There can be no debate about the satisfactory quality of chlorinated water that is pumped out of Mexico’s municipal potabilization plants.
But on its journey through underground street pipes to homes, into old cisterns and up to grimy rooftop tinacos, the water can pick up a host of contaminants and bacteria that makes drinking it a risky step in the eyes of many.
Concern over H2O drinkability has contributed to the extraordinary rise of Mexico’s bottled water companies: Their trucks laden with garrafones (19-liter plastic bottles) are omnipresent in urban areas, especially in middle-class neighborhoods. Drivers prowling the streets yelling “agua, agua” at the tops of their voices are a part of the daily routine.
This unease has also given rise to casas de agua, unregulated businesses where consumers place their bottles into a vending unit, which can be in a wall or freestanding, and pay 10-15 pesos to dispense the water.
The bottled water sector’s big players – PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Danone – charge around 25 pesos a pop for their brand-name garrafones (ePura, Ciel, Bonafont), meaning a family of four can easily spend 300 pesos or more a month on humankind’s most important natural resource. These multinationals rake in huge profits by making consumers believe their water is the only safe water to drink.
The figures are mind-blowing. Eleven percent of the entire planet’s bottled water consumption by volume is in Mexico. Garrafones account for 90 percent of bottled water sales in Mexico, adding up to almost a quarter of everything that goes into the nation’s stomach.
The tons of unrecyclable plastic churned out each year and millions of gallons of gas guzzled down by delivery trucks represents a carbon footprint Mexico cannot not be proud of.
t’s a situation that encouraged a couple of astute British expats to seize the moment and develop Aguagente, a point-of-use purified water business that employs a trailblazing operating system they believe will radically change the buying habits of millions of Mexicans and the way they use water in their homes.
Aguagente is unique, say co-founders Jean-Paul Ciantar and Garry Lea, because of its cutting-edge technological knowhow, commitment to service, direct-selling opportunities for its clients and a social responsibility program that pledges 0.7 percent of its turnover to the neediest citizens of Mexico.
Customers put down a refundable deposit for the installation of a high-quality, imported purification system in their home (it’s compact enough to fit under the sink and can also be hooked up to a fridge/ice maker), complete with its own tap. Signup is paperless and everything is done online via a downloadable app, either on a computer, tablet or smartphone. Like Netflix, the monthly cost of 199 pesos is paid automatically by debit or credit card, and because the company owns the equipment, customers can count on regular servicing and replacement of parts. There is also a small installation fee.
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