drinking water in Central- and South-America

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by Panny, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. Panny

    Panny motorcycle vagabond

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    So far drinking water was not a problem for us during the last half year in NORTH america.

    How did you cope with that in Central- and South America?

    I consider to buy a filter pump (is that the right english word?).
    Disadvantage: takes space and adds weight.
    Is it really necessary?
    Or can we buy drinking water nearly everywhere cheap?
    Or is the water drinkable (with ion-tabletts)?

    What´s your experience?

    greetings from Las Vegas

    Panny
    Krad-Vagabunden
    #1
  2. cu260r6

    cu260r6 Been here awhile

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    The water is not drinkable until you reach Argentina or Chile. However, it's much cheaper than the US to buy bottled water there. The best thing I brought on my trip was a Steripen. It's a UV light stick that kills all the bacteria in the water in 30 seconds. If you get one make sure you bring extra batteries as those small camera batteries are more difficult to find south of the US.
    #2
  3. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

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    That is correct, forget drinking the tap water. Bottled water is available in even the most out of the way locations, it is relatively cheap and you will begin to recognize the brand names from the myriad of plastic bottles that litter the roads and countryside. An unfortunate consequence but very true.
    Be wary of the large water bottles aka "garafones" that you will see in government offices etc... Generally the dispensing unit was last cleaned around the time of Cortez and his arrival, not to mention the jugs arrived on a truck that drove 100kms on dirty roads and nobody wiped down the container before putting it in place.
    #3
  4. tedder

    tedder irregular

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    O RLY?

    In 2007 we spent six months going from Mexico to Ecuador. The only time we didn't drink the tap water was when the locals didn't- for instance, in Cartagena.

    Somehow we survived.
    #4
  5. bassguitar

    bassguitar Been here awhile

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    I don't think that is much different in North America either!

    <thread off topic>
    On another note - A friend works as in HVAC repair - and has told me numerous times NEVER to get ice in a drink from any fast food restaurant. He says they're disgusting and rarely cleaned.
    <back on topic>
    #5
  6. dunkee

    dunkee life is elsewhere

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    each year we burn millions of barrels of oil to put bottled water on the shelves, it's a ridiculous waste of energy. i don't buy it.

    the UV pen is probably the way to go. i've seen them but never tried one.

    i've been in latin america for 3+ years, so far, and had stomach parasites twice. beware of ice cubes and keep your mouth closed when you're swimming in the river. street food has definitely caused me more problems than water.

    i carry a chemical water treatment--2 small bottles--but i only use it when i'm drinking from questionable streams and rivers. when i have access to electricity (gas stations, cheap rooms, some campgrounds, etc.), i use this heating iron. the water is safe to drink just before it boils. don't leave it unattended, as it may burn red hot, self destruct, start a fire.

    good for boiling eggs, too:
    [​IMG]
    #6
  7. Dr. Benny

    Dr. Benny Enjoying the Journey

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    +1 for the Steripen. Used it all throughout Central and South America. In Mexico now and still using it!
    #7
  8. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

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    Oh really? Send me a PM when you wander into a Pemex bathroom and drink the tap water there.
    Or better yet, the airport in Mexico City. See where this is going?
    Drinking tap water in Mexico? Sorry, I've been living here a long time and won't go near it. No one else should either.
    You either got real lucky or you are somehow immune to bacteria and parasites.
    #8
  9. tedder

    tedder irregular

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    I've never been in the airport in Mexico City. I rode through Mexico and elsewhere. I actually have a somewhat poor immune system. Oddly, the one time that the two of us got sick was when we rented an apartment and were using the bottled water there- so it was likely from the food we were cooking ourselves.

    We drank tap water at all of the non-tourist restaurants we ate at. I don't like carbonated sugar drinks, so I drink a lot of water. We refilled our canteens in our cheap hotel rooms all of the time, but you're right- there's a difference between that and a Pemex bathroom. Can't say I've done that, or that I would.

    Americans love their bottled water.
    #9
  10. Gimmeslack

    Gimmeslack furthur

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    We take potable water for granted. To say that CA/SA water is all drinkable is a disaster waiting to happen. I grew up routinely travelling to SA and also lived there for several years as a teen. Suffice it to say I also ended up with HepA and have been sick on several other occasions. So much for my "native" immune system.

