Why does Bangkok tap water taste weird in 2020 and is it still safe to drink?

Now, I have lived in Bangkok, Thailand for over 16 years and have always drunk the tap water.  Why?

Because tap water in Bangkok is just as safe as water in any western country, my water bill costs me less than 100 baht a month so it’s much cheaper than buying bottled water, and bottled water is terrible for the environment.

In the last few days, though, the tap water in Thailand’s capital city has started to look a little less clear as well as taste ‘weird’. Weird in that it is slightly ‘salty’, and in that it also smells far more of chlorine than usual.

Not being concerned about drinking the tap water in Bangkok, however, as the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority has always made sure it was safe, I did a little research to find out what might be going on.

Chao Praya River by purple_sparrow_art at Pixabay

Why does Bangkok tap water taste weird?

According to the Director of the Thai Health Department, Panpimol Wipulakorn, the reason the tap water does not taste as sharp as it normally does and why it smells like chlorine is due to Thailand’s current drought.

It also has a higher sodium content due to increased saline in the Chao Praya River, which is caused by the water not flowing as fast as normal.

As drought conditions are expected to continue, and worsen, through the beginning of the rainy season in May, Panpimol says this is likely to continue for the next few months.

Is drinking Bangkok tap water safe under current drought conditions?

Of course, like most cities in the world, if the conditions under which water is delivered to a city change, the city changes how they treat the water to adapt.

In Bangkok’s case, more chlorine is being added to the water at processing plants to make sure it remains safe to drink.

That is also changing the taste and the smell of the tap water itself.

It is, however, still completely safe to drink.

Related: Bangkok tap water has been certified by the WHO since 1999 — read why that’s good

In fact, Khun Panpimol has made sure to stress, while the World Health Organization states safe levels of sodium are below 200 milligrams, the sodium levels in Bangkok water are still between 100 and 150 milligrams, depending what area of the city you live in.

What can you do if you don’t like the water?

You can, of course, boil it if you want to be absolutely sure you feel it is safe. Note, I say “you feel” it is safe, as there is absolutely no reason to boil Bangkok tap water at the moment. It is completely safe.

If you do not want to drink it at all, you can buy bottled water.

Or, if you do not want to spend the money, you can head to your local Metropolitan Waterworks Authority location, where they are handing out bottles of free water.

Be aware, however, for every bottle of water you use, you are damaging the environment. Bottles take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and, even if they are recycled, the recycling process creates toxic fumes.

In other words, keep drinking Bangkok tap water if you can. It is safe, it is free or cheap, and it does not cause more damage to our already fragile environment.

Who should not drink the water?

If you have kidney problems, heart disease or high blood pressure, you should probably avoid drinking the tap water.

In that case, using bottled water may be your only option.

It is, of course, still safe for you to shower in and to use for cleaning purposes.