The Big Business Of Pure Drinking Water

By: digitalBelize.LIVE ( in-depth business reporting )

Everybody needs it, and back when I was a kid there was very few things that tasted better than an ‘Ice-Cold-Glass’ of Belizean-Rain-Water from my uncles super-cold frig. Back then there were not many pigeons and you could trust the rain water to be clean and free from dust particles or bird and bat droppings.

Those days are gone, and today everyone needs good clean drinking water, and it has become big business in every country in the world, – ‘Oh how times have changed so quickly!’.

In Belize
There are many small drinking water bottling companies in Belize, but the largest by far is Bowen & Bowen, which makes the Crystal brand. Other small operations are Zeta Water, Nimbus, Aquatic and many others; In addition to the Refill shops that services local neighborhoods. Then there are also private and small business operators that produces purified drinking water and transport it to retailers in large tanks to refill bottles on-site.

It is such a profitable business that there are even ‘Private Label’ water brands, a business arrangement when a larger processing and bottling company makes and bottles a product for another company, then that company slaps a label on the bottle that is their brand.

How Much Water Is Consumed Everyday In Belize
On average, a population of approximately 400,000 people will consume 150,000 gallons of purified-drinking-water each day; based on an average consumption of 1.5 liters (1.5 quarts) per person per day. Based on those estimated figures 30,000 5-gallons bottles of drinking water are consumed each day in Belize.

The Purification Processes
A good water purification process is normally comprised of 4 primary processes, and some companies repeat some processes or have various stages of a process to improve the quality even further.

1) Filtration (several stages )
2) Ultra Violet
3) Reverse Osmosis
4) Chlorination and Softening

Quality Matters
Earlier this year i overheard a comment made by some primary school children that the ‘shillin-water‘ tasted funny, and some said it stink. The water that is in those pouches and other drinking water bottles are processed and purified tap water. Some processes are well maintained bottling facilities that produce really great tasting water, and, from time-to-time, some don’t !.

Inside those pouches and bottles is H2O and ?, because water can get stale or go bad inside pouches or plastic bottles. The quality of the plastic bottle or pouch is very important, because plastic does release chemicals into the water.

The origin source at almost all the water purification plants in Belize is BWSL tap water, which is river water, that’s why if you do some plumbing on your pipes you may see morass on the inside of the pipes.

Only ZETA says that the origin source of their water is an aquifer that is deep under Belize. In an interview with digitalBelize.LIVE the management of ZETA Water said “we are very serious about the quality of the water we sell, adding that the owner of the company is an engineer/scientist that knows every micron of the entire purification process, and knows how to maintain all the equipment in their main processing facility in Belmopan”. ZETA produces purified water and ice from purified water.

In all purification plants, the 1st Stage Filter is where most of the bacteria builds-up, which comes from all the decaying matter that is in river water. But the process also includes the Ultra-Violet stage, which decontaminates and kills 99.99% of all bacteria.

Business Competition & Protecting A Brand
Last year ( June 2019 ) the largest company in the purified drinking water business ‘Bowen & Bowen‘, felt like too many people were getting into the drinking-water business, and some were infringing on the brand ‘Crystal’. The company threatened legal action (letter) against anyone who was refilling ‘5 gallon’ Crystal water bottles.

The threats were largely ignored because you cannot stop the public from buying what they want. But the company did have a point, especially towards those who were intentionally refilling Crystal 5-gallon bottles and reselling it to consumers who paid the premium Crystal price of $5.50, and who were too busy to notice that those were not officially-sealed Crystal water bottles.

Great tasting water doesn’t come from a brand, it is the result of how good the purification system is and how well it is maintained, and how often the quality of the end product is monitored. The end result of some good business competition to produce a high-quality product is a benefit to the consumer.

In the United States the Bottled Water industry is required to follow the guidelines (laws) of the U.S Food and Drug Administration, and in Belize, the bottled water industry is supposed to be regulated by BAHA, Belize Agriculture and Health Authority. and the Ministry of Health ‘National Water Quality Laboratory’.

Water Became Scarce During The COVID-19 Shutdown In Belize
During the COVID-19 Lockdown all the water bottling plants were shut down or produced very little output, thus there was an immediate shortage of drinking water, an alarming trend in the case of a national emergency. Most households had to resort to drinking and cooking with the ‘highly chlorinated tap water’ which at times seem to have so much chemical in it that even dogs don’t want to drink it.

Some of those days of shortage of drinking water was due to the COVID-19 shutdown, and in some case the companies did not have anymore filters, or the distribution network for bottled water was sporadic at best.

Clean drinking water is the most vital necessity in every household in Belize. The shortage of drinking water should not have happened.

A Global Trend
In an article in the Wall Street Journal (September 2019) – Water is becoming so vital and precious that a chinese company opened a spring-water bottling plant in New Zealand in 2015 and exports millions of gallons of New Zealand spring water to china and other Asian countries; their business has been criticized by locals.
On the east coast of New Zealand, a Chinese-owned company has been pumping increasing amounts of water from a local aquifer to quench growing demand among consumers for high-end spring water.”

Many years ago comedian Jim Gaffigan made fun of buying bottled water

A Boom For The Plastics Industry
“A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.

New figures obtained by the Guardian (a news organization in England) reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade.

The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region”.

This United Nations Video has made many people aware
of how bad plastic pollution is affecting the oceans and sea-birds

Many consumers and people in the drinking water business do not think there is any alternative to the 5 gallon refillable drinking water bottle. But environmentalist say we better find a solution fast, because the oceans are becoming dangerously polluted with small plastic bottles, and drinking water bottles make up at least 15% of those pollution statistics.

When you purchase a small bottle of water (or any drink) in a small plastic bottle 40 % of what you are paying is for the cost of the plastic bottle that you are going to throw away.

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Produced and written by digitalCaribbean.Live – digitalBelize.LIVE staff reporter: