Friday, August 1, 2008

The Water

Purifying drink water is much easier here in Thailand than in Kenya. Turn on the faucet and water comes out. Technically you can drink it without getting sick, but my friends have advised me against it.

“Water I think not so good,” Oay said. “Water come from ground, not good. Better you buy bottle.”

Actually, ground water sounds a lot safer than water pumped out of the river, especially in this town. I’m pretty convinced that the Tha Chin, which flows through Mahachai and brings the fishermen home, is much more polluted than any other body of water I’ve lived near – including the Chicago and Hudson Rivers. One reason I think this, and I might just be overreacting here, is that the water in the river is black, often coated with a layer of rainbow oil slicks, and is a fertile home for invasive water hyacinths.

Anyway, so I was thinking, groundwater sounds a lot safer than Tha Chin sludge, until I thought about that massive public health disaster in Bangladesh: arsenic in the groundwater.

Well, I bought bottled water for the first couple of weeks here. It tastes terrible. I think the word for it is brackish. It’s salty and metallic. The water from the faucet tastes exactly the same. I’m wondering if bottled water here isn’t just straight from the tap.

The reason I think this is because I’ve boiled bottled water and tap water, and I get similar results: a bunch of crusty white floaties. My water boiler – one of those electrical appliances found in every Asian household that boils your water then keeps it warm as long as you want – is always lined with the crusty stuff after I boil water. I’m not sure what it is. Probably just mineral deposits. But why is it also in the bottled water?

At least I learned a few things in the Peace Corps. If you let water sit for an hour or so, the debris sinks to the bottom, and you can pour the clear water into another vessel. The taste is noticeably improved.

Editor's note: I've since switched to bottled water that's delivered to my door in 20-liter jerrycans. No brackish taste, no white floaties. It's a winner.

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