Part 1 in our two-part look at filtration systems
By Tara FitzGerald Original Print Publication: May, 2007
The government has invested considerable sums of money in building water purification treatment plants over the last 20 years or so – there are now 480 working municipal plants througout the country.
According to the National Water Commission (CONAGUA), in 1990 only 55 percent of tap water in the country was treated. By 2005, it was 95.9 percent.
And yet, Reforma newspaper reports that Mexico is the world's second largest market for bottled water, after the United States. About 15 billion litres are sold annually. Surely unnecessary if the tap water is drinkable?
When contacted directly, no one at CONAGUA was available for comment.
But Carlos Lopez Romero, an instructor at the Mexican Center for Training in Water and Sanitation (CEMCAS), said the reason Mexicans consume so much bottled water is because, generally speaking, the tap water is not up to standard.
"I would say it is not a good idea to drink water from the tap because you run the risk of infection or disease," says Lopez Romero. "I would not recommend drinking water from the tap unless you have a filtration or purification system."
He says the water quality in Mexico City, for example, can vary widely between areas, partly because of poor maintenance. "For example the water in Ixtapalapa is terrible because there are leaky pipes, so dirt and other contaminants can get into the water supply."
In other words, you can purify the water all you like, but if the method of delivery is compromised then the end result is still not necessarily safe.
So what does Mr. Lopez Romero recommend in the bottled water vs filter debate? "With regard to bottled water, certainly some brands are better than others, but I don't feel qualified to comment on that. Well-known brands such as Electropura and Bonafont are probably a good bet."
"Installing a filtration system also makes sense," he says. "Such systems are often used in restaurants because they are more economical than buying bottled water." Filtration systems can be bought in large shopping malls, department stores and bathroom supply stores.
Other water experts note that Mexicans frequently use tap water to wash dishes and brush their teeth, thereby concluding that if it really were not safe a lot of people would be getting sick. And the government does have regulated stan- dards for water treatment. Are they adequate? That seems to be a risk that a lot of people are still not willing to take.