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 This is actually an outdated and incorrect statement.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.
In Torreón, Coahuila, we have wáter coming out of the faucet containing arsenic. The wáter is pumped up from artesian wells and the deeper the wáter is pumpped, more arsenic will come out. We use bottled wáter, called Electropura, bottled by Pepsi. There is also Ciel, bottled by Coca Cola and off course Bonafont.
Can you use the tap water to brew coffee, or is that still not safe?
We will answer this for you. Boiling it is not the problem, it is the high content of minerals. So it is not good to use for coffee. Some use it to cook pasta.
I was doing some research for my trip to Mexico and had some questions about drinking the water and you answered all of them. Thanks.
Just so you’re aware, every well in Canada and the USA has arsenic in it. It’s not a problem drinking it because it’s at a very low level and won’t harm you.
guess you’ve NEVER been to Mexico, try drinking it in Mazatlán once…… I Dare you!
Hello Mike. All of us here live in Mexico. What are you referring to exactly? WE also have been to Mazatlán several times. Are you referring to the ice in drinks or drinking water in Mexico?
I always thought ice was local water. Thanks for clearing that up.
Does the bottled water have Fluoride in it?
We have looked at bottled water here and it does not say, so we cannot say for sure. We do believe however that it is not generally added in Mexico to bottled water. Most people get fluoride from table salt in Mexico. We are sure if it is a big concern, asking a local dentist probably will get you a more detailed answer.
Where can we purchase new bottles? Corner stores and even Wal-Mart would only sell us a garafone if we already had one.
Usually a corner store or you can stop the water trucks like Agua Crystal that comes around and ask them about buying one. Just remember that once you have bought one brand, they will only exchange it for that brand. Most people like Crystal but it will also depend on what is close to where you live and how easy it is to buy. Thanks for your question.
how do you get your water
Depending on where you live, there are people that come around selling the 5 gallon plastic containers of water for your home. Most corner stores have them for sale. If they are too heavy for you, there are special wheeled carriers for them. In the downtown there are serviced that will deliver to your door. Most people need one per week. We recommend buying three just so you can do it less often.
Great article. We were ciurious what type of filtration system would work for Mexican water for under our kitchen faucet to avoid buying water. Would uv system be adequate or some other type? Please advise
You do have several options in Mexico. You can have a under the sink filtration system or a whole house system. A whole house system is good for saving wear on hot water tanks and pipes. A reverse osmoses system and carbon filter at the most used here. Once you decide if you want a whole house system or a sink system, you can select exactly which one you want and what level of filtration you are comfortable with.
Caution – not all water in Playa del Carmen is provided by Aguakan. Aguakan provides relatively safe water. Because there is so much development, condos run out of water during peak periods. To solve the problem, some condos drill illegal shallow wells and us that water. Before you rent a condo or VRBO, ask the owner if the water comes from Aguakan or if they have a “pozo,” Spanish term for a well. Pozo’s are rarely tested and when they are, have dangerous levels of toxic chemicals that cannot be filtered and are immune to treatments such as iodine, chlorine, or boiling.
Hello soon i will take vacation in playa del carmen( cancun) i am just wondering if the resort all inclusive do they provide us bootled water or the tap water is drinkable?
thanks in advance.
The tap water in hotels and resorts is fine to brush your teeth but not drink. There usually are bottles of water to drink in hotel rooms and often there are large jugs of water around the hotel to fill up from. All of these water sources are good to drink and there is not a problem with this type of arrangement. You should be just fine here. We hope you have a great vacation here!
Hi I was wondering how much sodium and sulphate was in a 1 litre bottle of cristol water as I’m traveling to Mexico in Dec and I will have a 2 month baby with me and my health visitor has said I need to be careful with the water I use to make up her feeds . This is the water they use at the hotel I’m traveling to .
Agua Cristal has on the large containers of water that for every 240ml there is less than 5 mg of sodium. We hope this helps you.
My sister says the tap water in Playa del Carmen smells like it has sulfur in it. I think it smells like chlorine. She’s a know it all. Who’s right? 🙂
Would if said you could both be right? That would keep the peace. We would say it is more chlorine. The water in most places does not smell like sulfur but it can vary we guess in some areas but it is all provided the by the same company.
Staying in a gated rental, can water be easily delivered? If not, can we expect that the corner store will have 5 gallon containers and the cart to be available?
