Water hygiene 101: What every consumer needs to know

MANILA, Philippines – Pure, clean water is essential to the human body: it protects our organs and tissues, carries nutrients from oxygen to our cells and regulates our body temperature.

On the other hand, drinking contaminated water leads to some pretty big risks – stomach illnesses, intestinal problems, kidney damage, and in some cases, even an increased risk of cancer. 

Thus, many households try to be vigilant with regard to the safety of their drinking water.

If you allot a part of your family’s budget to the regular purchase of bottled or refilled water, you need to know the full story behind each liter.

The rise of water refilling stations

Over the last few years, the number of water refilling stations across the country has risen[1]. Around 60 percent of Metro Manila residents and 40 percent of households nationwide now get their water from a delivery service. 

According to Unilever Brand Manager Brian Duruin, trust is a big reason behind the success of this business.

“Most people do not trust the safety of tap water for drinking [anymore],” He says. “A lot of people still have fresh memories of outbreaks of cholera and amoebiasis before the water system in Metro Manila was handled by Manila Water and Maynilad.”

Watch your water

Don’t be complacent about what you drink, no matter where it comes from. As a consumer, there are a few ways that you can check the cleanliness of your drinking water: 

Your first line of defense against contaminated water is your own senses. If the water has an unusual look or smell to it, then it might be contaminated. A certain scent or color can tell you a bit about the possible contamination. For example, water with a yellowish tinge can indicate a bacterial problem.

The Department of Health (DOH) recommends a simple test that can disinfect your drinking water and test it for cleanliness. Add 2 drops of 5% chlorine solution (unscented bleach) for every 1 liter of unrefrigerated water and leave it for an hour. If you detect a faint chlorine scent, then it’s safe to drink. If there is still no scent after three tries, then the water might be contaminated. You can purchase unscented bleach from your local supermarket.

Consumers have the right to ask for monthly lab results and up-to-date sanitary permits from their local stations. While the DOH water standards are strict, lapses in enforcement at the hands of local government units have been known to happen.

 A few things to look out for include:

- Location of refilling station – it must be at least 25 meters away from any direct source of pollution, such as a busy intersection

- Cleanliness of the water refilling station – filtration areas shouldn’t be used for eating or sleeping

- Qualifications of employees  

- The proper sanitation methods required for water refilling equipment – only DOH-approved methods and solutions should be used

- Method and cleanliness of transportation