From Pump’s Exotic Dancing water (“filtered through the finest g-strings in Brooklyn”) (7/10) and purified water from Tzintzuntzan, the Purepecha community in Mexico that resisted the Spanish colony for the longest time (8/10), to melted snow from the Alps (9/10) and crunchy stalactites (10/10), @wasserjagerh2o is a sip of freshwater in the otherwise dreadful and soul-consuming content world that is social media. “Wasser Jäger” translates to “Water hunter” from German, and that is exactly what Mercedes has been doing since 2020: going around the world hunting for water -not necessarily the best in quality, but rather in the story that it tells.
If you were to meet Mercedes, you probably wouldn’t take her for a potable water expert, and I mean this in the best way possible. She’s cool, has amazing style, she’s not a water snob and will drink whatever water is available, and her full-time-job is as an art collection and exhibitions manager. Nevertheless she is intrigued by the turn that water has taken in the last couple of years, culminating in water being added to the stock market in December 2020, transforming water into a commodity which investors can now trade on the stock market.
Mercedes, originally from Morelia, Mexico, has been living between Mexico City and Los Angeles for the past couple of years, two cities whose water reputation couldn’t be further away from decent. In 2020 Mercedes started a blog where she would post one or multiple pictures (sometimes even an ASMR video of her eating ice) alongside a review and a short comment or story for whatever water she was drinking, from still and sparkling water, to bottled and naturally filtered. Currently in L.A, as she takes a sip from her glass of water, Mercedes explains to me that the water there “is filtered with chloride, so in the long term, it, ironically, dehydrates you.”
Angeleno tap water currently ranks a “really low 2/10” in her chart, whereas filtered through her Brita rises it up to 7/10. Still, she prefers to, on a daily basis, drink straight from the tap as it’s the most sustainable way of drinking water. “It’s a really, really crazy concept: sustainable water, because to think that there are ways of consuming water that are polluting the planet is kind of an insane idea, but plastic is crazy unsustainable…”. She has to stop herself in the middle of a sentence to fact check what she’s about to tell me: “I have to Google this every time because it’s just insane and I want to be wrong, but every time I just confirm it: we consume five grams of microplastics a week, which is about a credit card a week!”
And as much as we’d love to simplify the problem, it's much more complex than just lobbying for everyone to get a reusable water bottle. In Mexico, for example, thousands of communities don’t have access to running water, let alone drinking water, so they’re forced to drink bottled water which then pollutes the environment even more. It was this comparison of the water situation in her home country to places she travelled that Mercedes realised she had to say something about it. “This is part of my past now, but I used to go to a lot of festivals and raves when I was younger and I remember water was always so difficult to get in Mexico. You would have thousands of people drunk, high, standing all day, singing, running and water was either super expensive or just hard to access. Then I went to Coachella and I thought: ‘of course they have this huge pipe of free water’ ”.
Since then, Mercedes has been trying to be more mindful and conscious about the potable water that surrounds her, not so much from a professional, chemical-focus, but rather around the social elements and cultural contexts that have come to permeate water in today’s world: socio-political, economical, environmental. As she prepares to start a Masters in Anthropology at Goldsmiths University, she is already thinking about what’s next for her water reviewing blog: getting deeper into the social aspect of water. But borrowing from what she’s learned during her years in the arts, Mercedes wants to keep the stories playful and childish, just as many artists try to anchor their work to their inner child, instead of getting too attached to the chemical or political elements that are surrounding water more and more.
This is also what determines her ranking system: letting the story and the narrative lead the review and more times than not, base the final number on the overarching experience of each post. One of my personal favourites is her post on water from Middle Fork River, Idaho which her dad and his wife brought over for her from a trip. The post reads: “This water had many particles of moss in it, so I wouldn’t want to drink much. It’s a heavy texture and a metal taste —probably the minerals from the large stone through which the water flows. The water itself is a 3/10 (for spring) but such a beautiful gift I feel like 5/10!”
Another popular one is from a trip Mercedes did to Egypt and visited Ain Musa, also known as Springs of Moses, and she deep dives into the teleological context behind this water. “The water itself is very crisp and has a strong taste of salt. In a strange way, it has a similarity to filtered water –so I wondered if it’s pipes before the pool. The general taste for spring water is 4/10 but I give it a blessed/10 cus I care about history ha.”
Ultimately, Mercedes has a big dream for this project, one that is the perfect crossover between art and anthropology: a water bar. Sounds totally ludicrous, right? But she wants water to bring people together and for us to be more conscious about water consumption and water sustainability. Alongside the artist Julieta Gil, with whom she’s worked in the past, this started as a joke, but then it slowly evolved to a more concrete plan: “It's not an exhibition because the idea won’t be to go into a room and admire artworks, but rather like a conceptual immersive place and experience.” They can’t grasp just yet how and if they can get there, but eventually they would love for people to be able to buy water stocks too, as part of the experience.
As if Mercedes was actively choosing to move to cities with terrible water quality, she has (un)fortunately heard no rumours about the water in London and I decided to keep it that way. I didn’t want to bias her still innocent opinion on the horrific situation of London’s hard water that we are all drinking from and showering in - this is coming from a mere mortal with absolutely no true consciousness on the matter, but knows this to be a fact. If you’re interested to hear Mercedes’ view on London’s water, her favourite British brands and the most niche water stories, keep an eye out on her Instagram blog @wasserjagerh2o where she will be unapologetically honest, funny and light-hearted, a combination that, in my opinion, we could all use a little bit more of.