The water gatherer

Ready for the ride up the sidewalk.

DON’T DRINK the water.

That’s what they say about Mexico, and it’s wise advice. Tap water, that is. It’s been so long since I last drank tap water that seeing it done on Gringo TV now seems strange.

I began thinking of this matter yesterday while I was driving back from a small store down the street with two big bottles of purified water beside me.

We use a brand called Santorini, which is part of the Pepsi Corp. A large truck drives our streets regularly with these huge jugs, which are called garrafones in Spanish.

It’s like the five-gallon bottle used for water coolers in the United States, though I don’t know if our garrafones hold exactly five gallons. And they are plastic, not glass.

The driver and helper bellow agua in the street and also ring doorbells. I’m sure they earn commissions. If you respond to their yelling, they’ll bring the bottles right into your kitchen, and you hand over the empties.

A full bottle costs 25 pesos, which is about $1.30 U.S. these days. If you don’t hand over an empty, the price is way higher. I forget how much higher. I always have empties.

We once got door delivery, but you have to be home, and I found that doing it myself when we need it is more convenient. The store is just four blocks up the street.

And it’s exercise. Weight-lifting.

Arriving home with the two blue bottles, I heave them into a wheelbarrow for the brief trip around the Romance Sidewalk to the Hacienda’s front door.

This routine is not very difficult, but I wonder how many more years will pass before it will be physically beyond me. Then I’ll have the guys bring it into the kitchen for a sweet tip.

People drink bottled water in America because it’s stylish. We do it here because it’s the smart thing to do.

And it’s darn cheap.

Just in from the store up the street.

30 thoughts on “The water gatherer

  1. We drink bottled water because years ago the city switched us from well water to river water. That water was so salty, it ruined the piping in peoples’ houses. The evap cooler was all salted up.
    We fought for years for that Colorado River water, and when we got it, it wasn’t worth having.
    The bottles are delivered every other Monday, just left outside the kitchen door.


    1. Señor Gill: Sounds like bottled water is more than good style for you. It’s fortunate you can have it left outside your door. If I left it outside my door, which would be out on the street, it would be heisted. We have to be home for home delivery to work here.

      It always amused me when I lived in Houston that people would buy bottled water. Testing of Houston tap water at that time invariably found it to be far above the standards. It was good stuff. I wonder if that’s still the case.


  2. I, too, am a Santorini fan. Gathered from our local Kiosko — the convenience store that apparently does not serve the highlands. In our heat, I go through a jug every four days or so.


    1. Señor Cotton: I have heard of Kiosko, but you are right in that it is not part of our mountain landscape. We do have Oxxo. All over the place.

      I have never paid enough attention to our usage to know how often I have to buy it. Odd, huh? We keep three bottles at home and replace as needed, which is to say when there are two empties.


  3. When we were building the house almost 20 years ago, we used the bottled water and I still have one of those stands kicking around somewhere. We are fortunate that we tap into the aqueduct direct from the mountain spring. We drink our tap water and it tastes fine. We had it tested every year and found out it was a waste of money. There were never any issues with the quality.
    With the amount of water and the amount of ice I enjoy, I would probably have muscles on my arms that look like Popeye if we used the graffones.Unlike city dwellers like yourself we would have been too far off the beaten path to have deliveries way up here.
    One of the few advantages of living “higher” up the mountain than thee


  4. We’re Ciel people in this house, which is visited on Tuesdays and Fridays by the Ciel truck, whose drivers ring the gate bell a certain way, yelling “Agua Ciel.” Home delivery is few pesos more than what the abarrote charges, but the good cheer of the water delivery chap is worth it. We handle the business of getting the garrafon up the steps to the house and down the steps to the kitchen.


    1. Ms. Shoes: Last time I paid attention, the price from the Santorini truck and the price at the abarrotes were the same. When I first moved over the border in 2000 and lived alone in a house in downtown Morelia, I had the fellows bring it right into my kitchen. I found it very novel at that time. I found many things here very novel.


