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Where Saigon’s Water Comes From and Why It Matters

While most people know Saigon’s water is far from clean, few grasp the severity of the contamination.

Every day the city’s residents release 1.3 million cubic meters of household sewage, and thanks to overburdened infrastructure, only 14% of it is properly collected and treated before it enters the city’s rivers and canals, where drinking supplies are drawn from. The water contains dangerous levels of heavy metals like lead, iron, arsenic and manganese, in addition to industrial chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.

During the rainy season, floods pull even more of these compounds, along with toxic residues and sediment, into the drains that reach water supplies. In response to this pollution, the city merely dumps in dizzying amounts of chlorine. Nguyen Ngoc Ly, director of the Centre for Community and Environment Research in Hanoi, is not optimistic, observing that rapid urbanization and industrialization are increasingly making the situation worse.

Learning where your water goes between source and faucet is just as frightening. Outdated pipes leach metals into the water as it moves into your home. The large holding tanks that store water atop most buildings in Saigon are also problematic. Rarely cleaned or properly maintained, they serve as breeding grounds for bacteria like E. coli and legionella. The hot sun beating down on them all day creates ideal conditions for organisms that cause cholera, giardia and typhoid to multiply.

Many of us assume the quality of our water doesn’t matter if you don’t drink it, but that is only one of many ways the harmful particles in water can find their way into a body. Washing vegetables, brushing teeth and swimming are all sources of exposure. Showering also poses a risk. In addition to the drops that normally enter your mouth and nose, your skin can absorb a multitude of harmful substances, including chlorine, while bathing.

The impacts of ingesting polluted water are severe and far-reaching. In addition to acute illnesses such as cholera, diphtheria and hepatitis, long-term effects include increased risks for cancer and heart disease. Ammoniac, which has been recorded at levels far above safe standards in Vietnam, for example, can damage the nervous, cardiovascular and digestive systems and increase the risk of cancer. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are especially sensitive to these contaminants.

The chlorine used to allegedly treat the city’s water poses dangers as well. Long-term low-level exposure carries a range of health concerns, including exacerbating respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies, as well as causing acne, eczema, rashes and dry skin. Hair loss, teeth deterioration and premature aging are all side-effects of bathing in heavily-chlorinated water.

Limited resources devoted to building new treatment plants, no interest from private investors and weak enforcement all mean that Saigon’s water problems are not going to improve anytime soon. Cutting down on water use beyond trying to take shorter showers isn’t really feasible, so what can a person do?

A top-of-the-line water filtration system can address all of these issues and transform the most polluted water into something that is not only safe to shower in, but to even drink. Best Water Technology, or BWT, makes Europe’s leading filter systems, which are now available for installation at homes and apartments across Saigon.

 An E-1 filter installed at the point of entry where the municipal pipeline connects with the house relies on a German DVGW compliant hygienic membrane to block various large and small particles including rust, sand and dirt. It also reduces the risk of mold and bacteria risk Looking at some of the used filters from homes across Saigon illustrates just how much filth would otherwise be entering one’s home.

When the water next enters a Multi C filter, the same way an ecosystem naturally purifies water over time, chlorine, chemicals, hormones, turbidity, particles, taste and smell are all removed by Bewasorb, a unique filtration layer that complies with the most stringent German DIN standards. This method has its origins in nature. Water goes through different layers of filtration materials such as sand, gravel and rocks in nature. The resultant water is perfect to shower or bathe in as it is free of chemicals, chlorine, organic compounds, odors and tastes.

Finally, an Ultrafilter removes harmful viruses, bacteria (eg. Legionella) and parasites, which makes the water safe to drink. Using a high-techn membrane with incredibly fine pores, even the smallest pathogens and airborne particles are filtered out without a trace, resulting in crystal clean, high quality drinking water safe for the whole family. While having all three may seem excessive, relying on a series in this way helps maintain the life of the filters, as the most expensive ones are saved the tasks of dealing with large dirt and debris and only focus on microscopic dangers.

Beyond just cleaning the water, the system also features a pressure gauge, a pressure limiter and a no-return valve – plus an auto water shut off function for effortless filter replacement. Pressure often fluctuates in the city and surges can cause devastating burst pipes without this control – damaging expensive household appliances like dish washers, washing machines etc.. Moreover, the system performs routine backwashes that keep the systems clean without the need for frequent maintenance – even when the family is away for a long weekend/holiday.

Getting a BWT system for your house or apartment is an exceedingly easy process. After an initial inspection, an experienced technician installs it out of view. The company records the date and provides helpful reminders for when filters need replacing. Typically, the German-built filters last for around a year, and are kept in stock so when the time comes for a new one, there is no delay.

When considering the seriousness of water-borne illnesses or long term effects of the many dangerous substances found in Saigon’s water, ignorance is not bliss. While learning of the poor state of the country’s treatment facilities, pipes and storage tanks may be horrifying, learning about the new technologies that protect you and your loved ones can bring a sense of peace and optimism.


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92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam