Is It Safe to Drink the Water in Mexico?

Water trucks being filled at CAPA in Tulum, Mexico (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

For as long as I can remember, whenever people would talk about Mexico someone would inevitably say something like, “Don’t drink the water.”

The question is, is this still the case? After so many years is it still unwise to risk drinking the water out of the tap in Mexico or is it as safe as it would be in Anytown, USA?

Since Mexico is a very large country, it’s impossible to give you definitive answers that would apply to all parts of Mexico. In many areas, it is perfectly safe to drink the water out of the tap (unfiltered) but if you travel a short distance away, you might not want to risk it.

The difference is due to the delivery method, which ranges from pipes to water trucks, as well as the presence of additional water treatment systems. So, the answer to whether or not it is safe to drink the water is usually it depends.

What the Locals Say

The majority of the Mexican population, about 80% according to the World Bank, distrust the water systems in Mexico. This lack of confidence in the quality of the tap water makes bottled water the preferred option for most locals. In fact, Mexico consumes more bottled water per capita than any other country on Earth.  

Just knowing this should cause a prudent person to lean toward the better-safe-than-sorry approach when it comes to consuming water in Mexico.

General Advice for Water Consumption

1. Follow the advice of the hotel or resort. If they don’t specifically tell you that the water is safe to drink, make sure you use bottled water for drinking, making coffee and brushing your teeth.

2. Outside of the hotel, ask if the ice is made with purified water or get your drinks without ice. Many restaurants/bars have prepackaged ice delivered to the establishment. If you see that, it’s a good sign.

3. If you don’t trust the water source at an establishment, avoid eating uncooked food (e.g. salad).

4. When in doubt, stick to bottled drinks like water, soft drinks or my personal favorite — beer.

Let’s Wrap This Up

In case you were wondering, neither of us has ever gotten sick from consuming the water in Mexico but I did in Colombia several years ago. I failed to follow the advice above and I contracted parasites from ice made with contaminated water.

The good news was that it was the first time that I could eat whatever I wanted and I still managed to lose 15 pounds. The bad news was that I spent an inordinate amount of my vacation touring the bathrooms of Bogotá. It was definitely an experience that I don’t ever wish to repeat.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul

Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget.

In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Living in Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times and Paul’s articles appear in periodicals across Mexico.

25 Comments on "Is It Safe to Drink the Water in Mexico?"

  1. WILLIE GUILLERMO BAUTISTA | November 1, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Reply

    Not safe at all to drink tap water. Many people have water filters and they are safe.

  2. Something interesting I heard was from our neighbors in Playa, they said you could drink the water fine but it’s not a good idea because there are so many minerals in it that you’ll develop kidney stones.

    • There are a lot of minerals in it, that’s for sure. We have an additional water treatment system in the complex where we live but I still use bottled water to make coffee because the minerals change the taste of it.

  3. Excellent advice. As a long time resident of Oaxaca City, I don’t let tap water touch my lips! Never been sick in 20 years. A much-used word in my limited Spanish vocabularly is “depende.” In spite of our bad air, bad water, and frequent earth movements, tourists and expats continue to pour into the city, making me sometimes long for “back in the day.” 🙂

  4. Do you recommend a water filter for expats? We went to Home Depot in Playa. The 5 stage reverse Osmosis system we wanted to buy was not sold there (even though it was on display). We bought the next best one there which is a 3 stage filter “Pure H2O” and had it installed through our refrigerator. The water seems safe to drink (we didn’t get sick), but we find it too salty, so we now have water delivered and use a water dispenser which also keeps the water cold. Have you heard of any other experiences with water filters?

    • Water filters are a good idea but the water here has too many minerals so it definitely affects the taste of anything you make with it.

      The minerals are also hard on filters. A friend of ours installed a system to purify all of the water entering his home and the filters became clogged within a few months. We he learned it was $500 USD to replace them all each time, he shut the system down and turned to bottled water.

  5. Interesting comments on the problems with filters. I assumed that would be a good way to go. I was thinking about a very good under sink filter, but it’ll be bottled water for now.

