In Guatemala exists a near monopoly of bottled water called Salvavidas; surely you remember the photo of the pile 5-gallon jugs known in Guatemalan Spanish as garrafones, right? Until recently you had no choice, but to buy your bottled water from Salvavidas or some of the tiny competitors who deliver the 5-gallon jugs from far away places. As the delivery of the 5-gallon jars and smaller water bottles began to turn expensive, a few local water stations gushed over night.
The Salvavidas 5-gallon bottles could be had for about Q10 in 2001 and 8 years later the same bottles cost Q16. Most of the expense of the water is actually the delivery since every day the Salvavidas trucks depart from zona 2 in the north part of Guatemala City to bring the bottled water to all the corners of Guatemala, including La Antigua Guatemala.
Local water station, like Hunapu pictured here, sell their 5-gallon water refills for Q8 at the stations and Q10 if it is delivered at your home. Volcán de Agua or Water Volcano‘s name is actually Hunajpu: thus Hunapu is synonymous with water. As you can see, there are substantial savings to be had if you buy your water locally and your consumer habits inflict less contamination to the environment as well. It’s a win win situation. Nevertheless, water stations are not popular yet in Guatemala since Salvavidas maintains a permanent negative advertising campaign to discredit and discourage local water stations.
In many places of the world, like Bundanoon, bottled water is being banned, but in Guatemala that’s something is never going to happen so long the tap water is not potable. There are many reasons why tap water in Guatemala is not potable. One of them is the fact the water is subsided by many local municipalities and thus local governments do not see fit to spend even more to make water potable. They do however make the effort to make it potable, at least, at the water reservoir tanks.
Tubed water delivery is measured by pajas, straws is a literal translation, each paja being 60,000 liters; that’s 3,160 5-gallon jugs (or about 16,000 gallons). Most municipalities charge a few quetzales for 1/3 or 2/3 of a paja (20,000 and 40,000 liters respectively). For instance, La Antigua Guatemala’s Municipality charges between Q15 and Q30 monthly per 1/3 or 2/3 of a paja of water. In the village where I live, the Municipal fee is only Q15 in the village. However, in the gated residential neighborhood where we live, we have our own private well and all the neighbors have to pay Q100 monthly for a maximum of 40,000 liters of water. You can compare between Q15 and Q100 on each side of the fence; the water is distributed by the Municipality is thus subsided. I am sure the water is not potable on both sides of the fence. 🙁
How much is your monthly water bill in your neck of woods? Also, please, give your feedback regarding the water series thus far.
Below you can zoom into some of the steps to refill the 5-gallon water jugs, which include, soap washing the interior of the bottles and then rising before filling them with purified water.
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