“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” bemoaned the becalmed sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

So what is the deal with our water?

Can we drink it, straight from the tap – or not?

Some people will not even bathe in tap water without intervention.

However, there are now new technologies that claim to improve water, with one even purporting to improve the water we use for mopping the floor.

Should all this angst exist in a world-class city such as Hong Kong?

Dr Samson Wong, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong’s department of microbiology, feels that it is a case of much ado about nothing.

He agrees that past reports of excessive heavy metals in water in some Hong Kong housing estates, visibly discoloured water or the presence of foreign bodies in tap water might have influenced public perception.

“Humans have been drinking plain water for millennia,” he says.

“Do we suffer from poor absorption of water without the addition of all these exotic substances?

“What we need from the drinking water is just water – plain, clean, water.”

Nevertheless, a whole industry has flowed from the idea that even clean water can be improved.

Rowena Gonzales, of Liquid Interiors, a healthy and eco-conscious interior design consultancy, says her clients are often keen to use technology that modifies the water in their homes.

Ionising water filter

She says one popular item is a Kangen water filter, which changes the pH balance of water through electrolysis, producing the type of ionised alkaline and acidic waters favoured by people on a detox diet.

The user can adjust the pH to a level recommended for different purposes – such as, for drinking, cleaning children’s toys, or as a hand sanitiser.