Can I drink the tap water in Indonesia and Bali? Can I use a water filter in Indonesia? Living in, moving to or visiting Indonesia and want to learn more?
A google search on this topic will show 100s of forums telling you to avoid tap water like pest. Some even say that you should avoid splashing your face with tap water. Others say that most Indonesians drink boiled tap water and that this is safe for tourists as well.
So what’s the truth? In this article we will explore the source of public tap water in Indonesia, water treatment, if tap water is safe to drink, the problems with bottled water and why you should use a water filter in Indonesia.
Where does tap water in Indonesia come from?
Indonesia has over 5,590 rivers, most of them short and steep. Because of high rainfall intensities most rivers carry large quantities of sediment. Average rainfall is above 2,000 mm on most islands, except for the Lesser Sunda Islands where it is 1,500 mm. 80% of rain falls during the rainy season (October to April).
Water utilities get the water from rivers and lakes (60%), springs (25%) and groundwater (15%). For example, the main water source for Jakarta is the Jatiluhur Dam on the Citarum River 70 km southeast of the city. In Depensar Bali tap water was extracted from the rivers flowing through the city but due to pollution they are now considering other sources.
Despite the amount of fresh water available only about 29 percent of Indonesias 250 million people have access to clean tap water, while the rest of the country relies on ground water and other resources for which water quality is not guaranteed. This is mainly due to corruption and government promises never being fulfilled.
How is the tap water in indonesia treated?
Most of the cities in Indonesia treat drinking water by utilizing conventional water treatment plant (WTP) and generally operated by the PDAM (regional water utility company). In principle, the quality of the drinking water from this WTP should be monitored by public health officer as well as PDAM. Chlorine is used as disinfectant in the WTP by most PDAMs.
In some bigger cities, the quality of the water is good enough for direct consumption.
However, the drinking water supplied by PDAM is usually not directly consumed by the inhabitants. Households boil the water from the tap first before drinking it. For example people in Jakarta spend significant resources on boiling water to make it drinkable. Indonesian women report spending more than 100,000 rupiahs (7 US dollars) a month on kerosene for boiling water.
The main issue is not the water coming out of the treatment plant but contamination and leaching in pipes on the way to the household tap. According to some reports as much as 50% of tap water in Jakarta is lost due to pipe leaks.
The reason tap water is so bad is that domestic sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff, and mismanaged solid waste are polluting surface and groundwater. Indonesia ranks among the worst countries in Asia in sewerage and sanitation coverage. Few Indonesian cities possess even minimal sanitation systems.
Can you drink the tap water in Indonesia and Bali?
Yes but public tap water should only be consumed after boiling and filtering unless you are told otherwise. The main issue is pathogens due to poor water pipe infrastructure and the tropical heat. Pathogens include bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that will make you sick.
By boiling the water for for a minimum of 3-5 min it’s most likely safe to drink. Most tea, coffee and ice served at Warungs is simply boiled tap water.
But pathogens is not the only problem. Locals and other permanent residents are also exposed to heavy metals, pesticides and chemicals that are polluting tap water sources. In most cases this won’t hurt you or make you sick in the short term but long term exposure can contribute to cancer, kidney problems and even worse brain injuries to children. But as you will read below this may also be true for bottled water.
Finally there’s microplastics. A 2017 study by Orb Media showed that 76.2% of Jakarta’s tap water contains potentially dangerous microplastic contamination. We don’t yet know the long term impact of microplastics but it’s probably better to reduce the consumption for your children.
Tap water in Jakarta
In June 1997 two 25-year water concessions were awarded without bidding to serve the city of Jakarta beginning in February 1998. A subsidiary of The French firm Ondeo (now Suez), called Palyja, was awarded the concession for the western part of the city and a subsidiary of the British firm Thames Water International called TPJ was awarded a concession for the eastern part. You would expect that international companies with a reputation of providing high quality in France and the UK would do the same abroad. In Indonesia this has not been the case. Bothe companies have struggled to provide clean water to homes due to pipe infrastructure and polluted water sources. Therefore tap water in Jakarta should always be boiled before consumption. It’s also highly recommended to use a high quality water filter in Jakarta.
