[From August Issue 2015]
Today, more than 97% of Japanese have access to the public water supply. The water supply is hardly ever cut off due to shortages. In general, no matter where you are in Japan, it’s possible to drink the tap water. However, although the Ministry of Health carries out 51 checks on water quality, some people install filters or buy mineral water.
In June, an event was held in eight locations in Tokyo to compare the taste of tap water with store bought mineral water. It was organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks. Passersby were asked to drink tap water and mineral water – both at a temperature of between 10°C to 15°C – without knowing which was which.
This wasn’t the first time this event had been held. During the fiscal year 2014 (April 2014 – March 2015), it was held 153 times and a total of 52,747 people took part. Forty six point seven percent of them answered, “Tap water tastes better.”
The 1960s was an era of rapid economic growth and even purified, tap water had a nasty smell because of pollution in rivers. Since at that time a lot of people were moving from regions with good quality water to metropolitan areas, there was a widespread perception that “tap water in large cities tastes bad”.
Since then the taste of tap water in large cities has improved due to developments in water purification technology and stricter controls on pollution. Some municipalities, such as Tokyo Prefecture are tackling the issue by setting “water quality targets.” YAMADA Tomoaki, PR manager at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks, says, “I’m glad when someone tells me, ‘I’ll drink tap water from now on since it tastes better.’”
To demonstrate the good taste of its tap water, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks distributes “Tokyo Water” in PET bottles at events. Other local governments, too, are selling and giving out PET bottles of their tap water to advertise its good taste and quality. Such water is sometimes handed out during natural disasters.
Japan’s waterworks is highly regarded: its pipes have few leaks, its water purification technology is high tech, and its equipment is well maintained. The government and some local authorities in Japan have, for many years, been offering technical cooperation to countries with poorly developed waterworks.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo