Can You Drink Tap Water in the Galapagos?

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No, it is not advisable to drink tap water in Galapagos. Galapagos tap water is generally salty and unfit for human consumption. Most of the water is not purified, and some are later mixed with dirty water. So it’s not worth the risk.

Limited resources are available to provide clean drinking water to an increasing number of residents and tourists. Families now drink brackish water from taps distributed several hours a day.

Inadequate sharing of water supply costs is a barrier to water supply improvement. All yachts and most hotels on the Galapagos have clean drinking water in dispensers. This drinking water should also be used to brush your teeth.

Additionally, larger populations put stress on water resources. Due to the contamination of all the islands with human wastewater, the Floreana and Isabela Islands must import both their drinking water and groundwater supplies.

The islands rely heavily on rain, making them more susceptible to droughts as more people depend on it.

Drinking Water Supply in Galapagos

Drinking tap water is not generally a good idea anywhere in Ecuador. The water that reaches homes, businesses, and tourist attractions in Puerto Ayora, the province’s most populous city, is still brackish and unfit for human consumption.

It is taken from subterranean aquifers on this volcanic island. It is a combination of seawater and rainwater, as well as minerals and man-made pollution. Residents must preserve it because there is only a two to four-hour window each day while it is available.

Due to all of these factors, having potable water is an old claim made by the town’s 20,000 residents, who get it as a set campaign promise every election season that still exists in that or unfinished projects.

The provision of drinking water to the main islands was the subject of an international tender only this century, in 2001, issued by the Gustavo Noboa government. Lucio Gutiérrez’s administration awarded the contract, but nothing more came of it. The Alfredo Palacio administration tried again, but it was unsuccessful.

Since 2013, the less populated San Cristóbal, Isabela, and Floreana islands have had access to potable water. But for the past six years, Puerto Ayora has been extending the seemingly never-ending wait.

How Did We Ensure That The Water We Drink During Our Trip Is Safe? 

We rented a small house during our stay in Puerto Ayora, the capital of Santa Cruz Island, and drinking water is a huge problem.

The first thing the owner told us was not to drink tap water. There is little fresh water in the Galapagos. And the freshwater they have is polluted by sewage.

We only ate in restaurants that appeared to be tidy and didn’t use wet glasses (they want to get the glasses and put them on the table to ensure they’re clean, but that water is probably from the tap).

We gave up cold beverages and ice that may be made from tap water. We stayed away from ice cubes, salads, and other foods that have been washed with water (because you need to check if the water is clean). 

I consuming food and drinking water at the Galapagos hotel

We ate only fruits and vegetables that we could peel by ourselves and avoid raw or undercooked foods. Fruit shakes and juices were very appealing. Many vendors add water to their drinks, but we only purchased from places that looked clean and used purified water. 

Ecuadorians are very friendly and will often offer you something to drink. I sat in someone’s kitchen and watched them put lemon and tap water in a blender and make me a drink, but I just politely refused. 

We always asked for bottled water during our hotel stay. Of course, drinking water was no problem when we went on a Galapagos last-minute cruise. The water on board is clean. Ice used onboard is made with purified water.

The cabin is stocked with reusable bottles made from recycled aluminum. There are purifiers in the main bar, pool bar restaurant, and disembarkation area to refill the bottles during our cruise. After all the activities on the island, you must take the bottle back to the ship, but I took it home as a souvenir.

If you can’t find a bottled drink or boil the water, use a water filter that removes bacteria and viruses and add iodine tablets to the filtered water to make it safer. We found water filters at camping and outdoor stores. Before buying an air purifier, ensure it removes viruses and bacteria. Otherwise, the water looks clean, but there are critters so small that it makes you sick. 

The residents succeeded in reminding us to use purified water to brush our teeth and not to let the water get in our mouths while in the shower.

Bottom Line

If you get sick while traveling, it may be due to contaminated water or food. As a tropical country, Ecuador is rife with bacteria and parasites, and the Galapagos Islands are no exception.

Although most cases are mild, no one is safe from traveler’s diarrhea. Of course, only drink water from the bottle, never from the tap.

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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