Everyone knows that one of the most important things that you can do to stay healthy while traveling in a hot tropical country is to stay hydrated and drink lots of water. On the other hand, many travelers to countries in the developing are unsure about whether that water is safe to drink. This question has come up often with the visitors that we bring to Belize so we thought we'd shed a little light on the subject.
Unlike most other countries in Central America, the majority of Belize's villages and towns are outfitted with potable water systems. This means that the water is treated (usually with chlorine) to kill off harmful pathogens and bacteria. It also means that for the most part, you can drink the water straight from the tap in most parts of Belize with-out becoming ill. There are some areas where this is still not the case (especially in very rural areas, on some of the small cayes, and on portions of the coast), and the best way to know whether it is safe to drink the water is to ask the staff at your hotel.
Having potable drinking water right from the tap has many obvious benefits for the traveler, like the fact that you will not become ill from accidentally ingesting any water while performing normal hygiene functions like teeth brushing or showering. More importantly though, you can drink the tap water and refill your water bottles with it in most tourism locations. Bear this in mind, when you order water at a restaurant in the major towns and at resorts - don't feel obliged to buy a bottled water as you can get a glass of perfectly safe drinking water for free. Now, that being said, the water form the tap does not always taste very good because of the chlorine so you may opt to drink purified water anyway. Or perhaps you just want to play it safe. If so, you can buy purified water by the gallon (or in 5 gallon containers) at most grocery stores and most resorts and hotels provide purified water in the rooms or in the lobbies from which you can refill your water bottles.
A side benefit of having safe drinking water throughout Belize is that there seem to be far fewer cases of food-borne illnesses here than in neighboring countries. This is because the water used to wash vegetables, clean dishes, cook, and clean the kitchen is pathogen free and does not cross-contaminate the food. The common fear of becoming ill from eating raw or uncooked foods is actually misguided - what often makes people sick when they eat a salad in a country with contaminated water is not the raw vegetables themselves, but the water they were washed in. Food that has been un-refrigerated too long is more likely to make you ill here so keep that in mind when dining on street food - warm is always better than room temperature.
So when in Belize, don't shy away from water. Drink up! You'll need it that water to dilute all that seawater you swallowed on your snorkel tour and the free rum punch you drank on the sail back from the reef!