How’s the drinking water in Cuenca?
Do you drink it? Is it safe?
In this post, we share the lab results of tests we ran on Cuenca’s water – straight from the tap and after sterilization with a SteriPEN. We share specifics about what we found and how well the UV light works.
Read about Tap Water Safety Around the World
Water Safety in Cuenca
After publishing about our water filter two years ago, we learned that water quality is a hot topic among expats. There are almost one hundred comments on that post – showing how important this is for everyone.
As part of a review for SteriPEN (a UV light water purifier) that we published on GringosAbroad – we tested the water in Cuenca. Because of the interest in water quality, we also decided to publish on Inside Ecuador as well.
We took water samples from two locations:
- tap water from a public washroom
- the Tomebamba River
I know, what were we thinking? Well, two things. First, we wanted to avoid taking water from a building that had a secondary filter. We wanted to get true Cuenca water – so we took it from a non-residential area. And secondly we wanted some really dirty water to see how well the SteriPEN actually worked. The river water worked well for this.
Boiling water is another good way to make it safe to drink.
Cuenca Water Lab Results
What were the results?
- Cuenca’s tap water: PASSED, even though it came from a public washroom. There were some bacteria, but it was free of amoeba and parasites. The lab technician said that it was safe to consume.
- Cuenca’s river water: FAILED. Not surprising, the river water was a dangerous mix of parasite eggs, amoebas, and bacteria. The technician said it looked like a zoo of microscopic activity.
Here are some of the critters we saw in the water:
pH Levels of Cuenca’s Water
In addition to contaminant tests, we also tested pH levels of both types of water. Cuenca’s tap water had a pH of 7 (neither alkaline nor acidic) and the river water had a pH of 8 (moderately alkaline). The SteriPEN treatment didn’t change the pH level. A pH level of 7 is considered perfect for drinking water.
SteriPEN Sterilization Results
We initially planned to use the SteriPEN to sterilize both water samples but because the tap water came back safe, we didn’t bother.
We did treat the river water and then we re-tested. This was very interesting.
During the initial test, we saw live ameobas and parasite eggs. After sterilizing the water with the UV light, they were all dead. We saw the same organisms but they had been killed by the light.
Note: the UV light in the SteriPEN will kill living organisms in the water, but it doesn’t filter the water. Although the dead organisms remain in the water, they won’t do any harm.
So, the SteriPEN was able to take dangerous water and make it safe to consume.
Here is a video of the whole process.
Cuenca Ecuador Water Test Lab Results (Video)
Watch on YouTube
Does This Mean All Ecuador Water is Safe?
Can you drink all the water in Ecuador? Of course not. The technician noted that he has tested the water in some small towns just outside of Cuenca and they are unsafe and will cause sickness. He told me that he uses a water filter system in his home.
While we will continue to occasionally drink the water in Cuenca, we prefer to filter all of our water at home. We use a counter-top ceramic filter for an extra level of security to keep us healthy. When we lived in Canada, we drank our well water – but only after running it though a ceramic and sediment filter. It is inexpensive and worth the trouble to stay healthy.
Other expats in Cuenca don’t filter the water and don’t have have trouble with sickness. It really is a preference / confidence issue.
When would you use a SteriPEN? It is ideal if you are either living outside of Cuenca and/or planning traveling around the country or more of South America.
Contest: How will you use your Steripen? (Contest closed)
Tell us how (or where) you will use the Steripen Ultra and you might win it! Have a trip planned? Where are you going? Why do you need water sterilization? How will you use your SteriPEN Ultra? Tell us all about it in the comment section below and our favorite comment will receive the SteriPEN Ultra (the same model we tested and reviewed in this post) direct from SteriPEN. Contest closes Saturday, September 27th 2014 at 12 noon (GMT-5, Ecuador time). The winner will be contacted directly and published here on this post. Contest is sponsored by SteriPEN.