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Drinking water in the Philippines

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“You did not drink the Kool-Aid did you?” questioned my wife with a bit of panic in her voice. When I heard that my thoughts went back to Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 where Jim Jones the cult leader had almost a thousand of his followers drink Kool-Aid with cyanide mixed in.

“Yes Dear, I drank a cup of Kool-Aid.” I answered somewhat oblivious to the problem.

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“We made the Kool-Aid with tap water for the local children.” my wife explained.

I suffered no ill effects from drinking the Kool-Aid made with water from the tap in Bohol, Philippines. Ordinarily I do not drink tap water in the Philippines because I have heard it is dangerous, but sometimes I wonder if the water is not as bad as people say. The tap water I have seen is clear odorless and tasteless just as water should be. I have seen three different source of drinking water used in my visits to the Philippines. The three types I have seen are tap water, purified water and bottled water.

Tap Water

In the US I drink a lot of tap water. When at home I almost always drink tap water with my dinner because I know water is healthy and has no calories. At a restaurant I will always get a glass of ice water with my meal. Part of the reason for this is because I am frugal some would say cheap I do not want to pay $2 for a glass of tea, soda or bottled water. In the Philippines, I never drink water from a restaurant unless it is bottled. On occasions like the Kool-Aid incident I described when I have accidently drank the tap water, I have never gotten sick. My initial thoughts on the water quality in the Philippines are the water is unsafe to drink for a foreigner, but I suspect that the quality of the water probably varies greatly depending on where one is and possibly the season. I would think the wet season would be safer.

The water where I spend most of my time in the RP is freezing cold so it must be well water. What I know about well water is that the water is naturally filtered when it passes through the ground. My understanding of bacteria is that it does not do well at cold temperatures. I will repeat I do not and do not intend to regularly drink tap water in the Philippines. I do however rinse my mouth with tap water when I brush my teeth. The second source of water is my preferred choice.

Purified Water

Purified Water

Purified Water

Every couple of days when I am visiting in Bohol a guy on a tricycle brings two big maybe 5 gallon jugs of purified water I think they charged 30 pesos for the water and delivery. This is what I personally drink and I drink a lot of it because the weather is hot and I like to stay hydrated. “What is purified water?” you might ask. My honest answer, “I don’t know, but it works for me.” I assume it is filtered in some way, but I honestly don’t know for sure how. Sometimes I wonder if the water purification site simply puts tap water in the big blue jugs and sell it as purified water. It is inexpensive, I have never had a problem and my wife feels it is safe enough for me. My wife does not however feel confident enough in the purified water to give it to our kids. Our children drink from the third source.

Bottled Water

When I was young if someone told me drinking water would sell for the same price as soda I would not have believed them. Our kids drink bottled water and we believe this is the safest water. I know for a fact that is the least economical source. As I said before I am frugal. It also is not very convenient since we have to haul it from town every few days.

Filtered Water

I have never seen anyone use a filter on a tap in the Philippines for drinking water, but my experience is very limited in that I have never actually visited the home of an expat.

Questions: I enjoy reading this site and writing an occasional article for information and entertainment purposes. The articles I write are generally about things I am curious about and would like to learn more about or see commented on. If you feel I am picking your brain, I hope it isn’t hurting too much. Because I have questions I would like to ask expats or visitors who may have greater or different experiences than I have had from my visits to the Philippines.

  1. What is your drinking water source in the Philippines?
  2. Have you ever gotten sick from drinking water?
  3. Do you have any insights into how water is purified in the Philippines?
  4. Do you have any information on the safety of tap water in various locations? I have seen in my limited research that some feel the water quality is better in the provinces than the cities and I have also seen the opposite opinion expressed.
  5. Any questions or comments you would like to make on this topic.
Posted in ,

Jay Stainback

Jay Stainback lives in Raleigh, NC, USA and is hoping/planning to retire to Bohol in about 10 years. He is married to his beautiful Filipina wife Juliet whom he met on-line. They were married 12/7/02 and have two boys’ ages 9 years old and 5 years old. Jay has visited the Philippines 4 times the first time 1 week, the 2nd time 2 weeks, the 3rd time for 3 weeks, the 4th time 4 weeks spending most of their time in Bohol.

