So, do you drink the water in South America?
The topic of safe water is a hot one. Frequently new expats will confidently state:
“We always drink the tap water and we’ve never gotten sick … since we arrived 3 months ago!”
Well, that’s good news. It’s good to stay healthy. But do you really want to leave your health in the hands of the municipal government? How many of us used to drink tap water back home? Probably not too many – especially if we were on city water.
Update September 2014: We ran lab tests on the water in Cuenca – read all the results.
Read more about boiling water.
In Canada, we had a 200ft drilled well at our house – and we did drink the water from that. And it tasted really good. We lived on top of a small hill and it was some of the best water we’ve tasted. But we also ran the water through three filters. One was to remove sediment. The other two were under the sink and were ceramic that removed both bacteria and amoebas. Maybe it was overkill, but there was a commercial farm just a few hundred yards down the road and we didn’t want to drink pig poop – no matter how diluted it was.
We also had an office in town, which was on town water. The water tasted bad so we always bought water. The truck delivered once per week. After a year or two, the town discovered that the water was actually contaminated with chemicals from a dry cleaner shop that burnt down a few years before and people were getting sick from the water.
Is the three month test sufficient time to prove that water is safe? Probably not. We have all had parasites and amoebas – really not much fun. And the medicine is awful. It’s actually hard to know which is worse. The medicine gives a metal taste in your mouth for close to a week.
So, Should You Drink the Tap Water in Cuenca?
For us, we were afraid to. And then we got sick and refused to. What is interesting to us, is that while many expats insist that it is okay and safe to drink the water – many Cuencanos drink bottled water. Stomach sicknesses are common here, among both foreigners and local. It isn’t “Ecuador” that is the problem – we are on the equator and things are different here.
Yes, We Drink The Tap Water in Cuenca!
It’s true, but not exactly all that simple. You see, we used to drink bottled water. We had a great system setup where the man who delivered our gas tanks also delivered our water. So when we were getting a little low, I would call him and often within a few hours we would be stocked up again. But as life goes sometimes, we would often run out of water. As you see below, we had a pretty great collection of water bottles. Eight to be exact. We would usually get a two week supply at a time.
Ecuador’s Tap Water is Cheap
Because of things we’ve read about how the sun can affect plastic bottles (and these bottles often spend hours/days in direct sunlight) and because of the hassle of ordering and running out of drinking water, we decided to look into a water filter.
What we found is a 4 gallon countertop water filter. It is made by Zen Water Systems and we ordered it via Amazon and shipped it here via Club Correos.
There are two parts that need to be replaced: the ceramic dome (lasts 12 months and costs $18.40) and the 5 stage filter cartridge (lasts 6 months and costs $21.85). So from what I can tell, the annual operation costs are just $62.10 (1 ceramic filter and 2 five stage filters) plus shipping.
4 Benefits to Owning a Water Filter
- Compared to the over $400 we were spending on delivered water, this unit will pay for itself within 6 months
- We don’t have to worry about running out of drinking water
- We don’t have the mountain of plastic bottles to store
- We have fresher and cleaner water
Do you drink the tap water? How do you get drinking water in Cuenca – or where you live abroad?