Food and Drink, Mexico Essentials

Clarity About Drinking the Water in Mexico

Whether your tap water is drink-able in Mexico depends on several factors; most people use filtered or bottled water, some are confident drinking tap water

A water tap 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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  1. Gary says

    As a heads-up, it’s good to be aware that Bonafont water delivery by garrafon is very deceptive and, in my opinion, corrupt.
    They charge you for the initial plastic garrafon, and also charge you an additional fee for the water. So, first purchase might be 115MXN, and then a fill up is now 60MXN.
    This suggests you are paying a deposit and will one day be able to get your money refunded when you move or install a filter or for some other reason want to return the empty garrafones. They do not accept the empties. They claim that once you’ve bought the product(s) they are yours. Bonafont direct you to their terms and conditions.
    You’re not paying a returnable deposit on those garrafones, you’re buying them permanently!

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for sharing your comment based on your experience.

      It’s true that in practice returning the bottles to get your ‘deposit’ back is tricky. Some retail stores will take back the bottles, but only if you present the original receipt.

      Local water purifying companies charge less than the big companies for refills of the 20-liter bottle. They too make a ‘deposit’ charge for the bottle, that you might or might not be able to get back if you ever want to surrender the bottles.

      The good news is that the ‘deposit’ (bottle purchase) fees are not huge, and if you can’t return them, the bottles can be repurposed in various ways if you stop using the bottle refill services, or gifted to others for use.

      A water filtration system offers a lower price per liter longer term, and is also much more convenient, although the up-front installation costs are higher than the bottle deposit/purchase fees.

  2. Lori A Wayfair says

    If a private residence add their own water well , is that water safe for drinking with a filter?

    • Mexperience says

      You would need to get the water professionally tested to be sure. However, it’s very difficult to get a license to drill a private well. The regulations on well-drilling are strict because the water authorities concern about drillers contaminating underground wells that provide water to others in the same area.

  3. Dino says

    I am now on my second trip to Mexico and I’m constantly wondering if using something like Lifestraw Go or Grayl or other, portable filtration systems in Mexico. It is not clear which type of water contamination exists in the water in different places. Any light shed on that would be great. Thanks

    • Ed C says

      I took two trips to San Jose del Cabo, and the whole family relied on water from Grayl filtered water. Nobody got sick either time, so it’ll be my go-to for water in Mexico

  4. Rena Wells says

    I only drink spring water from a bottle, do Cancun Mexico have that .

  5. Bruce McGovern says

    I live in a small village several hours SE of Mexico City. My best friends are a local doctor and his wife. They use the 20 liter garafones. So, I do, too.
    When in Rome, etcetera.

  6. Cherry says

    Vendor prices vary but @$15-$30 Pesos for 20 Liters of Bottled Drinking water delivered to your home, why would you drink what comes from the tap? And they come to you every week to see what you want. You have to purchase the bottle(s) for I think $75 pesos maybe, but from then on you exchange bottles.

    • Kevin says

      I would prefer to drink water from the tap, if it was safe, because then I wouldn’t have to handle those 10 or 20 litre jugs. Also I wouldn’t have to deal with the water vendors. And, just because the water arrives in a jug, is it really safe? So Cherry, it is really about convenience and safety and less about the pittance we pay for jug water.

      • Annette says

        You are correct. We built a home in southern Mexico and have a whole house water filtration system that works perfectly. We had neighbors that bought the bottled water from the delivery services and white having drinks one evening they discovered worms in their drink. They thought they came from dirty ice cube trays. Well…they found more in their big blue bottle. To my knowledge, anyone can sell that water and who knows where it comes from???

        • Jake says

          what businesses provide whole house water filtration systems? do you have any references?

  7. Luis says

    I’d like to say that water in Mexico is safe to drink, but it tastes awful for the high amount of chlorine they put in it, so i use a charcoal filter and the water tastes very good and is cheaper than any bottled water you may buy.

    • Simone says

      Hi Luis :

      Can you tell me if one can purchase these charcoal filters in or around Queretaro / Tequisquiapan area? Planning a move to Mexico and would like to purchase ..
      Thanks S

    • Jan says

      Of course it depends where you live I live in Rosarito and I can complain about the water

  8. amy says

    i live in monterrey and the water here has never given me any problems. it doesn´t taste wonderful, but i can´t say it tastes any worse than some of the tap water i´ve had in different parts of the US.

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