Thursday, February 11, 2010


I could make this blog extremely brief by merely saying “MERIDA DOES NOT HAVE A SEWER SYSTEM”! None at all! Period. End of story. End of blog.

However, that might leave you wondering what in the world does Merida, population 1,000,000, and growing, do with all its sewage!?! To understand the answer to that question, you need to understand a little about the geography and hydrogeology of the Yucatan Peninsula. Quite basically, the entire peninsula is nothing but pure limestone rock with a water table at approximately 20 – 25 feet down. There are parts of the peninsula that do not even have a viable layer of topsoil!

The entire city and surrounding areas use the septic system. Septic tanks are usually hand dug to a depth of approximately 3 – 5 meters (11 feet – 18 feet) deep, just above the water table. Wastewater is emptied into the septic tank and the water and waste material dissipates and filters through the limestone eventually leeching back into the water table. While this system is crude, it is functional. However, with an ever increasing population, there is great concern that the aquifer will become so polluted that it would be impossible to provide safe water to the residents. This fact, coupled with the ever increasing growth of the porcine and chicken farm industry, is a major concern to all involved. It is also the reason you cannot drink the water when you go to Mexico! You must buy and drink only bottled water that has been processed and purified.

The tourist industry in the Yucatan has spawned both commercial and residential growth in previously undeveloped land areas. The hotels and resorts that are springing up along the coastlines are now required to have wastewater collection and treatment systems. However, the support towns that grow around these resorts have few urban services such as piped drinking water or wastewater collection and treatment systems. The probability of contamination to the water table has become another major concern for the government and environmentalists, and for those of us that live here.

Some newer hotels and large stores in Merida have their own waste management and treatment systems in place and it is permissible to flush paper products down the toilet. This is not so in the vast majority of homes and other businesses, including restaurants. Absolutely no paper products are permitted. To do so would clog the septic system and require a very nasty, almost unforgiving, project of having it cleaned out.

Some newer homes being built have a separate special concrete holding tank for “agua negra” (sewage just from toilets), while other wastewater is directed into a regular septic tank. Both systems drain the water back into the ground, filtered through the limestone, but the special concrete holding tank requires cleaning out once every few years. Not really a viable option in my opinion.

So, until the government and city engineers come up with a more acceptable system, visitors, and we who choose to live here, have to deposit our paper products in (hopefully) covered trash receptacles in the bathrooms! No flushing the toilet tissue down the toilet! This is one of the most difficult things most folks have to adapt to. Some see it as utterly disgusting, but really, it is an absolute necessary evil. But if you think that practice is bad, have your septic tank cleaned out just once and you’ll be more than happy to comply with the (unwritten) rules!

You know the old cliché, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”!

Only drink purified, bottled water and don’t flush that toilet tissue (or any other paper product) down the toilet because Merida does not have a sewer system!! None at all! Period. End of story. End of blog.


  1. It is strange that my septic system seems to take paper without clogging up. Now I do get it pumped out every few years. I have a three tank system with no leach field. I think 1 million souls might be overloading the ability of the land to soak up all that poo-I predict some dug-up streets sometime soon.

  2. Very informative and thought provoking post, Mike. Nicely done.

  3. after spending 2 winters in mexico, i was so used to putting the toilet paper in the trash that it took me a while to get used to putting it in the toilet when i got back home.

    thanks for a very informative post.

    have a great wekend.

    teresa in lake stevens

  4. I have to chuckle Mike there was a similar post on "" about septic tanks man what a can of worms ......some realy interesting reading if your into it
    PS . I quite enjoy your blog would like to meat you the next time Im in Merida

  5. lol meet....

  6. Norm - Wow! A 3 tanker! Unheard of down here. All septics here are one tanker holes-in-the-ground. Point being made though, you have to pump it out every now and then!

    Anon - (Teresa) - I go thru the same thing when I go back to Florida! Old habits die hard!

    Lin - Thanx! Glad you enjoyed it.

    Jim - Thanx for the nice compliment. Next time you come to Merida, let me know and we'll meet for coffee or a beverage. I'm always up for mee4ting new friends.

  7. Interesting info.! My husband and I just bought a house in Merida, and we went round and round with each other on this topic. I said not to flush the TP, and he says just flush. Heck, we don't even know where our "septic" system is for sure (we have a guesstimate) or when the last time (if ever) it's been sucked out! We do have a well that's probably about 20 feet deep, but we need to get the water tested. I wouldn't even be comfortable using it for pool water until I find out looks like scary business down that hole. Fun, fun, fun!

  8. I guess we have to be thankful that in the mountains here, we have fresh water to drink without processing and septic tanks that allow us to flush the paper. The down side is that we had to put in 7000ft of water pipe when we built the house...a trade off for the warm sunny beaches vs the 8500ft elevation and cold.
    Why not go to composting toilets, they are fairly reasonable for homes at this point.

  9. Susan - I recommend you do not flush that TP! If used properly, a septic may never have to be sucked out! Flush that TP, and you'll soon learn where the septic is located! As far as using the well water to fill your pool, it is always a good idea to have it checked out, but I know several folks who use their wells to fill their pools here in the city. If you use the proper chemicals in your pool, you should have no problem!

    Welcome to Merida!

    Tancho - I've had the pleasure of drinking some of that great mountain water before! As far as composting toilets go, they are literally unheard of here in this area, and I have never seen one anywhere in the country (Mexico). You're correct about that trade off!

  10. Balamku, a lovely hotel/B&B, in Mahahual has composting [or some type of ecological] toilets. I believe there is a distributor in the Playa or Cancun area

  11. Hotels are places that provide accommodation and other services to people who want a place to stay temporarily. These

    Buenos Aires Tourism

  12. I consider this post as one of the best post ever. It is one f a kind I really admire chiropractic marketing the important ideas that you offer in the content. I am looking forward for more important thoughts and more blogs. Your such a lucky one to have this gift basket of knowledge. Keep it up !!!!
    Septic Tank Pumping