Can you drink the tap water in Vietnam? Do the locals drink the water? What are the main issues with the water? What's the best water filter for tap water in Vietnam?
In this article we will answer all of these questions and more.
Where does the tap water in Vietnam come from?
In Vietnam, tap water primarily comes from surface water sources such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. The quality of tap water in Vietnam can vary widely depending on the source and treatment process.
The tap water in Hanoi, Vietnam primarily comes from the Da River and the Red River, which are both surface water sources. These rivers are treated and processed at water treatment plants before being distributed to households and businesses through a network of pipes. However, the quality of tap water in Hanoi can be a concern as the city's water supply system is outdated and in need of upgrading. The treatment process may not always remove all contaminants, and the pipes used for distribution can be old and corroded, which can lead to contamination during transport.
The tap water in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam comes from the Dong Nai and Saigon rivers, which are both surface water sources. The water from these rivers is treated and processed at water treatment plants before being distributed to households and businesses through a network of pipes. But just like with Hanoi the water may not be safe to drink.
According to the Vietnam Water Supply and Sewerage Association, about 60% of the country's urban population has access to tap water. Access to clean and safe water is still a challenge in many areas, particularly in rural and remote regions where water supply infrastructure is limited or non-existent.
Tap water issues in Vietnam in recent years
There have been several scandals in Vietnam related to tap water quality in recent years including:
Da River water contamination: In 2019, residents of Hanoi reported that their tap water smelled bad and tasted strange. The authorities discovered that the water from the Da River, which supplies the city's tap water, was contaminated with high levels of styrene, a toxic chemical used in the production of plastic. The incident caused widespread concern and led to protests from residents. Source: Da River Contaminantion
Water quality violations in Ho Chi Minh City: In 2018, an investigation found that water treatment plants in Ho Chi Minh City were violating regulations and producing tap water that did not meet safety standards. The authorities discovered that the plants were using low-quality chemicals and not properly monitoring the water quality. This scandal led to concerns about the safety of tap water in the city. Source: Earth5R.org
Mass fish deaths in central Vietnam: In 2016, a large number of fish died in the central coast of Vietnam, leading to concerns about the safety of tap water. The authorities discovered that a steel plant had released toxic waste into the ocean, which caused the fish deaths and contaminated the water supply. This incident caused widespread public outrage and led to protests against the government and the company responsible. Source: The Diplomat
Contamination from gold mining: In some rural areas of Vietnam, small-scale gold mining has caused contamination of rivers and groundwater with toxic chemicals, including mercury and cyanide. This contamination has led to concerns about the safety of tap water in affected areas and has caused health problems for residents who rely on the water supply. Source: VNexpress
These scandals highlight the challenges faced by Vietnam in ensuring safe and clean tap water for its citizens, especially in rural areas and areas with industrial pollution. The government has taken steps to improve water quality and monitoring, but more work is needed to address the underlying issues.
Is the tap water in Vietnam safe to drink?
The safety of tap water in Vietnam can vary widely depending on the source and treatment process. Many locals in Vietnam may drink tap water after boiling it or using water filtration systems to remove impurities. Some households may also rely on bottled water for drinking and cooking purposes. In general, tap water in Vietnam is not considered safe for consumption without further treatment, especially for foreigners or those who are not used to the local water supply.
However, access to safe and clean water remains a challenge for many people in Vietnam, particularly in rural areas. According to UNICEF, about 1.5 million people in Vietnam do not have access to clean water, and water-borne illnesses remain a significant public health concern in the country.
What are the most common contaminants in tap water in Vietnam?
Based on our testing and research of tap water in Vietnam these are the most commont unwanted substances and contaminants:
Chlorine: Chlorine is often added to tap water as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and other pathogens. However, exposure to high levels of chlorine can cause skin and eye irritation, respiratory problems, and other health issues.
Bacteria and viruses: Tap water in Vietnam can be contaminated with bacteria and viruses, which can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, such as diarrhea and vomiting.
Heavy metals: Some tap water in Vietnam may contain high levels of heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, which can cause neurological and developmental problems in children.
Pesticides: In rural areas, tap water may be contaminated with pesticides from agricultural runoff, which can have negative health effects.
Arsenic: This toxic metal can seep into groundwater from rocks and soil, and exposure to high levels can cause skin lesions, cancers, and other health problems.
Fluoride: In some areas of Vietnam, tap water may contain high levels of fluoride, which can cause dental fluorosis, a condition that affects tooth enamel.
Do I need a water filter in Vietnam?
Yes, it’s highly recommended. Filtered tap water is generally safer, cheaper, more convenient and environmentally friendly.
The simplest, most affordable and potentially safest is activated carbon combined with ultrafiltration. Activated Carbon removes 70+ contaminants and ultrafiltration removes most pathogens (bacteria, guardia, etc). Note that it needs to be catalysed activated carbon to remove heavy metals. Faucet and gravity filters using this technology cost from 40 dollars + replacement filters and requires no installation. See Ultra by TAPP Water available on http://tappwater.vn
Activated Carbon + UV light
Whereas the ultrafiltration filter removes most pathogens UV light is the best bacteria and virus killing technology there is next to boiling. The only negative aspect is that it requires electricity and the lamps need to be maintained. Tabletop filters of this kind cost from about 100 dollars + replacement filters and don’t require any maintenance.
Best Water filter for Vietnam
BlueWater is our partner and they offer advanced water filters for restaurants, hotels, offices, and large households. Their reverse osmosis filters are great because they waste less water than other options. Some filters waste up to 6 litres of water for every litre of clean water they produce. But we need to be careful with water usage in India, where there are water shortages.
If you're still not sure about using a filter, you can simply filter and boil your tap water to make it safe to drink.