Most of us do not think about water we drink. In Myanmar, bottled water is main source of drinking water for urban people. In rural areas, water from a well is the main source.
Well water is boiled to use as drinking water while drinking well water by filtering (without boiling) can still be found in some rural areas as well as in stands of earth pot to provide free drinking water for public (called Yay-O-Sin).
Tap water in Myanmar
Here is what you need to know about tap water. In Myanmar, except for some peoples in Yangon and for a few peoples in other towns, most people do not depend on tap water for water source. The main source of water for them is from private wells. The reasons may be due to lack of distribution of water sufficiently by local governments (usually you have to wait all the day to get distributed water coming out of your tap), and lack of maintenance and service for water distribution system (usually in small towns, except Yangon, when a pipeline from water distribution system failed, you will have to wait about 1-2 weeks to be repaired). This may force Myanmar peoples to depend private wells for water source. A private well can be available with about 700000 kyats (700 US$) and then you can use it as you want.
Water quality: Is tap water safe?
It is a surprising scene for us that when a cast from movie turn on a tap, fill a glass and drink. It is not a usual action for us. There is a fact in our mind that even if we have to drink tap water, we still want to filter at least. In United States of America and Europe countries, tap water is generally considered safe if it come from a public water system which is maintained by a municipality. Organizations like Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have the authority to monitor all public water systems and set enforceable health standards regarding the contaminants in drinking water. In our country, it is too far from us. There is no organization to take care about water from public water system as drinking water.
Purified water in Myanmar
In the other side, as bottled water become most popular in Myanmar, there are too much private water purification factories all over the country and in almost every town. Most using purification techniques are 5-steps filter, ultraviolet, ozone and RO (reverse osmosis) system. You can get a sealed bottle of purified drinking water (already chilled) for just 0.3 dollar. You also can order a sealed 20-liters bottle of purified drinking water for 0.5 to 1 dollar. Perhaps these purified water bottles are okay for us that waterborne infections are relatively less occurred in peoples drinking those.
As for me, I don’t like purified water produced by RO system. It is popular water purification system for purification of sea water to remove salts. As RO system can filter many molecules and ions including bacteria, it is pure as enough to use in renal dialysis. So, you will not get minerals naturally involved in water. For choosing bottled water in Myanmar, I would like to recommend “Alpine” and “Life” brands which are not using RO purification system.
In another side, there are too many tea shops in our country. In every tea shop, you can easily get boiled water, green tea and purified bottled water (chilled or not). Contaminated water effects your health depend on the type of contaminant. Cryptospodium is a pathogen that sometimes gets into water supplies. Nitrates can contaminate water and pose an immediate threat to infants. Lead can cause both physical and mental developmental problems in infants and children. Adults who have been drinking lead-tainted water for a number of years can experience kidney problems and high blood pressure. If so, is boiling of contaminated water safe to drink? It depends on the contaminants. Boiling water can kill germs but not effect on nitrate and lead etc. Thus, if you are a visitor to Myanmar, NOT drinking tap water and water from free public stands (Yay-O-Sin) will be safe for your health.