Is it safe to drink tap water in Thailand?

Ok, so this is an easy question and the answer is No, it is not safe. The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority will tell you otherwise, but keep in mind this: if Thais didn’t even drink this, why would you?

To be fair, the theory could back the claims of MWA. All the levels of turbidity, iron, chloride and so on are within the World Health Organization’s 2011 Guidelines for drinking water quality. You can see the results of the lab tests yourself on their website.

Technically, it is fine

Water Quality

Boring table showing that everything is within the safe range as per WHO 2011 Guidelines

So what is the problem, then? The distribution system. That is, the route the beautiful and pure crystal clear water takes from the water treatment plant to your tap. The pipes.

WTA has also an Excel for that. The levels are still within the ranges in the WHO Guidelines of 2011, but if you compare them with the ones from the water plants you will see how almost everything got worse. Total solids increase by 14%, manganese by 41%, ammonia as nitrogen by 63% and, the scariest one, bacteria increases by 218%.

That being said, we are not water experts and it is probably normal for the water to deteriorate on the pipes to your household. Anyway, you just cannot trust those pipes, unless you want to spend half of your trip on the toilet

But is it really that bad?

No, it is not. Some people will even drink it and won’t have a problem with it, apart from some taste which is not supposed to be there. It also depends on how used you are to it. In the end you will end up consuming it one way or another, more or less, through drinks and specially ice cubes melted into your drink. So don’t worry, it’s not poison.

Water from the tap is totally safe for brushing your teeth, showering, washing the dishes or every other task that involves water but not drinking it. You can even consider it for boiling, as it will kill everything living in it, but in this case better take a look at this PDF about boiling to make sure that you do it properly.

So, what can you do about it?

It is simple, just buy bottled water. It is everywhere and it is cheap. A small bottle will cost around 10 Baht or less. The bigger the bottle, the best value you will get, but also the heaviest thing you have to bring back.

There is also plenty of water machines scattered around the city, specially around condos, which will serve you filtered water right away. The cost is cheaper than the one you buy on the market (normally 1 baht per liter), but you need to use your own bottle and the water will likely be warm or hot, not ready to drink.

For offices or homes, other option is to install some filter or dispenser. There are plenty of options, from water purifiers attached to the wall to electric water dispensers and water coolers to use with bottled water.


Some water filter models, and their price

Whatever the way you chose to drink water safely, just remember to drink a lot and keep hydrated while you are out there under the sun.

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3 Responses

  1. eaglesgift says:

    The increase of 63% in ammonia concentration that you mention is a little misleading as there is probably a minuscule amount in the first place. I have tested the tap water with an aquarium water test kit on a number of occasions, and it returns a zero reading. Given that as little as 1/4 of a part-per-million would show up on such a test, there must be so little in the water that it’s not worth worrying about.

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