Eight out of every 10 Mexicans — and nine out of every 10 Mexico City residents — regularly consume bottled water, making the country the world’s top per-capita consumer of the product, according to the author of a new book on the subject.
Delia Montero Contreras said bottled water consumption is related to a lack of confidence in public water supplies.
“In Mexico City, each person drinks an average of 390 liters a year, more than in France, where there is a tradition of drinking bottled water,” she said.
“It’s not fashion, it’s not a habit of the elite, and it doesn’t have to do with income level or education. It’s the fastest-growing section of the beverage industry, and we spend more than 4 billion pesos (US $207 million) a year in Mexico City on bottled water.”
Montero also noted that water companies, which cover about 30% of the Mexico City market, serve lower-income customers. However, she said it is difficult to gauge the quality of the water they sell.
Javier Melgoza Valdivia, Montero’s colleague at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) of Iztapalapa, noted that citizens of the borough, the poorest in Mexico City, spend the most on bottled water and that it accounts for 90% of water consumption.
On the other hand the figure is only 65% in San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León, one of the richest municipalities in the country.
“Poor families are paying more and more for bottled water, while rich families spend less on water, an asymmetry that is clear in this market, which has grown significantly in the past 30 years,” said Melgoza.
The Iztapalapa professors said the government should improve the quality of public water distribution to reduce the consumption of bottled water, an industry controlled by transnational companies like Nestlé, Danone, Coca-Cola and Pepsico.
“The better the service from the public water system, the lower the consumption of bottled water,” said UAM Iztapalapa professor Óscar Monroy Hermosillo. “That means that if there were trust in public agencies, there would be no need to buy these products.”
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