In the Philippines, bottled water has established a major foothold. In some places, piped-water systems are lacking; in others, people are uncertain about biological contaminants, disinfection by-products from the chlorination process, taste, and odor.
Even in the capital Manila, only about three fourths of the population receives piped water from the municipal authority. Outside Manila far fewer people have access to clean water distribution. In both locations, these families must find alternate water sources if they are to avoid cholera epidemics and other health problems spawned by the foul, contaminated water available in their neighborhoods.
A solution has appeared in the thousands of water refilling stations that now dot the Philippine landscape. These shops began as privately-run community sources, where consumers would bring containers and fill them for a per-gallon fee that is a small fraction of commercially bottled water’s cost. Demand is such that most stores now offer home delivery for regular customers.
Most shops produce between 3,000 and 12,000 liters of water per day. Typically, the supply comes from the pipes of municipal concessionaires. Entrepreneurs invest in treatment equipment and further purify their product before sale.
Other shops are likely supplied by unauthorized or illegal deep well diggings. A proliferation of these private sources could have detrimental effects on groundwater reserves and subject them to contamination.
The government has accepted private water shops as a necessary weapon in the fight against waterborne disease and regulates their quality control practices and final product as much as possible. However, given the large number of shops, it is difficult to adequately monitor the entire industry.
Though many in the Philippines benefit from the availability of water shops, the system does not address the long-term water delivery and sanitation infrastructure improvements necessary to provide reliable water to all.