Planning to take your RV to Mexico for the winter and worried if the water is safe? Don’t worry, we spent a few months in northern Mexico and were able to treat and drink the local water without any ill effects.
Disclaimer: We stayed within the free zone in Sonora and Baja California. Therefore we didn’t test our setup in southern Mexico.
We used our filtration system on multiple RVs (it’s portable) and no one got sick from drinking the water in Mexico.
Skip to our RV water filtration and treatment setup, our Mexico-specific modifications and coupon codes to buy your own Acuva UV water purification system or RVWaterFilerStore.com canisters filter setup.
Also, be sure to check out RVing in Mexico: Comprehensive Guide to Paperwork, Insurance, Safety and Everything Else You Need to Know to Cross the Border to ensure you don’t miss any necessary steps before heading south of the border.
What happens if you drink water in Mexico?
Many tourists are negatively impacted by contaminated tap water or food in Mexico. You may have heard of Montezuma’s revenge, traveler’s trots, or Montezuma’s curse.
The most common side effects are diarrhea, abdominal or intestinal discomfort, and cramps. It’s the last way you want to spend a vacation in beautiful Mexico. We took precautions and stayed safe from water-borne illness while in Mexico.
Why does Mexico water make you sick?
Water in all countries contains different microorganisms or tiny organisms. When visiting a new place, our bodies are not used to the local water and it can make you sick even if the organisms aren’t life-threatening pathogens. Mexicans visiting America can get sick from the tap water just like Americans get sick from the water in Mexico. However, in addition to less serious organisms, some water in Mexico can contain giardia, cryptosporidium, e.coli, salmonella or viruses which can make you very sick.
In many areas of Mexico, the water system also suffers from contamination caused by sewage or agricultural runoff. We decided to treat all of our water while in Mexico to ensure we didn’t get sick. It is possible to treat water from Mexican sources to make it potable and safe to drink.
Why is Mexico tap water bad?
The water in Mexican cities is generally treated and sanitized just like city water in America. However, the pipes that deliver the water to taps in Mexico can be contaminated with agricultural chemicals or other toxic waste. Many factors impact water quality in Mexico including poor or damaged delivery and treatment infrastructure, drought and climate change.
Decreasing water tables caused by climate change the availability of pure water has drastically decreased. Precious water is often lost due to broken or damaged pipelines. Due to drought, the availability of vital water sources has decreased in Mexico and throughout the world during recent years.
Mexico water quality
Additionally, natural disasters, such as earthquakes, combined with aging infrastructure have contributed to damaged treatment plants and pipes. This results in constant water contamination in many cities which impacts the safety of drinking water in Mexico.
For example, the pumps at Tijuana’s aging sewage treatment facility are failing and cannot keep up with the city’s waste demands. Therefore overflowing sewage contaminates the Tijuana water treatment facility and actually flows into the ocean. We saw these impacts in nearby San Diego. Southern California residents have considered many proposals to fund the necessary Tijuana improvements in the interest of their local beaches.
Drinking Water in Mexico 2022
I know it might sound outdated but in 2022 drinking untreated tap water in Mexico is not advised. Thankfully there are many options to treat water if traveling to Mexico in an RV, on a plane or via another method.
Is the water in Mexico safe to drink?
No, water in Mexico is not safe to drink.
The water in Mexico might not make you sick but honestly, it’s not worth the risk to me.
We researched the options and updated our multi-step system to treat any water entering our RV storage tanks in Mexico. By treating our own RV water in Mexico we could drink it without worrying about sickness.
Can you drink well water in Mexico?
It is not recommended to drink any water directly from the tap in Mexico including well water.
Can locals drink water in Mexico?
Locals can drink the water in Mexico but most do not because it is not safe. Locals in Mexico either buy filtered water or add house filtration systems for drinking rather than drinking untreated tap water.
Why can’t I drink water in Mexico?
Water contains different micro-organisms in Mexico that can make Americans sick. Diarrhea and/or intestinal discomfort are the most common side effects of drinking unfiltered tap water in Mexico.
How long does it take to get sick from water in Mexico?
