If you werent previously aware, the tap water in China is not suitable to drink. Most people use it for brushing their teeth and washing fruits and vegetables, but when it comes drinking, its best to drink bottled water. Many Chinese will boil the tap water, but as this doesnt get rid of some of the metals that are present in the tap water, its not the best option. So, you will either need to buy bottled water from the store, or you can get water delivered to your apartment. Here are some key steps to dealing with water delivery in Shanghai (and greater China too).

Getting a water dispenser

If youre going to get water delivered, youll first need a water dispenser. Basically, there are 2 types: tall ones that sit on the floor, and shorter ones that you place on your countertop (or a table). I prefer the tall ones, as I find I have a lack of counter space, but not floor space. If youre able to do online purchases (or get someone to help you), head over to www.jd.com and search for 饮水机. The most popular ones will display first, so Id recommend getting one of those. The other key difference in water dispensers (other than their size) is the functions. The dispensers will either A) dispense hot water and room temperature water or B) dispense hot water and cold water. The ones that dispense both hot and cold will be a bit more expensive (around 100 RMB more) as they cool the water down, in addition to heating it. Prices should be between 100 RMB and 200 RMB for a small tabletop dispenser and 200 RMB and 400 RMB for a taller one.

If you cannot make purchases online, head over to Carrefour, Suning, Gome, or any of the other big box stores and pick one up yourself. Prices will probably be higher than online though.

Ordering water

Now that you have your water dispenser, its time to get your water. In Shanghai, the 3 most popular companies are: Nongfu Spring, Watsons, and Nestle. When you call to order, you may have to order in Chinese, so its best to know A) your address B) your cell phone number C) how many bottles you need and D) when they will deliver.

Here are some tips to help you communicate in Chinese. The big bottles that they deliver (19L) is tǒng in Chinese. So, tell the telephone operator how many you want, usually 1 or 2. Youll also have to listen for when they say the water will be delivered. Jīntiān (today) or míngtiān (tomorrow), shàngwǔ (before noon), zhōngwǔ (mid-day), xiàwǔ (afternoon), or wǎnshang (evening).

When you first order, you will have to pay a deposit for the water jugs. Usually the deposit is around 50 RMB, so youll need to pay that, plus the cost of the water for your first time. When water is delivered the first time, and you pay the deposit, make sure you ask the delivery man for a deposit receipt (yājīn dān). Then put it somewhere you will remember. If you decide to switch water companies or move, you will need this paper to get your deposit back.

When you want to re-order water, youll repeat the process again, although if youre lucky, they will have your address in their computer system and you wont have to repeat it. One thing to make note of: if you order 2 jugs of water, you will have to give the delivery man 2 empty containers. So, dont call and order till youre almost out of that last container. Ive had many a time when the water delivery guy arrives, and I have to fill up a couple glasses with water to empty out that last jug.

Who to call?

Before, I mentioned the 3 popular water companies. Here is their contact and price information.

Nongfu Spring: 4008-096-666

Spring Water 19 RMB

Nestle Water: 4008-208-898

Water 19 RMB

The Nestle hotline has an option to connect with an English-speaking operator, and mine spoke decent English.

Thats all folks. Order some water, and drink up! If youd rather not buy water by the jug, and are thinking about installing an in-house water filtration