Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Mexico now world's biggest consumer of bottled water

In May, FAN Mex took part in a press conference organized by the consumers’ rights NGO El poder del consumidor and Food and Water Watch, to highlight that Mexico is now the biggest consumer of bottled water worldwide. The conference also demanded that the government take action on improving access to freshwater and realize the rights to water and sanitation.In a country where 20 million people are unable to obtain sufficient healthy and affordable food, the high level of bottled water consumption in Mexico reveals a failure in the public freshwater system.

“It seems as though the authorities have forgotten their responsibility to provide freshwater and have thus failed to fulfil their obligations in accordance with the International Pact for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” says Nathalie Seguin, FAN Mex Coordinator.“In failing to provide sufficient access to safe drinking water to its citizens, while approving lucrative deals to bottle and commercialize water, the government is implicitly abdicating its responsibility to its citizens and transferring this responsibility to the bottled water companies. Furthermore, these deals include a very low price for water and do not include sanctions or restrictions for water extraction, giving companies advantages over ordinary users.”

After the earthquake of 1985, many of the mains water pipes broke, which resulted in sewage polluting freshwater supplies. Even once they had been repaired, the public saw Mexico’s piped water as poor and a widespread belief in the need to buy bottled water arose. Since then, Mexico has increased its per capita consumption of bottled water steadily, reaching around 234 litres per year, making it the largest consumer of bottled water in the world. This problem is compounded by the increase of waste caused by plastic containers. It is estimated that every day approximately 21 million PET bottles are disposed of – of which only 20 per cent are recycled with the remaining 80 per cent either dumped in gullies, rivers and wastelands, or disposed of through costly municipal waste management.

Uncertainty about the quality of water in the municipal supply coupled with a lack of potable water in houses and public facilities and generally poor implementation of public policies related to water resources is preventing Mexicans from fully realizing their human right to water.Many influential newspapers ran the story following the press conference. This activity builds on FAN Mex’s awareness raising on the right to water and sanitation. FAN Mex is also producing materials on the legal and institutional frameworks of the right to water to help build citizens’ capacity for action. Read on to find out more.