried to my first night in Beijing but my dad advised me not to. I was surprised because I was so used to being able to drink it.
Amy: Recently, we went on a geography trip to a place nearby the main reservoir that supplies most of Beijing’s water and it looked filthy. So most expat families have water filtration systems.
Is the tap water safe to do things like brush your teeth, make soup, ice, or wash your vegetables?
KP: We usually use tap water to make ice at my house and surprisingly, it hasn’t affected any of us. I’ve always used unfiltered tap water for brushing my teeth and I don’t think it’s a problem as I don’t swallow the tap water.
Jack: We usually eat vegetables that are cooked, which won’t get rid of everything but sanitizes it to some degree. As long as you’re not drinking tap water as your staple supply of water, I don’t really think it’s an issue.
Is bottled water safe?
Amy: I usually choose something imported. It’s different in China because they don’t really have as many restrictions about where the water comes from, how it’s processed, and what’s on the label. It may say its water from such-and-such spring, but you never know.
KP: When you come here, you are exposed to brands you aren’t familiar with, so you don’t really know which ones are good.
Julia: Some are safer than others. Since water from Beijing isn’t known to be healthy, you have to be smart and choose the right water.
What sources do you trust and why?
Julia: We tend to trust western brands.
Amy: Also if it has western writing on it, we can read the small print and know it’s sourced abroad; not just that they bought a name to stick on the bottle.
Given the water crisis in Beijing, what do you think about people watering their gardens or golf courses?
Julia: Sometimes people underestimate their water usage because they’re not really concerned about what’s happening and are more concerned with how their lawn looks.
Amy: But even if a law or some sort of policy was enacted, I don’t think it would make a difference. A lot of laws are in place to try to preserve the environment in China but the citizens don’t really follow them.
Jack: I think there’s a lack of education. With the older ayis that do gardening, for example, they’re not conscious about the amount of water they use. They have no idea where it comes from or how scarce it is.
What health problems can unsafe water cause?
KP: As I’m from Africa, cholera is a very big issue. Over there, it affects a lot of people who drink unfiltered or unclean water.
Why is it important to conserve water?>
KP: Considering that most of our water resources are running out, we need to start being more ethical and thinking about it.
Julia: It’s really important especially because this is one of the biggest populations in the world. In Brazil, the same crisis is happening but people know more about it. Here, people don’t really know what the problem is or what they should do to help.
Who should bear the most responsibility for water conservation?
Julia: The government because they are the ones who inform the population, therefore, they can actually make a difference.
KP: But without incentives or benefits, I don’t know if they would implement measures to stop water depletion.
Jack: Both citizens and the government are responsible because at the end of the day, people are the ones using the water but the government has to educate people about why it’s important. That should be enough for people to make a rational decision and take some responsibility.
What can we do to conserve water and how can we educate the younger generation on water conservation?
KP: Households could set up rules like times for watering the garden and when to shower.
Julia: My brother sings songs at home he has learned in school and tells us when we spend too long brushing our teeth or if we leave the tap on. Little things can have a big impact, especially when you start with smaller kids and they grow up with that mentality.
Amy: Manually washing dishes instead of using a dishwasher, showers versus baths, things like that. Heavy industry relies on heavy water use too. Those industries should be cut around Beijing because of the pollution and the omissions they cause as well. We should focus on renewable energy sources that don’t have omissions or rely on so much water.
This article originally appeared on page 42-43 of the beijingkids July 2015 issue. Click to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Dave PiXSTUDIO