Nearly half of the water coolers across Beijing have allegedly been filled with bogus water, according to local press.

The health scare follows claims by the sales manager of a bottled water company printed by the China Daily that 100m of the 200m water cooler barrels sold on the Chinese market each year were filled with either tap water or purified water from miscellaneous small brands rather than the brands they claimed to be.

"Overall, a barrel of fake water costs bogus producers only CNY2.5 (US$0.33) to CNY3 ($0.39) whereas the real ones cost them CNY6 ($0.79) each. In either case, a barrel of water is sold at well over CNY10 ($1.31) in the market," said the newspaper.

According to a Reuters report, three years ago, a nationwide inspection on barrelled water found a 22% substandard rate. In the most serious case, 80% of barrelled water in the southern province of Jiangxi was reportedly not the real thing.