Local Bottled Water Station Hunapu

Bottled Water Station Hunapu

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.

Rising 5-gallon water jar Washing 5-gallon water jars
Carbon and Organic Filters at Water Station Hunapu Ultraviolet Water Purifier Hunapu Water Station

© 2009 – 2013, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • He looks like the “Water Doctor.” Interesting photos and info

  • Eric

    Rudy, thanks for the info. about the municipal subsidies, and the potability (or lack thereof) of the water supplies. I have been renting an apartment for over a decade, and the water is included in the rent, so I cannot tell you how much the water bill is per month, but like everything else in the Northeast U.S., I’m sure it’s more than 100Q cada mes.
    You answered a great deal of my questions with very few comments – sometimes when I travel around Guate., I notice something missing, and can’t figure-out what it is. Now, I think the lack of water treatment plants might be one of those “missing” things. While the facilities are, shall we say … necessary, unsightly, large, noisy, smelly, essential … I am sure Guatemalan ingenuity will eventually find a way to potable tap water, and reduce the need for bottled water. Thanks for the photos, and the information – I’m fascinated. More, please !

  • Julio

    Well, if we talk about tubed water, my bill is aproximately of Q.100 a month. A few years ago, at home we used to buy Scandia (a similar company to Salvavidas) but when the prices started to raise more often my father bougth us a filter and since that we don’t use more Scandia or Salvavidas. The filter cost was aproximately Q.600.00 and I think the price has been payed so long ago.

  • Erick

    I found the “water series” to be pretty interesting. I don’t know a whole lot about the subject, so it’s hard to add much to the discussion, but I did enjoy the pictures and conversations that evolved from this series.

    Oh, it’s nice to be able to drink tap water whenever I feel like it here at home (U.S.), but when I go to Guate, there’s no way I could drink tap water. If I did, I’d be worshiping the porcelain god for days.

  • Donald Blodgett

    We have well water here in Shelby Township, Michigan. Our only expense in the past twenty-one years has been to replace the pump. Rates in Detroit are 12-15 dollars per thousand cubic feet depending on usage.

  • Stephanie

    Here in western New York we pay about $20US/month for our water. I really appreciate the water series — I’m learning a lot. While I know intellectually that I am lucky (for lack of a better word) to have access to abundant and affordable clean water, the photos and explanations are making my general awareness much more concrete and real.

  • Jane

    Missing Antigua and hear you have real rain this week. My water bill in El Paso last month was $275…and we have a rock front yard. I rented an apartment in Antigua for the month of July and paid Q100. Can’t wait to come back and wash some more eggs and vegetables!

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