The water, a failure of public and private business in Mexico

For a calculation round: if in all Mexico there are approximately 30 million households and the average expenditure per month for the consumption of water is 15

The water, a failure of public and private business in Mexico

For a calculation round: if in all Mexico there are approximately 30 million households and the average expenditure per month for the consumption of water is 150 pesos ($8), leaving about 4,500 million pesos, about 239 million dollars a month in bottles. That was the result of a pair of surveys carried out by the UNAM two years ago to the INEGI and the National Water Commission (Conagua). It is a good payout and a great business. The first lesson which receives the visitor who comes to the City of Mexico, a vast volume of nine million inhabitants, is that you can not drink the water that comes out of the faucet. Two solutions offer change: bottled water or install a filter in the kitchen. There are dozens of websites that offer various filter. However, the surprising opinion of some experts consulted: “The water of more than half of the city has characteristics potable”, that is, their chemical and organoleptic allow a consumption without fear, says the director of the Regional Centre of Water Security agency is protected by the Unesco, Fernando González Villareal. He insists: “There are many colonies in this city where the water pressure is continuous.”


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This detail is decisive, because the cuts of water, empty the pipes, exposing them to a change of pressure that can damage them; these wounds, they become a potential focus of bacteria. And this is key in Mexico, where water cuts are frequent, so much so that most of the buildings have large tanks (holding tanks) where they store water for when needed. “Storing water is always committed to quality and the supply does not usually guarantee 24 hours, for 365 days,” adds González Villareal.

The fear of a possible contamination comes from old, but don't just be justified. Some will not drink of the domestic power because they are wary of the taste or odor given off by the blast. There is talk of an epidemic of cholera in the nineties that just left 34 people dead in a population of millions (the flu is charged more each year). Others have not been heard of diseases or deaths, but they remind us that small drank from the tap without problem. For this reason, an article in Forbes a couple of years ago, titled unambiguously: “bottled Water, the multi-million dollar business that Mexico does not need”.

The times they play against the plastic and in this country you will accumulate tons of empty bottles."This is because the State is not able to guarantee the right to potable water and that has encouraged the private business of bottled water. Only 58% of bottles are recycled and the consumer pays a to 5,000% more for the product just for the cost of the package", is a complaint from Greenpeace Miguel Rivas.

The business which he quotes the ecologist goes on changing. Thousands of families moved not only by the convenience or the environment, opt for the household filters to supposedly purify the water. What can prevent an epidemic of these filters? Can you remove the lead, arsenic, nitrates, manganesos if any? “The filters, if they have activated carbon, can remove the residual chlorine and improving the taste and is good for washing the hair. But has the huge disadvantage that the chlorine residual protects against infections,” says González Villareal, also a professor of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). And he warns: “If you don't change the filters often, they themselves can become a focus of infection”.

there is No escape, then. Back to the bottle of water.

A man fills a container to store water in the Municipality of Iztapalapa in Mexico City. MÓNICA GONZÁLEZ, THE COUNTRY

do Not feel the same the chemist Benjamin Ruiz Loyola, decidedly supporter of the filters, “in general terms”. “Most fulfills a few important functions: absorb chemical contaminants, such as salts or mineral waste and clarify the water if it is cloudy. The water treatment plant leaves with excess of chlorine, which also absorbs it, and the majority ensures microbiological safety if it was not complete at the clorificar or if it is contaminated after that.”

But this professor of the UNAM match with your colleague mentioned that in most of the colonies of Mexico City, the water has good quality directly,” and also points out the problem of the cisterns, where the pathogens can make your own. Understand that if the filter is not used or replenished properly it loses its value, “as any other thing”, but she defends it. So why do people buy millions of bottles per day? “Through ignorance or for convenience, to not think of filters, or in their maintenance,” adventure.

The huge economic inequality in Mexico brings to this matter an added problem. Those 150 pesos in water a month does not seem cheap or have for filters, look for other solutions. Many shops offer your own filter to fill the bottles, and that decreases the invoice. How safe are those filters, have the right maintenance, it is responsible someone review them? There are No great guarantees, not to say no, but many households have adopted this practice. Other business. “We have done the analysis of some of these bottled waters and have found pathogens, in particular escherichia coli [bacerias of the intestinal tract]. We don't know if it was contaminated in the store or in the delivery truck. In some cases we can speak of water adulterated,” says Ruiz Loyola. The professor of Organic Chemistry recommends only drinking from the faucet in the cases of condominiums horizontal, that is to say, in low houses where the water enters the stream public without stuttering and without storage prior to in the water tanks.

Judith Domínguez remembers when he drank small directly from the faucet. What happened? It is difficult to narrow down the causes with precision, but Dominguez points out some factors that will not give confidence, for example that of the “127 parameters that are measured in the water to attest to its quality just measured three”. Also it's funny that the pipes that calmed the thirst when she was a girl now they are 50 years old on average. “There are leaks, a lot of asbestos... But they are a staggering 26,000 kilometres of network, changing it is expensive.” All this, concludes this researcher from the Colegio de Mexico and an expert on the human right to water, it generates “a great deal of mistrust between the population and since then the use of water has become a big business.” Ensures that the mexicans are paying “a thousand times more for the water” than it should.

If filters or bottles is not the discussion that interests you most to a million people in Mexico City even has running water; and another million and a half received by tandem, that is to say, by truck because the current is interrupted. “If the water is circulating properly, given the volume of water that enters the city, each person could dispose of 350 litres per day,” says Manuel Perló, a leading expert in urban planning. And remember that 40% of the water is lost in leaks.

The Water utility of the City of Mexico (SACMEX) does not lend itself to much conversation with the press. How many colonies of the capital you could drink without fear of the key? What are necessary or useful in the filters? Official silence.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico, from which they derive several of those consulted for this report, it is a great city. Between students and teachers amount to about 400,000 inhabitants. There have been put in place practices of healthy consumption of water that give a glimpse into part of the solution to the problem of the capital. The program Pumagua establish systematic measurements of the parameters that ensure the quality of the water. “Every year, every week, every minute” takes into account these measurements, says González Villareal: “The water in the city university meets all the standards of potability, 365 days a year,” he says. Also the water fountains scattered around the campus. However, students will still consume thousands of litres bottled, that is to say “a million pesos per day.” They lack information and confidence, and might have plenty of advertising.

Updated Date: 14 January 2020, 23:00



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