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Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
8 years ago

Jay; Water fears according to Paul; we drink delivered mineral water which by the way is filtered and processed using the same type of equipment as the bottled water you spend too much on. Go to the building and check out how it’s filtered before you have it delivered. The earth needs 50 feet to clean water, so if you are visiting someone with a 30 foot well, don’t drink it. At our house we have a 380 foot deep well with really pure water, and now we have city water too and that is good also. The reason we… Read more »

john.j.
john.j.
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Paul Thomson drinking water !!!!!!!!!!! god help us lol lol

corey
corey
8 years ago
Reply to  john.j.

Caught me by surprise as well LOL

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  corey

Thanks Paul for the great information! That is exactly what I was looking for. I think Corey and John.J thought all you drank was beer. Now I have gotten sick from drinking beer a few times mostly in my younger days but that is a different story.

Brian Silver
Brian Silver
8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Probably not a great example but last year I unwittingly had some ice in a dessert at a restaurant whilst on holiday in Manila and ended up in hospital a few days later back home in the UK with severe dhiorhea and almost complete kidney failure. I lost around 30 pounds in weight in less than 2 weeks. Turned out I had picked up a parasitic virus of some sort.If it wasn’t for my wife being a nurse and recognising I was in severe trouble one night and rushing me straight to A+E I may very well not be here… Read more »

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian Silver

Thanks for the comment! This is good information that one does need to know that really bad things can happen from consuming ice.

everaixavgreene
everaixavgreene
7 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

I dont think so in all cases that the water is safe in 50-foot drop underground. Some waters are still dirty not safe to drink because of the presence of fossil (decay organism underneath that may contain bacteria, microorganism and chemical reactiins like methane [from feces deposits, humus and decayed materials]. So, it’ll very sure safe if you check it to the experts first.

Jay
Jay
7 years ago

Hi everaixavgreene,

Thanks for commenting! You make a lot of good points. Contamination can also come from the pipes the water travels through for that matter. It is of course impossible to eliminate all risks, but it is best to use common sense.

Axel
Axel
8 years ago

I drink tap water here in our place, before i started i noticed all “locals” did it, so why not me? No problem, the water here is fine. Ok, we live an a good subdivision, maybe there’s a difference. We live near Angles City. I do not drink tap water from places i don’t know about and where they get the water from. About purified water i know a lot as a matter of fact. First, if you want to be sure it’s not just tapwater on bottles, go to the refilling station and ask for the monthly report. Every… Read more »

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Axel

Thanks Axel for the great information! I was planning on visiting the water purification site on my next visit. I think you are correct about the quality of tap water being different in different location and it is wise to err on the safe side.

Jerome Gilbert
8 years ago

I spent 3 weeks in Manila in March-April of 2012, and I used tap water in the hotel for drinking and making coffee. I also bought bottled water when out and about (in addition the hotel provided 2 bottles per day), I did not notice any problems, etc. I also would just refill the empty bottles which the hotel provided and freeze them overnight (I too, and much too frugal to buy bottled water unless absolutely cannot be avoided). It may be different since I was in the middle of the “big city”, but I totally agree with the 50-foot… Read more »

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Jerome Gilbert

Thanks Jerome! I know a Filipina who lives here in the states who claimed she got sick from the ice in her drink at Jolibees in Manila, but I think she just said that so she could spend an extra week back home. She figured she could extend her leave from work.

David Tamares-Little
David Tamares-Little
8 years ago

There are a lot of things to consider when drinking tap water or even spring water. It is all dependent on how good the local sewage system is and whether the local housing uses good filtration systems for their waste water. Remember that any overflow of polluted water goes into the ground water which is where most of our tap water comes from. Bottled water is probably best if you are an occasional visitor as your immune system will not be acclimatised to any minor bugs in the tap water particularly if your area has had a lot of flooding… Read more »

Jay
Jay
8 years ago

Thanks David! I think you are correct about getting acclimated to the water. That filtered flask sounds like a good investment.

corey
corey
8 years ago

Coming from Miami where water is heavily chlorinated I have always used a filtration system in my house. Most restaurants and fountains there filter their water so no problem. Here in the Philippines I have tended to drink and bathe with water from most any source and so far no problems until I moved to our place in Davao. Here, I now have a whole house filtration system from necessity. We have a 2000L tank with sediment and carbon filters as well as a water softener. This is all powered by a 1/2hp pump and I get great pressured and… Read more »

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  corey

Thanks Corey for the information about filtering water at home! I did not realize low water pressure was such a problem. I have not seen a shower where I visited we just use the bucket and cold water.

