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How to Drink the Tap Water in Cuenca Ecuador

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!”

How to Drink The Tap Water in Cuenca

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 200 ft 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 illnesses 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

We were drinking 3-4 large bottles each week. At $2.00 per bottle, it cost us roughly $8 per week or over $400 per year. It’s not a fortune but still a significant expense.

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.

Check out the Countertop Water Filter on 

There are two parts that need to be replaced: the ceramic dome (lasts 12 months) and the 5 stage  filter cartridge (lasts 6 months).

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

  1. Compared to the over $400 we were spending on delivered water, this unit will pay for itself within 6 months
  2. We don’t have to worry about running out of drinking water
  3. We don’t have the mountain of plastic bottles to store
  4. We have fresher and cleaner water

The filtration systems has two filters. The top flat disk  is the ceramic filter. This really is the most important because it filters out bacteria and debris. The secondary lower filter has five stages and I’m not to sure on the science with all of this – but I don’t think it hurts.

Check out the Countertop Water Filter on 

I recently wrote another article about portable water filters. I cover filters for both travelers and expats. Read that post here.

Do you drink the tap water? How do you get drinking water in Cuenca – or where you live abroad?

Sam Riley

Saturday 19th of December 2015

Bryan, did you realize that your links now take readers to a totally different water filter system? This, I believe is the one in your pictures.

Bryan Haines

Tuesday 29th of December 2015

Thanks for this correction Sam. I have adjusted the link - I'm not sure what happened. The Zen brand is a great product and costs much less than similar products. Thanks again!


Thursday 17th of September 2015

"How many of us used to drink tap water back home? Probably not too many – " Really? Of course I drink tap water in the US.

Bryan Haines

Friday 18th of September 2015

Glad to hear you have good water where you live. In North America, many people supplement the municipal water system with home filtration - to add/remove certain elements and to improve flavor. And of course, the size of the bottled water industry suggests that many people don't drink the tap water.

SteriPEN Ultra Review (w/ Lab Test Results) South America – GringosAbroad

Friday 5th of September 2014

[…] Before we moved to Ecuador, we looked into water filtration and sterilization methods. At home, we use a counter-top water filter. Read our review. […]

Yaze Hun

Monday 1st of September 2014

Cuenca has the best drinking water in South-America: “Cuenca’s water is better than most water supplies in Europe and North America. We suggest the city’s tap water is better, in fact, than most bottled water available locally.” Hamburg, Germany-based International Drinking Water Council (IDWC) 2008


Sunday 17th of August 2014

Is the tank on this filtration system made of plastic or glass?

Bryan Haines

Sunday 17th of August 2014

It is plastic.