    Bottled water is indeed now available almost everywhere. I hate the resulting trash - plastic bottles are the new 3rd world scourge.

    While I'll admit to still occasionally ingesting tap water (brushing teeth, occasional ice cubes, etc.), I do make a point of only drinking treated/purified water.

    I've no experience with the steri-pen, but it looks like a possible winner. If in backcountry where water might contain pesticides, chemical pollutants, or organic matter, i would still use a mechanical filter (MSR is my favorite, as it's very field-maintainable). But generally I've not found filters necessary, since clear water is usually avail and there are lighter alternatives. For more "civilized" travel, I've taken a liking to tablets (Aquamira or similar). They basically chlorinate the water, and act reasonably fast. They also weigh next to nothing and a small ziplock can provide many liters worth of potable water.

    I also tried a Miox, and it's a good solution, but again, I don't like batteries.

    YMMV
    #10
  11. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

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    Different people with vastly different experiences. Take your choice.

    Note at least that very few water filters are effective against toxics, i.e., pesticides, industrial wastes, etc. Only a few have the carbon segment which will filter many of these, and none will remove heavy metals (AFAIK).

    Note also that (again AFAIK) none will remove viruses. There used to be at least one which included an iodine matrix segment but it was discontinued years ago, probably because it didn't work reliably. For viruses you need iodine, bleach or something similar. Personally, I don't worry much about viruses....although maybe I should.

    Furthermore, all filters are subject to misuse, breakage, cross-contamination and more.....but I use them a lot, and they've saved me thousands of dollars in water purchases over the years plus preserved me from many cases of G.I. upset, which can be alternately inconvenient, humiliating and/or dangerous to safety and long term health.

    I've never used any form of pill, tablet, powder or solution except in emergencies, mainly because I don't like to wait or to make adjustments based on how cold or cloudy I judge the water source to be. I also don't care for long-term use of such chemicals (I've repeatedly traveled for at least a year straight), and I don't like the taste of some (yes, I know you can neutralize or disguise the taste). I've never used steripens or the like because last I heard there were still questions about their effectiveness, although for all I know these have been resolved by now.

    As I said, my current preferred filter is a gravity feed, mainly because it's so easy. When I arrive at my lodging I fill the "dirty" end with three or four liters of water, and by the time I'm half-unpacked I've got a day's supply of clean water waiting. No pumping, no grasping around for containers to filter from or into, no waiting or neutralizing offensive tastes.

    YMMV.

    Mark
    #11
  12. tedder

    tedder irregular

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    Yep. There's a continuum. On one side is drinking ALL water you come across, even if it's slightly glowing. On the other side is avoiding dishes that have been washed in tap water, avoiding all fruit and veg that haven't been cooked to a high temperature, ensuring bottled water is coming from a known source.

    Somewhere in the middle is most of us.
    #12
  13. moto-treks

    moto-treks Back Home

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    I carried some iodine tablets for emergency but never used them. I had a camelback that I carried too, but got tired of cleaning it out. I'd fell it at the hotels I stayed in - never got sick the whole trip.

    Bottled water is the way to go. :deal Easy to find, easy to stick someplace on the bike, toss bottle when done :thumb
    #13
  14. Panny

    Panny motorcycle vagabond

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    Thanks a lot for all your answeres!

    I think I´ll give the steripen a chance, though many other advices sounded good, too!

    Panny
    www.krad-vagabunden.de
    #14
  15. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    I lost a third of my kidney function via a " unknown" virus. I was backpacking in rocky mtns(that pure rky mtn water from a trout stream high in the pretty mtns!) and using a water filter that DID NOT! have a virus filter only the ghiardia and chrypto... filter-which is very common. I was fine until a few days after exit and return home came down with a severe fever and on a Monday was sent to hospitaL for tests-LOTS OF TESTS!!!.Spinal taps, you name it... After 3 days and $10,000-yes, you read it correctly, the docs said they thought I had contacted a virus that there is no test for and that it had run its course. That was several years ago and I now see MY kidney DR twice a year for monitoring of kidney function. Also , I had to stop using my prescription nsaid arthritis medicine as it works through kidneys(think twice if you like ibuprofen!) which made life much easier, what with hands that are now much stiffer,etc..
    I now use a water filter that has a virus stat filter or boil the water. If you use iodine tabs for water you better read up as it doesn't kill the virus bad guys, even though many use them! On the same trip my cousin was using the tabs followed by drink powder to hide the iodine taste and thinking he was protected. I'm uncertain why they even sell products that don't do the viruses?They are for sale everywhere you buy filters and treatments. Go to the web sites for Aquamira and also the water filters on the mkt for more deatailed info.. After much reading I'm OK with the steri-pen too. We used the Aqua... tablets in AK this summer and the water tastes like crap in spite of what others say! Reminds me of heavily chlorinated water and ruins coffee for me/us.The idea that they improve the taste of water is a joke.
    If you are going to be a "tough guy" with the water safety issue then be prepared for the worst. Honestly, it almost did me in and I thought I had a good filter-was an Aquamira filter bottle.
    We used spring water from a private spring on our farm here for our sole,complete water source for over 25 years,until city water 2 years ago, so don't tell me about drinking untreated water as a way to become "used to it"!
    #15
  16. MikeMike

