UV Light is now being used in Mexico City’s restaurants as a way to purify and sell their tap water. ABC News reports 65,000 restaurants have been given 6 months to add filters to their tap water in an attempt to encourage a healthier environment for tourists and residents. Many restaurants do not see a point in complying to the official mandate, even though they will be facing sanctions. In the report, a local man named Gutierrez offered the common rationale, “The majority of the customers prefer bottled water. They will continue to be wary.”
People have known for decades the tap water in many places of the world is dangerous. For this reason, Mexico’s bottled water consumption runs approximately 69 gallons per capita each year. Martinez-Robles, of the New York City-based consultant Beverage Marketing Corp., claims the bottled water industry had reached $5 billion just over a year ago.
There are several dangers associated with consuming the tap water in Mexico City. Many of the local bodies of water contain unknown pathogens, which may be tolerated by the locals, but may pose issues for tourists. In addition to those, there are several, more serious diseases to be on the lookout for, including E.coli, cholera, salmonella and hepatitis.
The Huffington Post reported that Mexico City’s health secretary made the claim that 95 percent of the city’s drinking water is clean, based on regular chlorination. Experts, however, say that it is not the only factor to consider. The pipes leading away from the water supply are old pipes that need to be replaced or cleaned. These are the same pipes that carried cholera in late 2013 and back in the 1990s.
It is not just Mexican waters that can cause the illnesses described as, “Traveler’s Diarrhea,” or “Montezuma’s Revenge.” Asia and African waters can contain different strains of E. coli which will cause anyone without an immunity to succumb to illness. Terms such as “Gandhi’s Revenge,” or “Mummy’s Tummy” have been used in India and Saudi Arabia. In other parts of the world, it may not even be a matter of sanitation, simply geographical differences and pathological norms that seem to change from country to country. As for Mexico, restaurant managers using UV light purification to sell their tap water might just have found the best treatment available for the water.
Jacob Silverman, at How Stuff Works, explains how UV radiation impacts our water. He reports that researchers, who have discovered that harnessing light through the use of a low-powered laser, are then able to deactivate viruses by damaging the integrity of their exterior casing, or “shells.” Their study suggests that future applications of this process could be used to treat patients with hepatitis and HIV. The same researchers have found pros and cons to Mexican restaurants’ “water treatment plan.” Standard UV light has proven to kill bacteria, like E. coli, and to deactivate viruses. This indicates that there is a chance the water can be purified without replacing the city’s pipelines. Unfortunately, using UV light on microorganisms also has the potential to cause mutation.
Organizations around the globe have been working toward environmental remedies for pollution and health safety. The water supply issue in Mexico has piqued at least one group’s interest. Late last year, Mark Tercek, CEO and president of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), announced the launch of the Monterrey Metropolitan Water Fund (FAMM). TNC looks for what they call “triple wins.” In every project they look for a way to satisfy the people, bring in revenue, and benefit the environment. This fund has allocated $5 million to the protection of the water sources serving the city of Monterrey and the metropolitan area. This fund intends to improve water management for a large area, covering roughly 4 million people.
This is a new frontier that is all about “going green” world-wide. The Mexico City legislature and other concerned agencies have shown initiative in making their communities safer. Purifying water with UV radiation is one small idea in a line of what is likely to be many to come out of the new, green sensibility in the city.
By Lindsey Alexander