Pure business | April 6, 2007 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

- April 6, 2007

Pure business

Water stores cash in where tap water leaves off

by Daniel DeBolt

It wasn't long ago that it was hard to imagine a store in nearly every neighborhood selling what was practically free: water.

But with recent concerns about water pollution and additives such as fluoride, chlorine and chloramine, many people believe it's worth paying extra for pure water. Others simply like the taste.

There are four stores in Mountain View selling water by the gallon. The first, Pure Water New World, opened more than 15 years ago on Grant Road and El Camino Real. More recently, Ricky Martinez opened Ricky's Pure Water on Middlefield Road near Whisman Road, and he says that although he has yet to be able to pay himself, business continues to pick up after a year of operation.

On Monday, Martinez was helping a woman buy and load 17 gallons of water. She said she was a regular customer because she doesn't like the taste of tap water, did not like to change the filter in her home filtration system and liked her routine chats with Martinez.

To bring in more customers, Martinez lowered his price from 35 to 25 cents a gallon. By comparison, Safeway on California Street sells Arrowhead water for $1.37 a gallon, and its lowest-cost Safeway brand water is $1.15 a gallon.

Many customers buy about 10 gallons a week, Martinez said.

"Most of the Asian customers I have use it for drinking, cooking, washing fruit," he said.

Martinez said he sold about 48,000 gallons in his first year of operation. At 25 cents a gallon that doesn't sound like much of a profit, but he said he makes a lot of his money from selling water bottles and dispensers, which range in cost from $2 to $25. He said he sold seven containers on Tuesday.

To Martinez, the business is all about making his customers comfortable. He keeps his store's white tiles and walls clean and organized. For several years he helped his wife run a day care in their home. Now the former hotel worker enjoys talking to adults, and he works seven days a week for at least nine hours a day.

"It's like giving something back to the community — good clean water," he said.

Martinez also competes with Pure Valley Water around the corner on Moffett Boulevard near Cypress Point Drive. Pure Valley also sells water for 25 cents a gallon with a membership, 39 without. The family-run store has been open for eight years and claims it uses the most advanced water filtration technology available.

The water is tested twice a year, and goes through nine stages of purification while most stores only do seven, the owner said. The filters are changed three times a year, he added.

Over at Ricky's Pure Water, a window into the back room lets customers see the large chrome filters and plastic tanks. Martinez said the equipment in his store cost him $35,000, an investment he hopes to make back soon.

In the back room of most water stores you can find micron filters, reverse osmosis filters, carbon filters, ozone tanks and a chrome cylinder where water flows around a long UV light as the final step to kill bacteria.

Water store owners say only a few customers have said anything to them about chloramine, the chemical used to disinfect Mountain View's tap water since 2004. Recently, a growing number of local residents — at least 11 people in Mountain View and hundreds more in the Bay Area — have reported strong reactions to chloraminated tap water, including horrific skin rashes and respiratory problems.

At Pure Water New World on Grant Road, owner Johnny Phan showed off a five-foot-tall filter designed to remove all but trace amounts of chloramine from the tap water. At $2,000, the huge chrome cylinder wasn't exactly a hot item in the store.

Even the nine filtration stages in use at the store leave .05 parts per million of chloramine in the water, verified by BSK analytical laboratories in Fresno, Phan said. Citizens Concerned about Chloramine, a local advocacy group, reports that at least one person has had sensitivity to chloramine in water store water.

The safest bet could be distilled water, which is done at Aqua Technology in Sunnyvale for 60 cents a gallon. But Martinez said he doesn't think distilling water is necessary — it removes minerals, doesn't taste as good and no one really asks for it, he said.

Pure Water New World sells its water for 25 cents per gallon, 20 cents for members. The fourth store in Mountain View, Just Pure Water Two on El Camino Real, near Sunnyvale, sells water for 25 cents a gallon using methods similar to the city's other stores to filter the water. Filters there are changed monthly.


Just Pure Water Two

903 E El Camino Real

(650) 938-9506

Non member price: 25 cents a gallon

Pure Water Newworld

1040 Grant Rd.

(650) 938-3122

Non member price: 25 cents a gallon

Ricky's Pure Water

205 E Middlefield Rd.

(650) 962-0199

Non member price: 25 cents a gallon

Pure Valley Water

400 Moffett Blvd.

(650) 967-0663

Non member price: 39 cents a gallon

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com


Posted by Ellen Powell, a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm

As a person who has lived in her Vermont community with chloramine in her tap water since 4/2006, I can relate to the subject of water! I don't know what I would do without bottled spring water. I have it delivered in 5-gal. reusable jugs once per month- 6 of them- and costs me $4.80 per month. I've spent $2006.40 so far. I use it to drink, make coffee and other beverages, cook with, wash my face with in the morning, brush my teeth with and rinse my hands off in after washing my hands in tap water. I also use it for "bird baths" in between my showers at a YMCA in a nearby town that still uses chlorine in the water. 8/2006 was my last shower at home, when a pain in my chest and rashes on my body drove me to stop doing it.

As long as I don't touch chloraminated tap water I'm okay- I don't get the skin, respiratory and digestive symptoms I developed after chloramine came into my water. Sometimes a rash starts on my hand if I get lazy about rinsing in spring water after washing my hands in my tap water.

This is NO way to live! Without being able to use spring water I would have had to move. I personally documented 300+ people in my Vermont water district between 2006 and 2009. It was expensive and time consuming to do as a volunteer. We thought 300+ people was enough to make the point for them to stop using it until it can be studied for the very symptoms people were all having. Apparently not. It's still in my water and I am still unable to use my water without getting sick.

Posted by Ellen Powell, a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I meant to write that spring water costs me $41.80 per month- $2006.40 so far, and still going. I also forgot to write that I have to feed my dog spring water, too, because chloraminated water gives her the runs. I discovered that after her having the runs over and over when she came home once a week from my neighbors who were kind enough to have her at their house while I was on a long work day. I'd keep asking them if she got into something there and they would say no. It finally dawned on me that maybe they were feeding her tap water, which they were. I experimented one day by sending her over with a thermos of spring water. No runs when she came home. First time. She's been going over there with her thermos of spring water evern since.

Another thing: you can't distill chloramine out of water. Neither can you boil it out of water. And if you put a bowl of it out on the counter, it will take weeks for it to dissipate out of water, unlike chlorine, which only takes a few hours to at the most to.

Posted by Barbara Kyser, a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm

We live in Los Altos and we lost all of the fish in our fish pond when a fill valve was broken. Too much fresh water (treated with chloramine) entered our pond, which killed our fish. We called our local water company (Cal Water) and told them what happened. They told us that the chloramine in the water killed our fish. If fish can be killed in two days by chloraminated water, it is powerful stuff. We are concerned about our health, so we have bottled spring water delivered to our house. I have not found any method that can filter all the chloramine out of the water. We wish we could feel safe drinking our tap water, which we did when it was treated with chlorine. However, chloramine is much different and stays in the water a lot longer. No tests have been done to determine the health effects of chloramine on humans and I know many people who are having adverse reactions when they drink and bathe in water disinfected with chloramine.