How to Immediately Determine the Quality of the Water in Mexico
"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water - Loren Eislely"
Sure, it sounds cliche but water is a miracle, always accompanying us. It makes up about 60% of our bodies. We are born from it. States from California to Florida have fought for decades over it. Historically, people have displayed their wealth by ostentatious display of it via vast green lawns and ornate fountains. It provides our most basic need, even more basic than food.
No wonder we are obsessed with water, it’s quality and availability. Since contaminated water is one of the leading sources of health problems in the world, everyone should care about it. While Mexico has made progress in the availability of potable water, there are plenty of situations in which you can’t know for sure of its quality.
Even where I live, a resort where the water is supposedly filtered, disturbing yellow particles are at the bottom of a drinking glass within a few hours. Even Mexicans drink beverages like their ubiquitous Coca-cola's, more often without ice than we do. Ironically, many a girl trying to eating a healthy salad in Mexico has fallen ill because of lettuce washed by impure water.
This might be more than you really want to know, but the most common cause of waterborne illness is bacteria, which include cholera, E. coli and salmonella, but illness can also be caused by protozoa and viruses (like hepatitis A, polio, retroviruses) and chemical pollutants.
Everyone who lives in Mexico either has filtrated water or they get drinking water delivered in 20 liter bottles (garrafones) for around 28 pesos a bottle. The major suppliers in Mexico are Epura, Ciel and Bonafont. Efficient, sinewy men deliver these big water bottles and take the empties away for you.
So, if you don’t drink the water from a tap, you take caution with ice, you make sure to wash vegetables with bottled water and you avoid exposure by not brushing your teeth with tap water, you’re done, right? Maybe, maybe not.
After 13 years in Mexico, my business partner and I were introduced to digital water testers by one of the water suppliers in town.
One of the most surprising things we learned was that even the bottled water that was delivered had varying levels of sediment and the quality of pureness varied from bottle to bottle, company to company.
The fact is that the water quality can be less than perfect even in bottled water that’s delivered to you. If you are a real water purist, you may want to consider one of these testing devices.
True, she’s never been ill (nor have I), possibly because after 13 years she’s adapted to certain pathogens like the locals do. With time, it becomes less and less likely you'll get sick, although even Mexicans aren't completely cavalier about drinking tap water.
That being said and just so you know, Mexicans are rightfully insulted by the big stink we North Americans make about their water. That you'd would come to a country with all of Mexico's charms and complain about the water seems pretty small-minded to them.
Taking a few precautions is just not that big a deal. Their water quality challenges are more common in the world than our cleaner water is. In a few months, you won’t even think about it.
Related links: Mercado Libre seems to have the largest selection [Spanish]
There are a multitude of things to test for, according to this article by Life Hacker.
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I'm a partner with Ventanas Mexico, which provides information and resources to potential expats about living in Mexico, like the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online,' a curation of the best tools on the web, organized into lesson plans. Recently I released "If Only I Had a Place" on renting well in Mexico.