    MikeMike Long timer

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    That's correct, there is absolutely no way to become "accustomed" to drinking water that is suspect.
    Anecdotal events going up against solid medical science.
    As far as people having claimed to have only ingested tap water on their trips through Mexico, they are simply lucky enough to have chosen the right tap that was supplying filtered and pure water. You cannot simply approach just any tap in Mexico and start drinking the water, and yes, even the locals get sick some time, in fact, stomach illnesses and parasites are at the top of the list for Mexican citizens health problems. That is also why many Mexican families use a medication to eliminate parasites (never works on politicians unfortunately) at least once a year.
    Sure you can play Russian roulette with tap water in Mexico, but why bother when safe drinking water is widely available from suppliers other than the local municipal water utility?
    In the entire state of Veracruz there is not one water utility that supplies safe drinking water. Hotels and homes have filtration systems, yet even the hotels supply bottled water to guests.
    From sealed bottles.
    In fact, I would bet that not one water utility in all of Mexico supplies safe drinking water to their customers.
    Getting sick enough to lose 10lbs in two days and be passing blood in your stools from drinking tap water might be worth the risk to some people.
    But that's a kind of kink that I am not into.
    #16
  17. romanek72

    romanek72 Been here awhile

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    Tap water work for me

    <a href="http://s219.photobucket.com/albums/cc82/Romanek72/LATIN%20AMERICA%202009%20ON%20LINE/?action=view&current=DSCF0537.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc82/Romanek72/LATIN%20AMERICA%202009%20ON%20LINE/DSCF0537.jpg" border="0" alt="Photobucket"></a>


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Last May I travel to Baja-Mexico to Argentina and back ,over 18 countries.I drink tap water from gas stations,garden Hoses,I would ask which hose,locals point which one is ok to fill up my camelback ,no problem must be my Polish iron stomach.



    I save a lot dinero,for Mmm cold cerveza.
    #17
  18. JaiDee

    JaiDee Petrolhead

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    30+ years ago I went overseas for the first time. In Afghanistan. I was taught that the best way to guard your health was to ALWAYS be careful where your water came from. That's worked for me ever since as I've lived and worked in various developing nations in Asia and Latin America the last 20 years and have rarely been sick. A lot of people I've known have called me foolish for being so vigilant about where my water comes from...until they've come down with one of the numerous maladies that thrive in contaminated water and have spent days or weeks trying to regain their health.

    When I ride a motorcycle I have many hundreds of dollars worth of safety gear I wear. I spend more hundreds of dollars on trips on food, hotels, parts for my motorcycle, etc. Why wouldn't I spend a little extra money on bottled water when local water is often "questionable" at best?

    Being sick from water borne "bugs" is a real SOB! Yeah, I've been there. Before I started living outside the U.S....when I lived in Colorado and the water in my apartment unbeknown to me came straight out of the "pure" mountain stream that ran next to it. My motto, "Better safe than sorry."

    -JD
    #18
  19. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    I am nearing age 67 and one of many people that used to carry a "sierra cup" for water from streams- that ended a long time ago.Seems to have been in the 1970's maybe when most hikers/travelers stopped using them?
    Don't chance the water thinking you have the "Polish iron stomach" alluded to above! Not worth it.
    #19
  20. ta-rider

    ta-rider Returned from Africa

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    Hi,

    Well local People told me something else and so far i did not have problems in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Columbia as well...

    Greetings, Tobi
    http://schoene-motorradreisen.de/
    #20