Since this is a daily thing people need, there are regular patterns how people get water. Some smaller gated communities have security guards or maintenance that will deliver water and others have the trucks come in. Most gated communities don’t have stores within them so that is not an option. If you are staying with a car you can also go out to buy the container and bring it home. Most places have people that can assist especially since these are heavy. A small fee will cover this service depending on how far they carry it. If they bring it in for you and place it on your stand a tip of 10 pesos is good. If it is more you can tip 15/20 pesos.
Very informative article but what about cleaning your local produce? I’m living in Playa for 5 weeks and wondering what locals do. I’m not overly concerned as I’ve never been sick in Mexico(knock on wood) and eat locally all the time. If I buy a bunch of veggies and fruits at a market or Walmart, do I rinse them tap water and pat dry? Use bottled water? Should I disenfect with a solution? I often use water and vinegar at home and was wondering if this would suffice. I can’t figure out how bad the tap water really is. Right now, we use bottled water for everything but have only been rinsing the veggies. Thanks in advance!
Most locals rinse fruit and vegetables in tap water. The tap water is high in minerals and the main reason do. I thinking it. Some people that are very sensitive use antibacterial wash for fruits, meats and vegetables. You can find this in the supermarket. Probably about 6% of people uses this regularly.
Thanks for the info. Can we return our purchased empty bottle to the store for a refund when we are finished our vacation?
We have never heard of anyone returning it. We do not think a store will refund the 80 pesos or so for the container. Another idea is just give it to someone. A local might really appreciate it.
Hi, I was wondering how the 5 gallon jugs of water are purified and if they contain any minerals after being purified? What, if any, are the long term effects of drinking bottled water if it has no minerals or mineral salts? Thanks in advance, Esteban
Buying bottled water in this form is what most of mexico does and has been going on for a long time with no major issues. For technical questions you could try asking Bonafont and Agua Crystal, two of the largest providers of water.
We travel with filter bottles. They filter 99.9%of all micro contamination check them out: water-to-go or lifestraw!!!! Awesome for travel and you can drink every kind of fresh water
We have a Kangen machine and would like to bring it to our home in Playa Del Carmen, but was wondering if we hook up to our kitchen sink, will the water then be drinkable?
It machine does break down the minerals it will help. We are not sure of the full technical aspects of this machine so we cannot answer beyond that.
We also have a kangen water system trying to figure out the same thing now moving there soon , if u could test the water if it’s alkaline or acid would help us … my email [email protected] for any questions or concerns u want to share
Been in MX and PDC many times Best buy for bottled water is at La Mega. MX version of Wal-Mart. I stock up first day and replenish. Can reach it easily by foot or 70 pesos (negotiate) from much of Beach/5th Ave area. I do lots of shopping there including DELICOUS prepared foods.
I never drink water from the tap and sometimes not sure how long 5 gallon jugs have been sitting in a rental, hotel or condo.
Hello I am travelling through Mexico soon I’ll be travelling in my jeep I have a few refillable jugs are there self serve refill stations?
There are a few places in local areas in towns. It can be as cheap as 8 pesos to fill up a large container. The trouble is finding them. For example in Playa there are no locations in the downtown where you can do refills by yourself. Many times you will need to exchange your bottle for the same brand at a store. They are about 30 pesos, so it is not really an issues of expense.
Hello and thanks for your informative article. As a long-term resident, I would further appreciate an independent (other than CAPA or Aguakan) description of exactly where the Aguakan water and local garrafón water, is sourced. And if there is any treatment of either, before distribution or bottling.
It’s not a myth! I just left Playa Del Carmen and am very, very sick. My doctor said it’s from the water I drank in Mexico. Only bottled for me now on. Day 5 of this and I am MISERABLE! Bloody diarrhea…. and so very sick. Be Careful!
Please tell us what hotel you stayed in and what restaurants you are in? Thank you Sue
I grew up in Seattle (born 1973) where the tap water is clean and tastes great…have lived in Las Vegas for 10 years (in the 90s/early 2000s) where we use bottled water and an in house /on tap purifier like Brita, and have lived all over: I have a house in Hawaii (where we have Catchment with a food grade liner so we basically are drinking rainwater), in Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Perú (Lima never rains so the tap water is NOT good enough to brush teeth etc), Colombia, y México and so I am likely now more “immune” to the water than maybe those on vacation or new expats.
I live in Mazatlán now and here, as in the other cities (Mérida, CDMX, Guadalajara, León, Toluca, Oaxaca) I have lived in I use tap water to rinse veggies, to boil when I cook anything including coffee if I brew at home, and to wash my face and brush teeth. It is a bit alkaline here so “piedras” can clog showerheads often. I do not drink water straight from the tap. If I ever got around to finding a carbon filter or Brita type attach-to-sink types then yah I would.
