Going to the well

One of the most fundamental aspects of the human experience, one that unites us with all the other mammals, is the search for safe drinking water.  When I arrived in Khrungthep it was with the warning from some legitimate sources (as well as the conventional world-traveler-going-to-a-developing-country wisdom) not to drink the tap water.

Actually, the water from Khrungthep’s Metropolitan Waterworks Authority is very clean and exceeds the standards set out by international agencies.  There is an English language page on their website that includes actual quality performance metrics – the most recently available ones are from August and September – as well as this interesting investigatory article from the Bangkok Post.  Generally, it is agreed, any problem with water quality is due to the pipes in the delivery system, not the water quality from the treatment plant itself.

P1020457 When I first moved here we purchased our water in 5-litre plastic bottles from the supermarket and would carry them home, going through four or five bottles a week.  This was a chore and, not realizing until afterwards that there actually is some plastic recycling going on here, I actually cut the bottles in half nesting the halves together, filling a suitcase with them for my trip back to the United States for the Christmas holidays, two months after I moved here.  Needless to say, customs was a bit surprised but impressed with my dedication to recycling.

Right: Out of water again using the home delivery system of water!

(As a side note, yes there is plastic recycling here but it isn’t curbside.  Instead, the building maintenance team roots through the trash to find plastic bottles, stomps on them, and then bags them to sell to a recycling company.)

After a few months of doing this, we finally found suppliers for home delivered water.  There are two in the greater Khrungthep area, Sprinkle being the larger of the two.  They pride themselves in their English and Japanese language service although I ultimately had Tawn set up the account because of miscommunication I was having with the operator. 

P1020461 So for the past twenty months we’ve had three 19-litre sturdy plastic bottles in our storage room and when a bottle runs empty, we put it outside our door the following Saturday morning with a coupon (buy those in advance in books of 24, at about 95 baht a bottle – 5 baht a litre) underneath it.  By late Saturday afternoon a new bottle had replaced it.  A happy system that is pretty environmentally friendly and cost effective.

Left: Carrying an empty container to the water vending machine downstairs.  Those village women have nothing on me.

As we prepared for our move into the new condo, one of the things I wanted to explore was the possibility of installing a water filtration system so we could stop the delivery of water bottles.  This was primarily because the new condo doesn’t have a storage room so space will be at a premium. 

P1020472 Also, I have read more articles at places like ThaiVisa.com of long term expats who used filtration systems in their homes and found the water to be perfectly drinkable.  Tawn’s parents have a large filtration system as do most locals, only the poorest of whom actually drink water straight from the tap without some additional treatment.

Right: The water vending machine near the juristic office.

At the same time that we were exploring our options, around mid-October, we ran out of coupons for the home delivery system.  Not wanting to buy another booklet of coupons and then have to deal with getting a refund for unused ones or transferring the service to the condo, we decided to try an alternative. 

P1020466 The juristic office here at Asoke Place had just allowed a company called Good Drinks to install a water filtration and vending machine in the stairwell outside the juristic office.  There, for just 1.5 baht per litre, we could fill up our bottles with triple-filtered, reverse osmosis processed, and ozone-treated water whenever we wanted, day or night.

So now, like a villager going to the well, we carry our empty 19-litre bottles from Sprinkle (which we’ll need to return to them soon to get our deposit back) down from the 25th floor to the 10th, refill them, and carry them back up to the apartment. 

Left: Using up our supply of coins to buy water.

The water tastes a little flat – reverse osmosis removes a lot of the minerals that give water its flavor – but it is clean and cheap.  Plus the vending machine is a great way to use up our supply of one-baht coins.


In another few days, the trek to the well should no longer be an issue as we’ll be in the condo.  But the plumber tells us he is having problems installing the water filter, so maybe we’ll go full circle and be back to buying the 5-litre bottles from the store and carting them home until the installation is complete.

Such is life by the watering hole.

5 thoughts on “Going to the well

  1. We had a well on the estate in the back of the homestead in south India.  We all drank the water out of this well. The servants would draw the water and fill all the bathrooms, kitchen area and the dining areas with the same water.  The gardeners would carry the water in two large open tins of aluminum or steel, joined together by ropes and a bamboo. This they would balance on their shoulders and water the plants. I am sure the water we drank was not the purest, but God ! it tasted so good.
    I love reading your entries Chris.  BTW, the book Namesake is now available on DVD.

  2. I bought a one-gallon plastic bottle of Poland Springs every other day at the supermarket half a block from my home. I do not trust the very old NYC piping system, especially when my home is in the historic district and the building was built years before the WWII. One of my friend’s dog died from kidney stones from drinking NYC tab water for years. It might not be not related….where those calcium and alkaline came from?

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