We’ve all heard it said time and again: “Don’t drink the water in Mexico.” This is a well-known fact. During the municipal water distribution process, contamination occurs due to minerals and bacteria in the water lines making it unsafe for visitors and locals to drink. The bottled water business is big in Cozumel as practically everyone relies on purified water for drinking. What we are seeing now, especially during COVID when money is tight, is parents are forced to make very difficult choices – feed their families vs. buying purified drinking water or foregoing prescription medicine they need resulting in many health issues.
A few years ago, a donor of Friends of Cozumel introduced us to a ceramic water filter with charcoal inside that purifies tap or well water to make safe drinking water. This system uses a pair of 5-gallon plastic buckets. Tap or well water is poured into the top bucket and runs through the filter to be purified; then drips into the bottom bucket. Families access the purified water from the spigot in the bottom bucket. Our volunteers build wooden stands to provide a platform for the system. The filters are available from multiple sources including Amazon and MercadoLibre.
The breakdown of costs (in pesos) looks like this:
$280 – Ceramic Water Filter ($14 USD needs to be replaced every 12 months)
$200 – 2 Plastic Buckets
$40 – Plastic spigot
$80 – Wood and materials to build stand
$600 – Total (At 20 pesos to $1 USD the total cost is $30 USD)
A typical family of four people use approximately 3-5 large bottles of water (garafones) per week at a cost of $10-$33 pesos each ($.50 – $1.65USD), depending where they buy it. Rather than purchasing water, families could use the savings to buy a kilo of tortillas, beans or one week of savings could equal the cost of prescription medicine to control blood pressure or diabetes. A $30 USD investment by a donor is a significant resource to provide a family safe drinking water for a year before the filter needs to be replaced.
We recently delivered these four water systems to local families and taught them how to regularly clean the filters:
This family does not have access to city water. They draw their water by hand from a well. The system ensures that the water is safe for all 14 family members.
Assembling and distributing water purification systems is a focus for our Friends of Cozumel volunteer efforts now through first quarter 2021. The Christian Scuba Divers Organization who recently visited Cozumel is funding an initial set of water systems.