Don't Drink the Water?
Years ago, the rule throughout Mexico was, don’t drink the water.
We moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 1997 and one of the selling features
of our beautiful new villa was an in-house water purification system.
It had dual cartridges, one charcoal, the other chemically treated paper,
and dual ultra violet lamps for additional treatment. We also had filtration
units below the kitchen sink as well as in the refrigerator. Even with
the household treatment, purification, and filtration systems, we were
told to thoroughly rinse all vegetables and fruit in water treated with
Microdyn, a chemical used for killing bacteria, etc. For additional protection,
we were instructed to take a three day treatment of pills every six months
in order to prevent becoming ill from amoeba or bacteria. With all the
aforementioned filtration, purification, and medication, we still used
bottled water to brush our teeth and were suspect of ice cubes! Of course,
when dining in restaurants, we would have only bottled drinks and would
rely on our semi-annual drug treatment to protect us from getting sick.
Approximately seven years ago, Puerto Vallarta, known as Vallarta or PV
by the locals, constructed new water treatment and purification systems
throughout the city. During the past seven years, we have become more
and more lax when it comes to maintaining our in-house purification system.
In fact, we haven’t changed the ultraviolet lamps for more than
five years and the charcoal/paper cartridges for two years. The ultraviolet
lamps have been dead for at least three of those years; however we did
rinse the paper filter cartridge a year ago. The sale of Microdyn in Vallarta
has probably dropped to almost zero, since all fruit, vegetables, etc.
are purchased in large, modern, and clean supermarkets, comparable to
Safeway and Kroger in the US. The bottled water truck that used to pass
our villa, ringing its bell on a daily basis, hasn’t been seen in
Ten years ago, the local grocery stores were filthy, non-air-conditioned,
and with flies everywhere as one might expect in Mexico. The situation
was dramatically changed when Sam´s Club and Walmart moved to PV
five years ago. In order to compete and survive, all new grocery stores
had to be large, clean, air-conditioned, and ultra modern. The existing
stores either remodeled or closed the doors.
Ten years ago, only a handful of restaurants were air-conditioned and
their kitchens were all totally unregulated as was their source of foods.
Today, they are all inspected on a regular basis and if they don’t
meet the strict standards, they are red
tagged, locked up, and sometimes put out of business. The last thing the
restaurateurs can afford is to have tourists return home sick. During
the ten years we’ve lived here, we’ve met many visitors, mainly
on the golf course. Only a handful of them complained of stomach pains
or head aches and in every case, they admitted that their problems were
brought on by an over-consumption of margaritas or cervezas during the
previous evening, and it wasn’t the cubed or crushed ice! There
are hundreds of fine restaurants in Vallarta offering every type of cuisine
imaginable and there should be no fear of food poisoning in any of them.
Today, the risk of becoming ill in Vallarta from drinking the water, eating
in restaurants, or shopping at the local supermarket is about the same
as in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles. Of course the corner taco stand
could be suspect and water taken from some village in the hills twenty
miles out of PV could create problems, however, the thought of “don’t
drink the water” never occurs to us anymore in Vallarta.