    • If you get the the 20 liter “garrafón”, make sure that they are sealed. Some people sell bottles they refill themselves. This is sometimes referred to as “agua pirata”.

  6. Great post, as usual ,Paul. You are the only one (to my knowledge) that lets us into the day-to-day world in which you live while others will just gloss over the finer details of actually living a life in Mexico.

    What about the other end of the water “system” in Mexico? Do you get to flush toilet paper or have to use waste baskets? I imagine you are fine because you’re likely in a newer community that was developed more to expat tastes but will many systems throughout the country be able to handle it?

    • You’re right, we live in a newer community created for tourists and expats so we can flush our toilet paper in our condo. However, in the majority of the local businesses and restaurants that we visit, there are signs telling us to throw it in the garbage can. This seems to be the trend throughout much of the country.

  7. We just returned from 2 months in Puerto Vallarta. We ate everywhere and cooked at home, cleaning all foods and vegetables carefully. Drinking bottled water. We made it through with no stomach problems. Our grown Grandkids came for 10 days and got sick. The only difference was, they went into the Ocean often and we stuck to the pool. I do not trust the Ocean Water. We saw the dogs poop all over the streets, trash and poop wash down the streets in the rain water and then goes down the river, right into the Bay.

  8. Check out the Berkey filters. We’ve used one for six months now and never had a problem. Doesn’t take out the minerals (some needed for health reasons) but removes everything else.

  9. In San Felipe, Baja, I take my 3 gallon water bottles to the water store where they have a heavy duty water filtration system and fill up two of them (6 gallons total) for 14 pesos. Many people here drink the water out of the tap, but I don’t because it has a high mineral content. I did get very sick drinking tap water in Detroit – no joke. I also got an amoeba in Costa Rica (maybe from swimming in the river – who knows), but Vermox Plus fixed that right away. Don’t travel without it.

  10. Here in Huatulco the water is considered safe to drink, at least when it leaves the plant. The problem is that they installed cheap plastic or PCV or something pipes that keep breaking. This means that the streets gets dug up and the pipe is repaired BUT… contamination also gets into the water . Who knows how much or where so we opt for bottled water.

    • Good advice. I’ve noticed that when pipes break etc they don’t issue advisories to boil the water, they just proceed as if nothing happened.

  11. From Dive Cenotes Mexico: If we assume for a moment that these 16 million visitors in 2016 each drank ONLY two bottles of water we can estimate that 32 million water bottles per year, or about 88,000 plastic bottles per day, were used. And, of those bottles, a third (or more!) ended up somewhere in landfills, our ocean, cenotes, beaches, jungle, and streets! For more info: http://www.amessageinabottlelovemex.com/initiative. BRING A REFILLABLE BOTTLE WITH YOU!

  12. Warren R. Jorgenson | November 6, 2017 at 9:34 am | Reply

    We live in El Centenario which is suburb just north of downtown La Paz BCS. Our two wells that supply our community we way over the limits on arsenic. We have a little shop that sell purified water BUT guess where they get their water from… yes the same pipes that the arsenic water comes from. You need to do your home work and find out where the water comes from and test it every once and awhile. Our community put up a big stink about the arsenic and now we have a filtration plant to remove the arsenic so we will see how that works out. …. http://www.bcsnoticias.mx/planta-potabilizadora-de-el-centenario-atendera-100-de-demanda-en-esa-comunidad/

  13. I NEVER drink water from the Mexican tap. Not even to rinse my toothbrush. Why take the risk? I have seen enough cases of misery and extreme weight loss, to take the chance.
    But here’s one thing your readers may have not known: those little microbes, that make you sick when you drink the water, are also in the soil. I am from Texas where barefoot is the shoe of choice. Not in Mexico! I got extremely sick from going barefoot: delirious for one day and night. I have no memory of that day. So shoes I wear now. Although I imagine on the beach, those little microbes are fried before they can infiltrate.

  14. Three fairly inexpensive, pocket sized items to bring along that will pretty much ensure safe drinking water is a Steri-pen a Katadyn, B-free water filter, and aqua mira,. Note:none of these will be effective with ice.

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