Drinking the water in Mexico? Can you?
As soon as you tell anyone you are going to Mexico the first things you hear is “Don’t drink the water”. This is actually an outdated and incorrect statement. If you are coming on vacation you may worry about getting sick from ice in your drink or drinking water in Mexico. So we are here to set it straight. Here is the truth about drinking water in Mexico.
This idea has been perpetuated by people repeating wrong information so we are here to set it straight. Locals and tourist drink the same water. So anything sold, with ice or made from water is going to be from purified drinking water. So at ANY restaurant you are going to be served drinkable water with ice made from purified water. You do not have to ask for a drink with no ice over fears of getting sick. You can enjoy a nice cool drink here.
Tap water in Mexico
So what about brushing your teeth and other uses of the water that comes out of faucets? Each municipality in Mexico treats and sends the water to the community. The level of quality is high varies depending on where you go. In the Riviera Maya and you should have no issues with using it to brush your teeth.
Imagine if it were a problem, the tourist industry would have a backlash against coming to this part of the world. This however does not mean you should be opening your mouth in the shower and gargling the water. It you do end up at a local family’s house where their might be concerns about the quality of care given to the water system, then you might want to use bottled water to brush your teeth. This would really only be a concern if the water tank was not sealed properly and bacteria could grow in the pipes and tank that hold the water supply on the roof of the house.
Some people that live in Playa Del Carmen will use the tap water to cook pasta and rice. This does not seem to bother stomachs but does bother the pans since the water has a high mineral content and leaves a white film on the pots. As for pets people use both bottled water and tap water, so that would be a personal decision. Note: There is concern about kidney stones developing from the high mineral content of tap water over time.
Using water in food preparation
For food preparation most people simply rinse off fruits and vegetables in tap water. The one thing that you should be extra careful about is lettuce. Since it holds a lot of water in after you wash it, be sure to dry it out well before using or use Microdyn. To be extra carful you might want to actually skip a salad on vacation to Mexico. Microdyn is a product available in most grocery stores and is used with water to rinse food to sanitize it. If you want to be extra carful you can use this product to clean everything before eating. If you have just moved to Mexico and are going to be doing a lot of your own cooking, you might want to try this product at first while your body adjust to the microbes or bacteria in the water.
The water system in Mexico
So why is there all the fuss over water? We first need to examine how the public water system works.
The water system in Mexico is different then that of most places where tourist come from. In most western countries all the water is purified for drinking and pumped to each house. This means that even your toilet gets to use drinking water to flush with. Some might see this as a waste since most water usage in your home is not for drinking. In Mexico the water is cleaned to a certain level and pumped to each building. Water is used for cleaning, bathing and flushing the toilet.
To see how the water system works for houses in Mexico see our article here.
Cost of water in Mexico
Drinking water is picked up in 20 liter bottles or delivered to homes each week. Public water is very cheap in Mexico and so is drinking water. Public water is about 120 pesos (or $6.70 USD) a month in Playa Del Carmen (this includes the delivery in the pipes to your home, and the water leaving your home and then cleaned). The large bottles of water are about 30 pesos each(or $2.00 USD).
Two people may use one a week so that would be about $9 USD a month in drinking water. Total water bill for the month= about $17 USD. That is pretty cheap compared to many places and this is also including the fee for waste water. The water system also works well after a hurricane. Even if the water system gets contaminated due to flooding, people are already used to the separate drinking water system and life can carry on.
How to get drinking water in Mexico delivered
So how do you start drinking water service? You will need to purchase your fist 20 liter bottle which cost about 80 pesos. Then each time you get a new one you only pay about 26 to 30 pesos for the new one that is full.
You may want to buy two or three of them so you have water on hand and you only need to refill every couple of weeks. There are three main water companies that service these drinking water bottles. Crystal, Agua Pura and Bonafont are the three biggest with Crystal being about 70% more popular. This matters because once you start using one then you have to replace with the same companies bottle. It makes a lot of sense to have water around your house because on all the hot days you will find yourself running to the convenience store and getting a 1.5 liter bottle of water for 12-16 pesos. That can really add up and so does the amount of plastic bottles.
You have the option of going to your corner store to buy water and hauling it back to your house or if you live in a residential neighborhood, the trucks or men on tricycle bikes will come through your area several times a week yelling out “Agua Crystal!!” or “Bonafont”. If you live in a condo building they may offer the service to have these brought to your door for you. Both delivery people from the trucks or tricycles will offer to bring it up to your house and place it where you want. This can be helpful because it is heavy. A tip is appropriate for their services.
Drinking water containers in Mexico
What about storing the water containers in your house and how do you get the water out? You have four main ways of handling how to use these water jugs:
- There is the upside down version as seen in the photo below. This may seem awkward at first but you get used to turning it upside down while the water starts to pour into the container. It does weigh about 21 pound though. There is the cooled water stand as well if you want to keep your water cold with a little help from electricity. The basic stands cost about 200 pesos and can be bought in the grocery stores.
- The second way is a stand that holds the container and tilts down so you can our the water more easily. With this method you still have to have good aim because the mouth is large on the bottle as so is the flow of water.
- You can buy an electronic stand or wall mounted pump. These start at about 1000 pesos. Some of these come with cooling as well and are like a minifridge for your water. The wall mounted pumps are easy to install and can be found online or Home Depot.
- The last method is the pump. You keep the bottle upright and the pump is a hand siphon that you plunge up and down and get the water. This is the easiest method if you do not want to be lifting the jug. The siphons tend to wear out after a while but they are not costly at around 100 pesos.
Tip: Keep up your water stored out of the sun so it stays cooler. No one likes hot drinking water. If you keep smaller bottles of water stored in your freezer then you can always have cold water. You can also keep a pitcher of fresh water in the refrigerator.
So whether you are coming to Mexico on vacation or living here, DO drink the water, just not the tap water. Enjoy the low cost of water but respect how to keep food clean and your body healthy.
We hope you have enjoyed our article on dinking water in Mexico. If you have any comments or tips let us know in the comments below. We love hearing from our readers.