Water is essential to life: when piped drinking water and sewer systems are put into place, there is less sickness and disease. Many rural people in developing countries lack both and many get sick and die.
There’s a lot of chatter going on over the Internet about best and cleanest drinking water in Latin America but the truth is people can say anything they want on forums but figures don’t lie. We all want safe drinking water when we travel and or move abroad but depending on the country and city we’re moving to, clean water isn’t always possible. Where is the water safe to drink in Latin America?
Clean drinking water is normally going to be in countries where the local government or private sector has spent the largest amount of money on the water system so as to provide clean drinking water for all or most of its citizens.
Underground conduits, hydroelectric systems and water filtering plants don’t get built, improved, cleaned and regulated on their own; countries have to put forth big endeavors and big money to provide their citizens with clean drinking water.
Though these top five countries on this list have “safe to ok” drinking water, it is not recommended to drink the tap water on a continual basis; would you do that in the U.S? The tap water is generally safe to drink from everywhere in the states but when we lived there we used a filter to eliminate chlorine and other bacteria that can infiltrate.
If you’re just visiting a country for a vacation it really doesn’t matter too much if the tap water is undrinkable because you can bring along a travel water purifier of some kind or water purification tablets for those short stays and you can simply buy bottled water. When we travel we always bring along our Sport filtering water bottles and so far they have worked great for us.
It’s ironic that “potable water” means it is filtered and drinkable, however, it could still be contaminated with chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, etc, and so adding an additional water filter on the tap or whole house to filter out these impurities is always a good idea.
When people retire or move to Latin American countries they always ask on forums “Is the water safe to drink”? The problem with forums is anyone can say whatever they want to influence the reader and most of the time forums offer differing opinions and nothing to back up those opinions. Not only that but there is so much confusion and misleading information that one never gets an up-front answer and is left with useless, confusing information.
A better way to find out the real data about something is to do the research about safe drinking water yourself and see if the country you are considering moving to has actually made the improvements to their water systems through water and sanitation investments.
Most countries in Latin America have improved their water and sanitation systems, up to a point and most people, except for the very poor in the rural areas have water service piped into their homes, however, that doesn’t mean the water coming out of the tap is clean and drinkable.
For an example, the water quality here in Salinas is so poor that a PUR water filter that would normally work back in the states, stops working after a few days because of sludge and particle buildup. That’s very poor water quality. But these PUR faucet filters would work great in Cuenca, Ecuador for filtering out amoebas and other bacteria. When we lived in Cuenca we would get little tiny earth worms coming out of the kitchen tap and shower head.
In Salinas, Ecuador, unfortunately the water is so laden with parasites and bacteria that even doing simple things like watering a garden is unsafe, if you want to eat the veggies raw; this is “why” one must cook all vegetables that you cannot peel. Bathing is unsafe and a challenge because even the smallest amount in your mouth can give you parasites.
While doing the research for this article, we found that countries where people are saying the water is ok to drink, it actually is not ok to drink from the tap…the study and figures tell us that approximately 90% of countries in Central and South America have undrinkable water coming out of the taps.
Some organizations like to paint a rosy picture just because some or most people in developing countries have water piped into their homes. They call this "basic water". But remember, that doesn't mean the water is safe to drink or to even brush your teeth with. There's a reason parasites are endemic in developing countries across Latin America; unclean water and poor waste management is the primary problems.
We list the top five “best to ok” water quality in South and Central America. The latter three countries on the list, you will still want to add an additional water filter on the faucet just to be on the safe side. But these top five countries are perfectly safe in most areas for bathing, cooking, cleaning dishes, watering your garden etc.
CHILE – Drinking Water & Sanitation
Water quality and sanitation in Chile has undergone a lot of improvements and 99% of the population has clean drinking water and sanitation. The quality of water is safe to drink in most areas of Chile. If in doubt of the more rural areas always check with the locals and do what they do. The water supply is continuous 24/7 and the water pressure is good. Chilean water supply and sanitation is considered one of the best in all of Latin America…drink away.
Did you know? Chile has good drinking water, when they get it. Most of the country of Chile’s water is privatized and in Santiago, the nation’s capital, millions of people are left without running water for days at a time and they pay high water on top of that. Water scarcity throughout the country has become a harsh reality. With all these issues, Chilean citizens are pushing for an end to privatized water.
URUGUAY – Drinking Water
Uruguay has achieved clean drinking water and adequate sanitation for the entire country. They have also invested the most money in improving water and sanitation, providing their citizens with clean and safe drinking water. Tap water is safe to drink in all areas of Uruguay, not just some cities or major cities; it’s safe to drink even in rural areas.
Did you know? Uruguay was the only country in the Americas to escape the Cholera outbreak which was endemic in the 1990’s? The outbreak claimed almost 9,000 lives and sickened nearly one million people.
PANAMA - Drinking Water
Panama’s drinking water is clean and safe to drink in Panama City and other major cities, however in more rural areas it is advised to not drink the water. Water is continuous in the major cities and water pressure is great. It has been reported that 93% of Panamanians have an improved water source, however, do be careful in the coastal regions of Panama.
Panama’s focus is to have clean drinking water in all rural areas of the country of Panama by 2020.
Did you know? Panama has made continual improvements to drinking water quality inside Panama City but the wastewater and sanitation management is poor and it smells of sewage in the city.