RexDavao
RexDavao
8 years ago
Reply to  corey

Hi Corey,

Davao indeed was known for the cleanest water few years ago, and the pressure thing is also true. 🙂

MindanaoBob
8 years ago
Reply to  RexDavao

The water pressure in Davao also depends on what part of the city you are in. When we lived in Marfori, water pressure was always a problem. In the area where we are now, there is usually (I said USUALLY) adequate pressure.

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  MindanaoBob

Hi Bob, Here where I am in the US the water pressure is good most everywhere regardless of whether or not there is electricity because of water towers. Basically the water is kept in a high place and gravity provides the pressure. Water towers are a fairly common sight here in the US. In my rather limited experience in the Philippines I don’t recall seeing water towers. I know there are some because one commentator mentioned one near Angeles City. Do you know of a practical reason why water towers are not used more in the Philippines? Just curious. Thanks… Read more »

Warren Olsen
Warren Olsen
8 years ago
Reply to  Jay

Actually, if you look out over Manila you will see that many buildings have there own water towers.

Certainly the condominium complex where I live has its own water tower.

It is really just a matter of individual rather than centralised water tower provision. It also has the advantage of providing storage, which helps with continuity of supply. Like most third-world countries, supply disruptions are not uncommon here

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Warren Olsen

Thanks Warren! I don’t spend much time in Manila and I guess I did not notice the towers.

Lenny
Lenny
8 years ago

I have used bottled water here for 9 years…………….everything is fine..and for 30 peso’s I am happy

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Lenny

Thanks for the comment Lenny! How big a bottle do you get for 30 peso’s?

Lenny
Lenny
8 years ago
Reply to  Jay

5 gallons

John Reyes
8 years ago

Before you place that drinking glass under a water tap, you might want to read this first:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/oddnews/family-discovers-their-faucet-water-is-flammable-191347861.html?vp=1

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

Thanks John! I have seen stories like this being caused by Fracking. My state NC just legalized it here. I guess on Independence Day we can just light a match under the tap and watch the fire come out the tap.

John Miele
John Miele
8 years ago

Paul Thomson’s advice is good and sound, especially in the more remote provinces. In Abulug, they drink a combination of rainwater and well water… None of which is treated. Paul’s mention of the cesspool bears repeating… There is no municipal water or sewage there, and waste needs to go somewhere. There are many bugs and parasites that you can get from untreated water in the Philippines, most of which have been largely eradicated in the West, and some which can take weeks or months to show symptoms. Up there, they boil water before drinking. Often, what you think may be… Read more »

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  John Miele

Thanks John for your contribution! Does the Philippines utilize gravitational water pressure? I do not remember seeing any water towers over there, but I have not traveled many places. With gravitational water pressure pressure would not be a problem unless power was out for an extended period of time.

Miss August
Miss August
8 years ago

We have very “soft water” where live in Avida Residences (a gated community) in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. I don’t think they use water softener in our subdivision but it’s really good water. I still have mineral water deliver in 5 gallon jug for our drinking water. But I use tap water for brushing my teeth and have never had any problem.

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Miss August

Thanks for the information on your area Miss August!

apostolos
apostolos
8 years ago

well,8 years ago i was staying in palawan,puerto princesa and i got typhoid fever….i spend 6 days in adventist hospital.i dont drink tap water because i know what happens….but doctors told me i can get typhoid from the ice cubes they use for the drinks…..i hope nobody will get this typhoid fever because is a terrible experiance and very very dangerous…..so my friends be always careful with the water in philippines…since then i drink only beer and the purified water they sell in the 5 gallon jugs and never had problem..

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  apostolos

Thanks for sharing your experience! I have heard of people getting sick from the water and I am sure there is a lot of differences in the quality of the water in different locations. Drinking beer and purified water sounds like a good idea.

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