    2. We get Ciel also, for no special reason other than that’s what we started with. Santorini jugs are screw tops and arguably easier to open. Ciels require plastic cutting tools and peeling, but Sra. Cuevas has become adept at removing the caps. But Santorini caps can be difficult to unscrew. Take your pick.

      I see by this post that we are paying more, $28 MX per garrafon, at a local abarrotes along the road home. (Next to the formerly acclaimed charcoal roast chicken place. But that’s another story.) I have considered switching to Santorini once I fill out the forms and make application. (joke)

      What’s the point? The point is that this is one more facet of life in Mexico.

      Don Cuevas


      1. Don Cuevas: I too have no idea why we use Santorini. Always have, I guess. I think the water from one is as good (or bad) as the water from another brand. I did not know of the effort required to open Ciel bottles. Never really looked closely at one, but you are right in that Santorini bottle caps can be a little stubborn. But I always manage to get them off without any tools.


  5. I can remember getting bottled water in LA (Los Angeles for you southern folks) in the ’70s that came in glass. Heavy! Now I am challenged lifting the plastic bottles.


    1. Patzman: Everybody knows that LA means Louisiana.

      When I was married in Houston to my second ex-wife, we got water in those five-gallon bottles too. There was a choice between plastic jars and glass ones. We always opted for the glass. I’ve never seen a glass one down here, just plastic.

      Even though I knew Houston tap water was perfectly safe, I still bought the jugs. Pretty dumb, looking back on it.


      1. When I lived in Puerto Escondido, we paid 10 pesos for plastic jugs of filtered water. For 15 pesos, you could get reverse osmosis water in a glass jug. It was a locally owned company, and it was delivered into our kitchen. Maybe we got good service because the manager lived in our condo building.


  6. When mankind discovers a cheap way to desalinate water, the deserts of this world will bloom. Good, clean water makes for a healthy society.


      1. I think the secret is in the mangrove; now if we could just parse it out.
        In other matters, it seems like Comey rolled over again.


          1. If Comey doesn’t charge Hillary, and Trump wins, Obama cannot pardon her. Then after January 20th, we will see what happens.


  7. I tried hefting one of those plastic garrafones where I stayed in SMA; there was no way. I figured if nobody came along soon to turn it over onto the dispenser that day, I’d take the top off and get a straw. A lot of people here in California get bottled water, and I’m not sure why. We have perfectly good water.


    1. Vertical pumps are available cheaply. But when we had one, 10 years ago, it squirted all over when hand pumped.

      The inverted-jug system is the most challenging to use and the least hygienic. IMHO. I can explain if requested.



      1. Don Cuevas: For a few brief periods of my Mexican life I’ve used those vertical hand pumps. I find it a defective system, to put it mildly.

        A couple of years ago, after dropping a full garrafón I was attempting to upend onto a dispenser — something you really do not want to do — I changed our distribution system. I bought one of those tilting, metal dispensers that don’t require upending the bottle. It sits there upright. It sits next to a clear-plastic dispenser I bought at Costco. When a large quantity of water is needed, I just tilt the bottle on its stand. If I’m filling a glass to drink, I use the standard dispenser, which I keep filled as needed via a pitcher. It’s a good system.


  8. Nestle has plans to build a water-bottling plant in the Phoenix area. Local activists are against it. They say that scarce resources will be diverted to this project just to make money for Nestle.

    But, as I see it, a certain number of people will drink a certain amount of water no matter whether it comes from a spigot or a plastic bottle. It is still the same amount of water. What irks these busybodies is that Nestle will make some money. Frankly, I don’t think it is any of their business what kind of water I drink. It is my money and it is my choice. They need to butt out. It is my kidneys and my choice.


    1. Señor Gill: That news story says Nestle is the largest water-bottling business in the world. Who’d a-thunk it?

      As for your kidneys and your choice, I’m on your side.


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