The human body absorbs liquids within a few hours. Therefore you’ll likely get sick within a few hours of consuming unclean water in Mexico. It is possible to not get sick from the water in Mexico because some sources are safe but it is not a wise gamble.
Can you shower in Mexico?
Yes, we showered with untreated Mexican water without any negative side effects. Remember, do not rinse your mouth or swallow any water while showering. It is safe to shower freely in Mexico without risking getting sick from the water.
Can you cook with water in Mexico?
Yes, you can cook with water in Mexico. When cooking, you can kill any bacteria or parasites living in the water by boiling it first.
Boiling Water in Mexico
It’s best practice to reach a rolling boil and hold for a least 5 minutes before adding any food to the pot. Boiling water in Mexico will kill any parasites and keep you safe from possible sickness.
Can you brush your teeth with water in Mexico?
It depends. We’ve heard stories of tourists brushing their teeth with water in Mexico with no negative side effects. If possible, it is safest to brush your teeth with filtered water in Mexico because it’s very easy to swallow water while brushing your teeth.
Accidentally Brushed Teeth with Mexico Water
It’s okay if you accidentally brushed your teeth with Mexican water, you may not have any negative side effects especially if you didn’t swallow any water. The small quantities of water used to brush your teeth will not likely cause negative side effects but it’s recommended to use filtered tap water.
There’s not much you can do if you do accidentally brush your teeth with Mexico water other than wait and hope you’ll not have any side effects.
Can You Purify Mexican Water
Absolutely, you can purify Mexican water to make it safe for drinking. There are several schools of thought on purifying water and the best methods.
How to Make Mexican Water Drinkable: Options to Treat Water
Mexican water is not drinkable due to pathogens, bacteria and viruses. There are multiple ways to make Mexican water drinkable including:
- Chemical water additives
- Common brands include Portable Agua and Purogene. These treat the water using chemicals to kill bacteria and viruses. Pathogens such as ecoli or samonella may survive even after chemical water treatment. Therefore it is recommended to combine chemical water additives with a mechanical method to remove pathogens before drinking water in Mexico. Ideal for ease of use while backpacking or car camping.
- Reverse Osmosis
- Reverse osmosis or RO systems can be quite pricey and are notoriously inefficent. For every gallon of pure water created, the system creates two or three gallons of waste water. Most RO systems are too slow to pressurize directly to the faucet and require holding tanks. Ideal for long term use in home installations.
- Carbon block filters
- Carbon blocking filters are great for removing taste and odor issues in water. Other benefits of carbon water filters are removing some chemicals, pesticides, VOC’s, PFC’s, lead and some heavy metals. However carbon filters are too porous to filter out any small bacteria or pathogens that might make you sick. Best for clean water sources or when combined with other solutions.
- Ceramic filters
- Ceramic filters are great for filtering water in Mexico but can be super slow due to the tiny filter holes that make it effective. The flow rate of one filter is too slow use directly out of the faucet but it removes 99.999% of all bacteria.
- We used the Virus Hero 2.0 from the RV Water Filter Store which provides the same filtration as a traditional ceramic filters but with 3-4x the flow rate. The Virus Hero 2.0 was part of our solution to drink the tap water in Mexico. Disclaimer: it is not rated for fluoride, Totally Dissolved Solids, chloramines and other potentially harmful material so it’s not 100% flawless. Best for clean water sources or when combined with other solutions.
- UV water treatment systems
- UV or ultraviolet systems treat water by exposing pathogens to sanitizing UV light rays. UV systems are great for killing bacteria, cysts and other pathogens in water. When shopping, we chose the Acuva Eco LED UV light because it uses less power, creates less heat and require less maintenance than traditional or less expensive flurorescent UV light systems. Additionally, Acuva offers a 12 volt powered option which appealed to us. It only turns on when in use which means we are only using power when we are running water thru our drinking faucet or refrigerator. Additionally, the LED bulb in the Acuva is a solid state bulb which means it won’t break like traditional glass bulbs and quartz tubes when installed in moving RVs or boats. Ideally should be combined with other solutions because sediment can cause UV systems to be less effective.
