9 Common Germs in Drinking Water and How You Can Protect Yourself

Have you ever wondered what germs live in your drinking water? We have a list of common germs in drinking water that you might want to have a look at. Because having these germs in your water can be scary, we’re going to give you tips on how to protect yourself from them. Keep reading to learn all about it!


9 Common Germs in Drinking Water

Municipalities often purify tap water before it reaches your faucet. But sometimes, things go wrong in the distribution process, and germs find their way into your water anyway.

Common Germs In Drinking Water

Here are some common germs that could be present in your drinking water right now.


1. Cryptosporidium 

Sewage overflows and malfunctions can cause infected human or animal feces to enter your water supply. When this happens, you’re in danger of consuming cryptosporidium-contaminated water. Drinking this water causes unpleasant symptoms like watery diarrhea.


2. Campylobacter

Again, this bacteria enters your water through poop from infected humans or animals. This happens due to overflowing or malfunctioning sewages, contaminated stormwater runoff, or agricultural runoff. Its health effects include fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.


3. E.coli

E.coli is a type of bacteria that is usually found in the intestines of humans and animals. If it’s present in your drinking water, it means there’s a problem with your sewage. Consuming E.coli-infected water may lead to severe illness in children under five, older adults, and immunocompromised people. It causes diarrhea (sometimes bloody), severe stomach cramps, and vomiting.


4. Enterovirus

This virus enters our water supply when there’s a sewage malfunction or through polluted stormwater runoff. Its symptoms include fever, sneezing, cough, runny nose, mouth blisters, skin rash and body aches.


5. Giardia

Giardia is another common germ that enters our water supply through infected sewage or contaminated agricultural runoff. Common symptoms of drinking giardia-infected water include gas, greasy poop, diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.

Some people also present less common symptoms like itchy skin, fever, hives, swollen eyes and joints. However, some people with giardia infections don’t show any symptoms at all. 


6. Hepatitis A Virus

Drinking water contaminated with the hepatitis A virus leads to symptoms like upset stomach, yellow skin or eyes, fever, loss of appetite, light-colored stools, dark urine, joint pain and general tiredness. This virus also enters our water through contaminated fecal matter in malfunctioning sewage or polluted runoff.


7. Legionella

Legionella mainly exists in freshwater environments (think streams and lakes). But sometimes, this bacteria spreads in building water systems, like water heaters and faucets, hot tubs, cooling towers, or decorative fountains. Most legionella outbreaks happen in buildings with complex water systems, like hotels and hospitals. Symptoms here include fever, shortness of breath, cough, muscle pain, and headaches.


8. Norovirus

Common symptoms of this virus include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. It also gets into drinking water through infected fecal matter.


9. Rotavirus

Rotavirus finds its way into water from overflowing sewage or polluted stormwater runoff. The common symptoms here include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever. 

Other germs commonly found in water include salmonella and shigella.


How to Remove Germs from Drinking Water

Here are different ways you can remove germs from your water and make it safe for drinking:


1. Boiling

This is the oldest and safest (not to mention cheapest) way of removing germs from your water. To clean your drinking water by boiling, let the water boil for 1-3 minutes. If you live in a high-altitude area, you’ll need to boil your water a little longer. Allow the boiled water to cool before drinking (keep it covered while it cools).


2. Chlorination

Chlorination is another way to kill germs, parasites, and other organisms that could cause diseases in your water. You can purify your water using chlorine tablets or liquid chlorine. Chlorination is pretty cheap and effective, but it’s important to be careful when using this treatment method.

If you (or anyone at home) have thyroid problems, you’ll need to talk to a medical practitioner before you can chlorinate your water. If you’re using chlorine tablets, use them on heated water (they dissolve well in water over 21 °C). Chlorine tablets kill all bacteria and germs, making your water safe for drinking.


3. Reverse Osmosis Systems

Reverse osmosis is a water filtration method that filters water by passing it through a semipermeable membrane under high pressure. Reverse osmosis effectively removes microorganisms from water.

According to the CDC, reverse osmosis removes protozoa (cryptosporidium, giardia), bacteria (salmonella, shigella, campylobacter, E. coli), and viruses (norovirus, rotavirus, enteric, hepatitis A) from drinking water.  

As a bonus, it also removes other chemical contaminants, so you get all-round protection with a reverse osmosis system.


4. Ultraviolet Treatment Systems

UV treatment systems (with pre-filtration) are tailored to remove microorganisms specifically. The pre-filters are important to prevent particles and other larger contaminants from shielding the microorganisms from ultraviolet light. UV treatment works effectively for a plethora of microorganisms. However, unlike reverse osmosis, it will not remove chemicals and other non-biological contaminants. 

Whether you use tap or well water, microorganisms are most likely present in your water. The best way to protect yourself is by using available treatment methods and safeguarding your family’s health. Don’t hesitate to use the water treatment methods we mentioned in this article! 

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