FAQ: Can I drink the water in Loja Ecuador?


Many visitors ask about the safety of tap water in Ecuador and it's true, in some parts of the country one can become ill from the local H2O. This is not necessarily the case in Loja, but the answer is complicated.

Q. Is Loja tap water safe to drink?

A. Loja's potable water comes from the El Carmen watershed which is carefully managed for biodiversity and sustainability. Many native Lojanos do drink the water delivered to the tap, but many others only drink filtered or bottled water, especially in older neighborhoods that have not yet upgraded their delivery pipes.

As a traveler new to Ecuador it may be a wise precaution to purchase bottled water until your gut flora have adapted. If you only plan to spend a few weeks in the country then why risk having some of your vacation ruined by intestinal problems?

Expats settling in for the long haul will usually start out "safe" and drink bottled or filtered water for several months to a year before trying the potable liquid refresher. The refillable 5 gallon carboy bottles are popular and it is possible to arrange for home delivery.

A wide variety of filtering devices are used by expats and locals. Some connect to the kitchen sink faucet and use a simple diverter valve when filtered water is desired. Some are "tanks" that sit on the counter and water is poured into them at the top with filtered water extracted from the bottom. Still others prefer using larger systems that have multiple filters and clean through a process of osmosis or UV light. Which system you use may depend on your health (do you have any existing immune problems?) or on your level of anxiety about what you put into your body.

For those who do drink the publicly-supplied water, one thing you will notice is that Loja's water does not taste or smell of chlorine. The municipality also does not fluoridate the water. If you come from a North American city then you may find Loja's water a delight to not have those added "flavors."

If you still have concerns about potential microbes then you can always fall back onto the time-tested approach of boiling your water before use. The proper boiling time at our altitude is three minutes.

One more consideration in deciding what to drink - many (most) houses in Loja have their own water cisterns that "bank" water for times when the city water might be off or at low pressure. Usually these are located on a roof exposed to the heat of the sun. I've heard some people express concern that the plastic used for their construction might leach off chemicals into the water. Likewise, most houses are built using plastic water pipes. Is the use of plastic for tanks or pipes any more of a concern than water being delivered in a plastic bottle? I don't know, but it may be one more thing to think about in how you source your water.

Water is a vital necessity to life and especially so at altitude where one needs to consume even more. As I said, many Lojanos think nothing of it and drink straight from the tap. Others use bottled or filtered water. If you ask any given person then you'll hear everything from "I always drink it with no problems" to "I never touch it." In the end, it must be your decision on what approach you take that will provide the most peace of mind for you and your health.

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