The bottled water industry in Mexico
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The bottled water industry in Mexico represents a new method of providing drinking water to a society without ties to a conventional central piped domestic water supply system. Mexico, the world's leader in bottled water per capita consumption, has struggled to provide reliable, safe drinking water for its citizens. This study examines the context in which the bottled water industry rose to become the primary source of drinking water for a majority of Mexicans. The study shows how the combination of factors allowed the industry's rapid rise from a niche market of elite and 'healing' waters to its present size. The cholera epidemic of the 1990s, the 1985 earthquake, and the financial crisis that left Mexico unable to invest in water infrastructure forced consumers to seek alternative water sources. Political factors and the liberalizing reforms of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s facilitated market solutions and private-public-partnerships to meet the needs of the Mexican citizens. The world's largest food and beverage distributors bought into the market and found that the public was willing to pay cash for water bottles where the public water sector had failed to deliver potable water. Despite the fact that bottled water is more expensive per unit of water than a centralized delivery system, consumers are willing to pay a high price for clean water. It is an open question whether consumers return to tap water even after improvements have been made, once the bottled water industry has been so established.
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