Tap water in Bali
The paradise island has everything you can dream of from volcanoes, mountains, rainforest, water falls and pristine mountain springs. Unfortunately this no longer includes clean water. Due to domestic sewage, agriculture and industrial waste most of Bali’s clean water sources have been polluted. Much of the water is so bad that it cannot even be treated. But thanks to the amount of waterfall during the rainy season this could relatively easy be fixed.
We recently (March 2019) tested our well water in an area of Canguu with stricter water regulation. The tests were carried out by an independent water lab used by the food and beverage industry in accordance to strict standards. To our surprise the water was as clean as any tap water in Europe or the United States although very high on mineral content.
During 1 month we drank the tap water every day* without boiling and experienced absolutely no problems. See the lab report.
We also received similar lab tests for the tap water in Depensar which didn’t show any contaminants including pathogens above EPA, EU or WHO recommended levels.
Our lesson is that we should be careful but not rule out public tap water just because all the forums says so. If you’re living or staying in Bali for an extended period of time have the water tested and you might find that you have clean water too.
*We also tested our TAPP water filter in Bali but it turned out it wasn’t needed other than for taste.
Tap water in Surabaya
In March 2019 Surabaya’s water company PDAM Surya Sembada said they want to purify all tap water in East Java’s capital city to make it safe for residents to consume without boiling. They’ve already implemented a pilot with 500 households to prove that they can deliver on the promise. Let’s hope all citizens in Surabaya can soon have access to clean tap water.
What’s the best water filter in Indonesia?
The choice of water filter in Indonesia depends on the quality of your water. In most cases a 2-stage water filter with activated carbon and UV light is sufficient. Activated carbon removes most common contaminants and UV kills all the pathogens. Reverse osmosis or ion exchange could could also be used to complement this. We are also seeing promising development in ultrafiltration that will allow small water filters to remove pathogens.
No matter what filter you use it’s critical to make sure it’s properly maintained or else you may end up with worse tap water than you started with.
TAPP Water is currently developing a water filter for Indonesia so please contact us if you want to be among the first to test it.
Our partner BlueWater provides the best large scale water filters for hotels, restaurants and other large venues. Their filters provide clean water at large scale and low cost with minimum wastage.
What about bottled water in Indonesia?
This is the crazy party. All tourists seem to assume that bottled water is safe to drink. But where does the bottled water come from? Generally it’s filtered tap water or spring water from the same polluted rivers as the tap water.
Of course the bottled water companies carry out checks but not as frequently as you would think. We have good reasons to believe that bottled water is a common source of Bali Belly.
If you have to drink bottled water then make sure it’s from a reputable brand and that the bottle has not been tampered with. Preferably drink filtered and boiled tap water and avoid bottled water entirely.
DON’T expose your children to bottled water long term. They might be consuming as much as 30 credit cards of plastic per year.
Indonesia and Bali in particular has a huge plastic pollution problem. Rivers, lakes and beaches a are littered with plastic. Tourism plays at big role in this even if tourist may not be the ones throwing the bottles in nature. The problem is that the nice Warung you visit has nowhere to dispose the bottles after you consumed them.
Please, please, please do whatever you can to avoid single use bottled water. It’s possible! During my last 2.5 month stay with a 1 years old baby we consumed bottled water twice and it was due to poor planning.
Can I brush my teeth with tap water in Indonesia?
Unless you have a very sensitive stomach or special condition brushing your teeth in tap water is unlikely to make you sick. Human touch, food and drinks are a lot more likely to make you sick. But if you really want to be on the safe side use boiled or filtered tap water.
- Tap water in Indonesia is generally not fit for drinking without boiling or filtering
- Local residents and long term visitors should use a water filter in Indonesia before boiling the water to avoid exposure to dangerous contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides and microplastics
- The best water filter for Indonesia is 2 or 3 stage activated carbon and UV light filters.
- Avoid bottled water in Indonesia and Bali if you can. It’s bad for the environment and not safer or healthier than filtered water.
Drinking water in Indonesia:
Health tips for travelers in Bali:
Research Gate – How does Indonesia treat the tap water:
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