I would agree with those who brought their own purifiers. Also, like in Mérida, the municipal water source is purified…it is the journey through the pipes that can “taint” it. Bottled water everywhere in MX is cheap and readily available so I hope everyone stays safe and hydrated.
Thank you for sharing your experiences Kaia.
We’ll be in Playa for a week and we are planning on eating out at local restaurants and not on Quinta Avenida. Should we worry about how they handle/wash their fruits and vegetables? For example, should we avoid fresh veggies in our tacos or salsa? Thanks a lot for your information on this matter.
You really do not have to worry about this. No one local or tourist drinks tap water. All restaurants serve ice from filtered water. That is why you see water delivery trucks and large 20 gallon plastic jugs of water around. Most people have no issues with veggies being washed in the water. If you have a very sensitive stomach then avoiding salads with lettuce is good. That is one food that traps a lot of water molecules. Most everything else should be find. We hope you have a blast!
WOW! amazing information for our upcoming trip to Playa del Carmen. Our family is going down in April 2019 this will be our first time and looking so forward to the trip. Family and friends are requesting real pure vanilla to take back. Do you have any recommendations on real vanilla and where to get it?
Vanilla is not grown in this part of Mexico but you will see some for sale in the tourist shops on 5t Avenue. The quality is not the best. You can buy the beans and that assures you are getting the real thing. They sell them at Ah Cacao stores, or some of the Organic shops. You could try Bio Organicos on 26th Street between 5th and 10th.
Hi we gust bought a place in L cielo in Del Carmen wandering can I install an in-line pump at the base of the tank on the roof to increase the water pressure in my condo
Just to get this correct, your tank is on your roof and you want to have a pump on the roof to speed the pressure? If this is correct there are some things to consider first. Normally there is not a big issue if your tank is 1. high enough, 2. large enough. You might have mineral build up in your pipes and shower heads. Fixing these issues might help you. Also something to consider, high pressure systems but added pressure on pipes and you will know all too soon if there is a weak point in your pipes. IF your pressure is very different from your neighbors with the same size tank and style house, it could be something internal and not really an issue with the tank providing pressure to your house.
I’ve got a 5 gallon Bonafont waterbottle which the OXXO store next door doesn’t take. They claim it has got the wrong handle (it’s plastic handle that’s attached to it instead of the “built in” handle). Any idea what I can do about that?
You can try another store to return it or buy a new bottle and use the old one as a planter. The bottles are about 80/100 pesos. So not a big loss.
I wonder if people ever read how the water companies “purify” water and the studies that have been made about it. Recently a study showed more than a few Canadian cities quality of water is worse than Flint Michigan and I am prety sure the US would be the same. I don’t know if I sould or shoun’t drink water from the tub here but most places in Mexico I do and I never had a problem with that.
Since the issue is bacteria and microorganisms, is any amount of water “unsafe” to drink or can a Canadian body handle small amounts of water? Not planning on drinking tap water but assume at some point I’ll end up ingesting some small amount in Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, Mazunte. Should I just expect to get sick at some point during the two week trip?
Since everyone in Mexico drinks purified water, even ice cubes are purified water, the main way this can happen is brushing your teeth or opening your mouth in the shower. It really is more of a travel myth than reality that people get sick. Going to any other country besides yours exposes you to different bacteria and you can get an upset stomach, but this is something you really should not worry about. The one thing that is only slightly more important is what you eat and being carful with street food and cheap restaurants. Most are very safe and people have no problems. Some street carts have one person collect the money and others prepare the food. Some even have sinks to wash hands. With basic food safety care, you can have a great time eating almost anywhere in Mexico. We hope you have a good trip.
I have been living in the low rent area of Tijuana for about 2 years. I mostly drink the water delivered in a little pickup every day or night. Two different providers. I run out of water occasionally and have drunk a lot of the tap water. never any problem. I make my Mexican family nervous when they see me drink tap water and expect this gringo to explode or something.
Here in the Riviera Maya some do use the tap water to cook pasta and use for pets. It is more the minerals that will build up in your body and give you kidney stones and other problems. The Mayans would eat somethings that helps reduce kidney stones so they did not have problems before filtration.
What about the 24 hour aqua
Purifcado store fronts? Near my building there is one. It looks like once you have the big bottle, you just pay with coins & can fill it there.
Yes, these are pretty common in local neighborhoods. We have never tested the water for quality, but do have doubts the standards are all the same. I bog bottle is 33 pesos, it is not much to be assured of decent quality.