Clean drinking water, but not bottled


Access to clean drinking water is very limited here in Beijing. Tap water is not necessarily safe to drink. During our first few months in China, we would take tap water, boil it, and then drink it. After a few months we switched to bulk bottled water, but recently I stumbled upon an interesting alternative that might help reduce my plastic footprint for clean drinking water.

When we looked for information about the quality of tap water in Beijing, I found an article and short video in which two Chinese water specialists recommended drinking bottled water. Our dislike of bottled water is very strong, not only because it adds to the plastic soup and may damage our health due to the chemicals used in the plastic, but also because we are not sure what the quality of this bottled water is. The documentary Flow discusses this and other water related issues.

The report by these two Chinese water quality experts and the hot weather of the last couple of months made us decide to start buying bottled water. In bulk. The bottles are delivered to our home and contain about 20 liters of water. That’s enough for almost a week. The delivery guy told me the bottles are refilled after usage. We are still not sure about the quality of this water, but have no way to trace its source. We just accept this for the moment and appreciate not having to boil water for a while. Yet, because they are allegedly refilled, these huge bottles feel better than smaller bottles that you can get at the supermarket.

Getting rid of the plastic bottles

We still aren’t very happy about the bottled water though. So last week I started looking for other solutions. Recently, a friend showed me how he had installed filters to clean the tap water. The quality was excellent. And on one of my previous posts about water, Marlies commented that I maybe could look for a bottle with a filter. So that is what I searched for last week. And I might have found something!

The brand Clearly Filtered makes stainless steel water bottles with a filter that takes out most of the pathogens, heavy metals, and other undesirable things from water. In fact, the company claims the filter reduces 99.99% of chlorine, bacteria, cryptosporidium, salmonella, e.coli, 97.5% of lead, 99.6% of mercury, and 90% of fluoride. Different from other portable water filtering systems, this bottle filters the water right as you drink.

Apparently, fluoride is quite toxic to our bodies, so I would be happy to avoid it. Same goes for heavy metals, and pathogens of course. Unfortunately, I am not so sure what is in the water here in Beijing, which makes it hard to know what to avoid and what kind of filter to purchase. Only a few days ago, Beijing municipality announced that the municipal tap water was recently tested by a third party. Results will be announced shortly, this news article says. Although testing of tap water by third parties is common practice in many western countries, it is not in China. In fact, this is the first time the municipality asked a third party to test the tap water and promised to publish the test results.

The specifics of the Clearly Filtered stainless steel water bottle all sound very good. The only concern I have is that in order to filter the water, you must sip water through a straw. I am not particularly fond of drinking through a straw, especially if made of plastic as is the case for this bottle. The straw is made of 100% BPA free plastics, but that does not mean much to me as there might be other (perhaps more) toxic substances used.

In addition, the filter needs to be replaced every 375 liter (100 gallons). I drink about 2 liter per day, so that would be once every 190 days or so. Twice a year. The filters are made of plastic. However, I would not need to use the filter when in areas with decent tap water. You can take out the filter and the straw and just use the stainless steel bottle.

Altogether, the Clearly Filtered bottle sounds very promising. I am considering buying this bottle and perhaps selling my beloved Klean Kanteen bottle.

Do you have any experience with filters to improve water quality? What do you think? Is it effective? What about replacing the filters? How do you recycle them? Do you have any other suggestions for clean drinking water, but not bottled? Would love to hear from you!


About Author


In 2013, after reading yet another article about plastic soup, Annemieke started her Dutch blog Plasticminimalism where she documented her small steps towards life with less plastic. To create more awareness about the adverse impacts of our plastic consumption, she launched Plastic-Free Tuesday in spring 2014. She strongly believes that building a better world starts by changing our own behavior. Annemieke is trained in environmental science and policy. She alternates living in the Netherlands, Sweden, the US, and China.

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