Who gets to choose? Bottled water in Arusha

By Carlos Enrique Aponte Rivero and Michelle Kooy

Who gets to choose? Bottled water in Arusha

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What was her choice?

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Water access for three different users

Bottled water is big business in the city of Arusha. There are 10 bottled water companies who produce, and distribute bottled water in the city. Four of these companies treat and sell the city’s piped water supply. These producers complain about the high volumetric rate they are charged by the urban water utility (AWUSA), in compared with other industrial water users. But they are still here – so the profit must still be attractive. The other bottled water companies- including the largest (Kilimanjaro, owned by Coca Cola) – have their own boreholes, from which they abstract, treat, and package groundwater.

However, consumption of bottled water is an expensive way to mitigate the lack of potable water from piped or groundwater sources, and of course not every resident of Arusha can afford this. Does everyone really have a choice in terms of what water they drink? The advertisement for Mt. Meru Spring water asks us to ‘’choose life’’. But who gets to choose, and who needs to make due with what they can afford?

The women walking in the foreground of the car washing service-which spend about 20 buckets per car- suggest that not everyone has this ability, as they search for a water point where they can buy 20L of water to fill their household needs. Low income households often combine both piped water and groundwater sources so that they can save money: 20L of piped water is usually 100 TZ shillings, where 20 L of groundwater from is half of this – 50 TZ shillings. They can’t afford to buy potable drinking water, but can they still choose life?