Are water filters necessary when Singapore’s tap water is safe to drink?
Feb 28 2023 Sophia
We all know that Singapore’s tap water is clean and safe enough to drink. But many people still buy bottled water or water filters to further purify their water before drinking. Is there really a need to spend thousands on a water filter when we can just drink water straight from the tap for free?
In this article, we will examine why people in Singapore might still want to consider getting water filters for their homes and why sometimes this might not be a good idea. But first, lets take a quick look at where Singapore gets its supply of drinkable water from.
Where does tap water in Singapore come from?
Singapore invests significant amount of resources in its innovative water technology to provide those living on the island with purified water that is safe for use.
It’s water supply comes from four sources – Water from Local Catchment, Imported Water, NEWater and Desalinated Water. These sources may sound dubious but do not worry, by the time the water is being treated and arrive at our taps, most harmful bacteria and viruses have been eliminated.
- Water from Local Catchment: Two-thirds of Singapore’s land area is used to collect rainwater. Rainwater flows through drains, canals, rivers, and reservoirs. The rainwater and used water is then treated and turned into drinking water.
- Imported Water: Singapore draws up to 250 million gallons of water a day from Malaysia’s Johor River. This water is then treated for consumption.
- NEWater: NEWater is obtained by recycling treated used water through multiple-stage membrane technology to get ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water.
- Desalinated Water: This is the process of removing salt from seawater to produce pure drinking water.
After treatment is done, what remains in Singapore’s tap water include small amounts of chlorine, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals, nitrates, and fluoride. The purpose of chlorine is to get rid of harmful bacteria and viruses, while the purpose of fluoride is to prevent tooth decay.
We have established that Singapore’s tap water is safe to drink; you can drink straight from the tap without boiling it or the need for it to undergo a filter system. With that being said, there are several instances in which you will want filtered water.
When should you consider getting a water filter?
Water filters remove impurities such as bacteria, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals that are present in tap water. There are different types of water filters in the market, and they can be categorized by their filtration methods – Activated Carbon Filters, Reverse Osmosis Filters, UV Filters, etc.
Many people choose to get water filters because of the following reasons:
Eliminate the strong chlorine smell in tap water
The Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore’s National Water Agency, adds extra chlorine to the water in Singapore to eliminate bacteria and lower the risk of transmitting water-borne diseases. Though the quantity of chlorine that is present in the water is not damaging to our bodies, chlorine has a distinctive taste and smell that many find it unpleasant.
There are couple of ways you can remove chlorine from tap water; by boiling the water or by leaving your water in a covered container for a day before drinking it. However, these methods of removing chlorine are time-consuming. This is why many people eventually decide to purchase a water filter as it gives them tasty drinkable water instantly and with significantly less effort on your part. However, not all water filters can remove chlorine. Only high-quality water filters that carry National Sanitation Foundation certification 42 (NSF-42) are able to remove chlorine from water.
Afraid of fluoride exposure
Only three countries in the world have Government mandate to fluoridate their water; Singapore, Ireland, and Israel. Although as of 2017, Israel no longer does fluoridation despite Government mandate. On the other hand, 98% of Europe is not fluoridated, while fluoridation is banned in China and Japan.
Singapore advocates to fluoridate its tap water as it helps fight tooth decay. However, many other countries avoid doing so as there are controversies over its health effects. The Harvard School of Public Heath found possible links between water fluoridation and lower IQ of children as well as cancer – specifically, higher risk of osteosarcoma in boys.
Although the amount of fluoride in Singapore’s tap water is well within the range suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) – and at very small amounts, fluoride is actually very beneficial – many still want to stay on the safe side and not risk getting exposed to the dangers of fluoridated water. As such, they purchase water filtration systems to eliminate the presence of fluoride.
Old pipes and poor maintenance
Although Singapore enjoys high quality tap water due to its robust and stringent water treatment and monitoring program, its water can still be susceptible to discoloration or pollutants. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, when water pipes are old and there is corrosion of components, the likelihood of discolored water increases. Secondly, there are bacteria, pollutants, and other substances that are present in water tanks, water mains, and at the end points of the distributing pipes. Lastly, maintenance works – such as flushing of service pipes or cleaning of water tanks – can also cause water to appear discolored.
If discoloration is due to maintenance work, residents can simply run their taps until the water runs clear. However, it is not as straightforward especially for the first two scenarios – when bacteria and pollutants from the pipes and tanks inevitably enter the water stream or for those living in very old buildings where their plumbing is old. In such cases, people (especially families with young children) opt to install a water filter to further filter out these contaminants – just in case.
Save time and effort
Modern water dispensers are equipped with water filter(s) that not only dispense ambient temperature filtered water, but many come with an instant hot and cold water function. This means that households no longer have to boil water or store water jugs in the fridge when they are craving a cup of coffee or a refreshing cup of cold water, saving considerable amount of time and effort.
Also, when it is so easy to get filtered cold, hot, and ambient water, people will tend to drink more water daily – a win-win! With such convenience, more and more people are choosing to get water dispensers fitted with a water filter. With so many perceived benefits, when should you avoid getting a water filter?
When might a water filter be a bad option?
Not prepared to regularly change water filter
If you don’t change your filter frequently, it can be a breeding ground for any bacteria. Water filters work by acting as a physical barrier that block and trap contaminants such as lead, copper, and fluoride as well as chlorine, arsenic, aluminium, chloramines, herbicides, and pesticides. At the same time, these filters absorbs organic matter, which is a source of food for bacteria. Overtime, bacteria starts growing on the filter and enter your water stream. If you allow your water filter to keep running for an extended period of time without changing it, your filtered water could end up being dirtier than normal tap water.
To prevent this from happening, it is crucial to stick to the manufacturer’s proposed schedule. If you are not confident that you will regularly change your water filter or if this is an additional expense that you are unwilling to fork out, then getting a water filter might be a bad option for you.
Unconcerned about contaminants
Even though there are chlorine, fluorine, and other contaminants present in our tap water, they are all within safe levels and do not pose any major health risks to individuals. Sometimes, households with young children or members with compromised immunity may opt to get filtered water for a peace of mind. However, for the rest, drinking water straight from the tap will not affect our health negatively in any way. Hence, if you are not bothered by the taste of chlorine or the presence of other contaminants or substances such as fluoride, you will not need a water filter.
Purchasing the wrong filter
There are many different types of filtration technology in the market. Not all water filters use the exact same technology – some are more efficient than others in blocking out contaminants. It is important to study each filter and read the labels carefully. Some lower-end filters do not significantly add minerals or reduce contaminants. Filters that are not NSF-42 certified (as discussed above) do not reduce the taste and smell of chlorine, and if your motivation to get a water filter is to get rid of chlorine, then buying such filters will be a waste of money.
Although PUB encourages people to consume water straight from the tap while discouraging the use of water filters, it is worth noting that this judgment is based on the assumption that people are not regularly replacing and cleaning their water filters. Remember, an old water filter is worse than no water filter!
And although you can safely drink water from the tap, there are many benefits from getting a water filter, especially a water dispenser – the convenience of getting instant hot and cold water, getting rid of chlorine taste, and having a safety net to fall back on in cases where pipes are old.
Got any questions about water filters that haven’t been answered here? Feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help home owners in their home solutions journey.
At Jestac, we distribute world-class 3M Water Filtration Solutions for customers across Singapore. If you are shopping around for water dispensers and other water filtration systems, feel free to take a look at our Hot & Cold Water Dispenser (HCD-2) or AP Easy Undersink Filtration System, visit our blog, or head to our Shop.
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