ARGENTINA – Drinking Water
Argentina has made some improvements to the drinking water quality and it is generally safe to drink in the large metro areas; it has been reported that 94% of Argentineans have clean drinking water, but one should take caution when drinking water outside the major cities. If in doubt, do what the locals do. If staying in Argentina indefinitely, it’s probably a good idea to add an additional water filter on the tap, boil your water or buy bottled water.
Note: We almost did not add Argentina on the list but most of Argentinians are populated in the larger metro areas in the country, where the water is safe to drink. Only 3.8% of the population inhabit the rural areas where access to safe drinking water is not available.
Did you know? A big problem with water in many countries, including N. America is oil drilling, cattle farming, and pesticides and insecticides polluting the ground water.
Costa Rica – Drinking Water
Generally, you can drink the water in Costa Rica in most urban areas, however coastal towns and other rural areas it is advisable to buy bottled water or use a filter on the tap.
The Costa Rican government largely relies on tourism as its primary driver for the economy and therefore has invested a great deal of money into improving water quality in the major tourist hubs, however wastewater treatment has not fared so well.
Many countries in Latin America do not have improved sanitation systems and sewage flows into the canals and into the oceans.
Note: we almost did not add C.R but decided to since the touristy areas do have clean drinking water. However, if you venture out you're better off drinking bottled water.
Did you know? In 2014 it was reported that in Costa Rica over 1,000,000 residents were drinking tap water mixed with fecal matter. This is just one of the reasons why parasites are so prevalent in these developing places.
As for the rest of the countries in Latin America, it really goes downhill from here and as a whole there are no other countries in South and Central America where you can “drink” the water.
But since we are living in Ecuador and many of our readers are from Ecuador and or moving to Ecuador we added a few parts of our research that we thought you would want to know.
Ecuador has made some improvements to their water system in recent years by providng people in rural areas with basic water but that just means they have water piped into their homes and it comes out of the faucets. Is it clean? No. Ecuador has a long way to go.
We realize there are exception cities where you can drink the water such as in Cuenca Ecuador however, with the disruption of water so prevalent it would be advisable to not take risks and one city or two that at times has somewhat clean drinking water certainly does not make up the whole country of Ecuador. And remember, chlorine may kill off the bacteria but amoebas live.
In 2015 it was estimated that around 1.1 million people lacked access to "at least basic" water (basic water does not mean potable) and around 2.2 million lacked access to "at least basic" sanitation in Ecuador.
10 Shocking Facts about Drinking Water
in Latin America
Shocking fact 1: Approximately 80% of all illnesses in developing countries are directly caused by unclean water and poor sanitation conditions.
Shocking fact 2: Most of Latin America, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico are endemic with Entameoba Histolytica parasites (second most dangerous parasite behind Malaria) because of unclean water and poor sanitation conditions.
In Mexico City sewage and drinking water intermingle because of old piping. There’s lots of old pipes in Latin America so don’t think that is the only city where water and sewage dance together under a pale moonlight.
Shocking fact 3: Entamoeba Histolytica Amoebas is the second most dangerous parasite behind Malaria, causing up to 100,000 deaths each year.(usually from secondary GI infections andor liver/lung damage from the trophozoite stage eating away at tissue cells)
If Cuenca had such clean drinking water then why do Ecuadorians treat for parasites every 6 months, even in Cuenca? We know at least a handful of people personally that have gotten E. Histolytica and or Giardia from living in Cuenca Ecuador. BTW, you do not have to drink from the tap to get parasites, just eat out. For more information go here.
People play the lottery and the odds are against them. People drink from the tap unfiltered and the odds are against them. But someone always wins and someone always becomes the next host for parsite invasion. That's reality.
Shocking fact 4: Potable does not always mean drinkable – The Salinas, Ecuador Water Company calls their water “potable”. hahahaha.
Shocking fact 5: Trying to kill off amoeba parasites with ultraviolet can be a challenge.
Shocking fact 6: Chlorine bleach in the amounts they add to the drinking water systems does not kill Entamoeba Histolytica and many other amoebas.
Shocking fact 7: Parasites eventually become immune to the anti-parasite medicines and it becomes more and more challenging to kill them.
Shocking Fact 8: 90% of waste water in developing countries is discharged into rivers, streams and oceans without any treatment.
Shocking fact 9: Almost 4 million people die each year from water related diseases. 1.5 Billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.
Shocking fact 10: Some developing countries have such very old underground piping; many of these conduits have gotten old and eroded causing waste water and drinking water to intermingle.
OH My Gosh Parasites!
Do they Add Fluoride to the Drinking water in Cuenca Ecuador?
DIY Berkey Water Filter Housing
DIY Berkey Fluoride Water Filter Housing
Water and Health by Professor
Harvard Univeristy - Mexico city drinking water.
CBSnews.com - Brain eating amoeba
CBSnews.com - Ultraviolet does it really work on Amoebas
Wikipedia.org - Uruguay: water supply and sanitation
Wikipedia.org - Chile water supply and sanitation
Wikipedia.org - Panama water supply and sanitation
Wikipedia.org - Argentina water supply and sanitation
Wikipedia.org - Costa Rica water supply and sanitation
Wikipedia.org - Ecuador Water supply and sanitation
Matadornetwork.com - Shocking fact 1.
CDC - Shocking fact 7 - parasites immune to medications
Savethewater.org - Shocking fact 8
World Health Organization (Who) Shocking fact 9: Waterandhealth,org - Cholera outbreak of 1990’s
www.theguardian.com - Chile privatized water
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