Treating Bacteria in Drinking Water

Posted by Stephen Lagger on July 03, 2019

Treating Bacteria In Drinking Water

Source of bacteria in drinking water

Not all types of bacteria in water are harmful. Some are just naturally occurring organisms, which are harmless to your health. Pathogenic bacteria cause diseases and contaminate drinking water. Harmful pathogenic bacteria can cause typhoid, dysentery, gastroenteritis, infectious hepatitis, and cholera, among other illnesses. All water supplies should be tested for biological content prior to use and consumption.

One type of bacteria, E. coli (Escherichia Coli) is often a concern in private wells. E. coli is found in the intestines and fecal matter of humans and animals. Its presence in water, along with high nitrate and chloride levels, usually indicates that waste has contaminated the water supply from a septic system or sewage dumping. This intrusion can happen through a fractured well casing, broken pipes, or flooding.

If coliform bacteria are present in water, so may disease-causing bacteria. Four or fewer colonies of coliforms in 100 mL of water excluding high nitrates and chlorides implies that surface water has entered your water system. The most common non-pathogenic bacteria found in water is iron bacteria. Iron bacteria in water can be readily identified by the red, feathery floc that forms overnight at the bottom of a container of water.

Symptoms of bacteria

Different bacteria cause different symptoms. Legionella causes pneumonia, and E. coli causes bloody diarrhea and cramping. The elderly, children, and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk. These people may have more severe symptoms or longer lasting symptoms, including possible liver or kidney damage.

Water treatment for bacteria in drinking water

Bacterial contaminants can be very dangerous. Private water supplies are especially in danger. Wells can be easily contaminated by sewage or agricultural runoff.

Well owners should test at least every six months for the presence of bacteria.

Depending on existing water conditions, pretreatment may be necessary to eliminate sediment or certain elements such as hardness, iron, or manganese before any disinfection process can be effective.

Water treatment options

Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection

UV disinfection uses natural radiation to deactivate bacteria's ability to reproduce and cause illness. UV systems are produced in many sizes to accommodate any household flow rate requirements.

Advantages of UV disinfection

  • Non-toxic by-products
  • No hazardous chemicals
  • Minimal space required
  • Little maintenance needed

Ceramic filters

Ceramic filters have small pores that allow water to pass through while rejecting the contaminants— they do all of this without electricity.


During distillation, living organisms are destroyed, purifying the water.

Ultrafiltration (UF)

UF systems use a hollow fiber membrane to reduce bacteria. These under sink drinking water systems are an ideal low-cost alternative to reverse osmosis technology.

Shock chlorination

Shock chlorination is a onetime treatment option designed to kill bacteria in the well itself. This is often just a temporary solution that can be rendered ineffective through improper application.

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