Clarity About Drinking the Water in Mexico

Depending on who you speak to in Mexico, you might be told that tap water is absolutely potable or, by contrast, you might be told that it’s not even suitable for brushing your teeth.

The water source matters

Water delivered to homes in Mexico is suitable for showering and washing-up the dishes, but most people don’t use unfiltered tap water for personal consumption.

Whether the water dispensed from your home’s tap in Mexico is fit for healthy consumption or not depends more about where, precisely, the tap is situated. Some cities and towns have excellent public water systems and local people especially are quite content drinking water from their tap; but not every place can be depended upon to have a reliable source of potable water. And therein lies the rub. Unless you know for sure that the water is potable, you do well to take bottled or filtered water instead.

Remineralization of purified water

To be purified and made safe to drink (‘potable’), water is passed through a series of different types of filtration, usually including a process called Reverse Osmosis.  While these treatments make the water safe for human consumption, they also remove minerals present in natural water that are beneficial to human health.

If you are using purified water, you might consider re-mineralizing it for drinking.

This article shares further information, and you can begin further research here.

Water delivery in Mexico

Water in Mexico is usually delivered to homes in one of four ways:

  • via mains-feed system; or
  • via a communal feed sourced from official local water springs and wells; or
  • via a private well situated on the property or in the local neighborhood (although this is rare); or
  • via a combination of rain collection (in season) and local water delivery by truck.

Properties situated in most urban towns and cities have their water provided by a mains-feed, whereas at properties situated in rural areas water is supplied from a communally-run system that obtains water from local wells, or else owners collect rain water (in season) and top this up with deliveries from trucks which dispense water into large underground cisterns situated at the property.

Water filtration systems

Some homeowners in Mexico use their own filtration systems to avoid the need to buy bottled water for personal consumption at home.  Water delivered by truck and/or collected from rainwater (in season) can be filtered and used in your home.

Plumbed-in water filters

Filtration systems that are plumbed-in to your home’s water pipes vary from single-stage active carbon filters, to multiple-stage filtration systems that include several different filter types and might also include passing the water through ultraviolet light. (The UV light stage must be situated near the dispensing tap for this to be effective.)  With this method, the system for drinking water runs in parallel to water used for showers, kitchen use, and toilets, and provides a separate tap(s) that dispenses filtered drinking water fed from the property’s main water supply and/or cistern.

Stand-alone water filter systems

There exists an entire industry of stand-alone water filtration systems; check online for details. They all rely on replacement filters of one type or another.  These systems work by pouring your local tap water into a jug or bowl that then filters the water, purifying it, and thus making it fit for personal consumption.  The more expensive versions of these filters offer multiple filtration layers and filter the water more quickly than less expensive versions.  Reviews online suggest that the efficacy of these systems in terms of their purification quality varies widely.

Buying bottled water in Mexico

Bottled water is widely available in Mexico, and can be purchased in sizes ranging from small hand-sized bottles to 20-liter containers. It’s sold by street traders, local convenience stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and even specialist water delivery companies; the latter deal in the 20-liter bottles and deliver these to homes, offices and factories.

Buying bottled water for use in your home

The most common way that people purchase purified water for use in their homes is by means of the 20-liter (5.3 US gallons) bottles, known in Mexico as ‘garrafones.’

These water bottles usually have their contents emptied into a dispenser, or are turned upside-down to rest atop the dispenser, that comprises a tank holding some  water for immediate use.

Low-cost dispensers made of plastic can do the job well enough, but if you want something a little more elegant in your home, you can buy a colorfully painted dispenser made in Talavera—the strong, durable ceramic most often associated with the city of Puebla in south-central Mexico.

The dispenser taps are available inexpensively from all local hardware stores, and are made of plastic or aluminum so can be easily replaced when they (inevitably) wear out.  It’s a good idea to wash these out regularly (including the tap unit) between fills to avoid any bacteria or fungal build-up.

Big brand bottles: The big water companies sell these and offer home-delivery services.  Their brands are: Ciel (Coca-cola), Bonafont (Danone), EPura (Pepsi), and Santa María (Nestlé). You can also buy these at local tienditas and supermarkets, and carry them home yourself. (A full bottle weights about 20kg (44 pounds.)

Local purifiers: An alternative to the big brand bottlers is to use a local purifying company that has a license to use local (usually mains) water for purification and bottling. They use the 20 liter garrafón bottles and charge a reasonable deposit fee for these, but once you have the bottles, the price per refill is about one-third of the price that the big brand bottlers charge.  Check locally to ask for service details; most small towns and every city has at least one water purifying company selling water this way.  They too offer home delivery services, be sure to tip the people who carry-in your refilled bottles and take away the empties each time.

Buying water when you eat out: Restaurants offer bottled water at a premium; but you can ask for a complementary glass of water which might emanate from a bottle, or from a filtration system.

Buying water on your travels through Mexico

Since Aztec times, Mexicans have been avid traders, and their skill to spot a market and serve it on an impromptu basis is alive and well to-day.  Enterprising ambulant traders offer water and sodas at remote locations where there are no stores: for example, at archaeology parks, and areas of natural beauty where tourists are known to gather. You may also see these vendors offering bottled water at traffic lights on hot days, on local buses, as well the long lines of traffic which inevitably build up on the approach to major toll booths on highways at holiday weekends. So you’ll never be too far away from drink-able water in Mexico.

Most of the larger hotels in Mexico —and some of the up-scale smaller hotels— have water purification systems installed at their properties, so all water on-site is guaranteed as potable. All hotels tend to offer guests at least one bottle of purified water in the room, replenished by the maid each day at no extra charge, regardless of whether the water from the taps in the hotel’s room is drink-able.

Learn more about water supplies in Mexico

Mexperience publishes articles and guides to help you understand water supplies and the efficient use of water at your home in Mexico, including:

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