Is it safe to drink water from RV tanks?
We always drink and use our RV holding tank water. Most of our full-time RV friends also drink their holding tank water. The filtration systems in RVs vary from a simple in-line carbon filter or to a multi-stage system like ours. We even have friends who rely on a countertop gravity-fed Berkey to filter their drinking water.
Reducing plastic waste is very important to us and our primary beverage is water. Therefore we designed our system to allow us to safely drink water from our RV holding tank regardless of our location and the municipal water supply. We enjoy drinking water and our filtration removes all odors, flavors and bacteria from all water.
Our RV Water Treatment System
Our standard (non-Mexico) RV water treatment system includes 2 separate filtration systems: an outdoor primary three-canister system and an under sink secondary system.
The primary RV water treatment system is a three-canister style filter mounted under our motorhome in our water bay compartment. The portable canister set can easily be removed and attached to another RV if you want to share your filters with neighbors or friends. It treats water before it ever enters our motorhome.
We purchased the original canister system setup, custom length hoses and filters from the RV Water Filter Store. Their website offers a lot of educational videos and articles about water filtration for RVs and boats. They also offer great customer support, competitive pricing, and easy ordering and shipping.
Our standard canister setup treats water using a reusable 5-micron pleated sediment filter then a 1-micron filter and finally a 0.5-micron carbon blocking filter. The canister set can also be used with standard-sized filters available on Amazon or at big box home improvement stores.
Based on location, we can change these filters to meet water treatment local needs. Jump here to learn how we updated this system to be able to safely drink tap water in Mexico.
Finally, all of our drinking water from our RV holding tank also goes thru a secondary treatment system located under our kitchen sink. The under sink system includes a redundant carbon filter and an Acuva UV treatment system. It is linked to a countertop drinking faucet and our refrigerator’s in-door water spigot and built-in icemaker.
This system kills bacteria, removes fluoride and chloramines from our water before we drink it. Our under-sink water filtration system is the next level of purity and it’s critical if drinking safe water from US municipal sources. We didn’t add this system until we had been RVing for many years.
Purifying Water in Mexico: Our RV Water Treatment Setup
Prior to taking off for a few months of RVing in northern Mexico, after researching a few options, we contacted the RV Water Filter Store for professional guidance in updating our three canister water filtration systems. With their guidance, we are safely purifying and drinking tap water in Mexico.
The only update required to our standard water treatment systems was replacing one of the filters in our three canister system. Our standard setup includes a reusable 5-micron pleated sediment filter then a 1-micron filter and finally a 0.5-micron carbon blocking filter.
To prepare for Mexico, we updated our filter set up to be a 1-micron filter, then a 0.5-micron carbon blocking filter and finally the Virus Hero 2.0 which is a 0.2-micron filter. So two of the filters weren’t changed from our usual setup but were shifted to make room for the Virus Hero to be the final step.
The Virus Hero filters pathogenic bacteria down to 0.2 microns.
It is marketed with a relatively high flow rate (4 gallons per minute) compared to other products.
However, in real life, we found this means the low pressure in Mexican campgrounds combined with the superfine filter it may take up to an hour to fill a large Class A freshwater holding tank when running water through the filters first.
After returning to the US with strong campground water pressure, we were able to use the filter without our pump. The water pressure in Mexico isn’t great so it would be nearly impossible to use city water inside your RV as it is being filtered from the source.
You really need decent water pressure to get a good faucet flow rate with the Virus Hero. So in Mexico, we found it was best to filter the water into our tanks, then utilize the water pump and tank water for everyday use.
We found it works best to fill RV tanks in Mexico using a portable water bladder at your campsite unless you have a dedicated water connection at your campsite. This means you won’t hold up other RVers waiting for the filters to work their magic at the communal water-fill faucet.
Is the Water Safe when RVing in Mexico?
It is not safe to drink untreated tap water in Mexico and I wouldn’t recommend adding it to your RV holding tanks either. Instead, we suggest investing a little bit of money into a purpose-built virus filter like the Virus Hero 2.0 before RVing in Mexico. We loved being able to drink our tank water without worrying about getting sick.