Tap water aiming to replace groundwater

TANGERANG, Indonesia - To Anes Nasrifatun, a 35-year-old housewife living in Sepatan, Tangerang Regency, Banten, drinking tap water without cooking it first was unthinkable.

The mother of three was among residents who was recently given access to potable clean water distributed by private water operator PT Aetra Air Tangerang.

Although her husband has taken to drinking directly from the tap, Anes said she could not bring herself to.

"I'm told the water is potable. My husband has tried it several times and he was fine. I'm still not convinced though," she said recently.

Anes argued it was more a psychological problem than one of hygiene for her, saying that she always associated tap water with "raw" water because she had drunk boiled water all her life.

Despite her reluctance, Anes said she enjoyed the new facility, which had saved her from buying mineral water for her family's daily consumption.

"Before installing pipe water, I used low-quality ground water. I was forced to buy bottled water for cooking and drinking," she said, adding that the ground water in her home was malodorous and yellow.

Despite the low quality of ground water, many residents in Tangerang Regency find it difficult to move to clean tap water for all their entire daily activities. Most of them still use the tap water only for cooking and drinking.

Ening Mardiyani, 35, is among the small number of Sepatan residents who trust the tap water for all aspects of daily use.

Ening said that she enjoyed the clean water and would not return to the ground water she previously used.

"The water is smelly and oily. There is no way the water is clean enough to be used for cooking or drinking," she said.

For two years, she said, she had used tap water for a number of household tasks, including cleaning her house. "I have many cats, so I need to clean my house often," she said.

Aetra president director Untung Suryadi said that educating customers to enjoy the clean and potable water was a tricky business.

"We want to convince them that our water is clean and safe for drinking. However, they use it only for cooking and drinking. Hence, the consumption is low," he said.

Untung said his company then changed the marketing scheme with a campaign promoting healthy lifestyle that used tap water for other activities as well as cooking and drinking.

Aetra had been successful in luring more customers, he said, revealing that the company initially catered to around 500 customers when it began operations in December 2011. Today, the company served around 52,000 customers in eight districts in Tangerang Regency, Untung claimed.

He went on to say that the company was continuing to educate people on healthy lifestyles. "Our rival is ground water. However, the quality of ground water in Tangerang is very poor," he said.

He added that the company was keen for it to be known that the water from Aetra was laboratory-tested and used food-grade pipes for distribution to ensure safety and hygiene.

"We cannot guarantee the water after it enters household pipes, however," he said.