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Is There Bacteria in Your Tap Water?


Each year, more than seven million cases of waterborne infections occur in the United States due to bacteria in tap water. These infections often lead to hospitalizations and, in severe cases, even death, according to the CDC.

The harmful bacteria present in water can cause flu-like symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, cramps, or fever. These illnesses can be particularly severe in vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, or visitors who are not accustomed to the bacteria.

If you or a family member experience symptoms related to your drinking water, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional and have your water tested.

What are bacteria?

Bacteria are single-celled living organisms naturally found in the environment that may contaminate drinking water sources. Bacteria levels in well water can vary due to external factors like spring runoff or heavy rainstorms.

Some common bacteria found in well water include:

Total Coliform BacteriaThe presence of total coliform bacteria in a well indicates a potential risk of more severe contamination.
E. coli BacteriaThe detection of E. coli bacteria signals contamination with human or animal waste, posing a more significant health concern.
Iron BacteriaIron bacteria are microorganisms that thrive in environments with high levels of iron, leading to the formation of slimy deposits and unpleasant tastes and odors in water sources.
Sulfur BacteriaSulfur bacteria, also known as sulfur-reducing bacteria, produce hydrogen sulfide gas, resulting in the characteristic “rotten egg” odor in water and potential corrosion of plumbing fixtures.
Legionella BacteriaLegionella bacteria are responsible for causing Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia often contracted by inhaling mist or vapor contaminated with the bacteria, commonly found in water systems such as cooling towers and hot tubs.
Pseudomonas BacteriaPseudomonas bacteria are opportunistic pathogens that can cause infections in humans, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems, often found in water sources and can lead to skin, ear, and eye infections.

What are the signs of bacterial contamination?
stains in toilet bowl due to iron or bacteria in tap water

Signs of bacterial contamination may include unusual staining around fixtures and drains, a foul smell (like rotten eggs or mold), or cloudy or discolored water.

If you notice any of these signs, stop using the water immediately and have it tested.

How do I treat bacteria in tap water?

Some private well owners use chemical treatments to “shock” their wells when bacteria is detected. However, this is only a temporary solution.

A highly effective alternative is a UV light sterilizer, which can treat water throughout your entire home without the use of chemicals.

Treatment Benefits

Chlorine ShockUV Disinfection
Quick resultsXX
Long-term treatment of 99% bacteria & virusesX
Environmentally friendlyX
No damage to well casings & pump fittingsX
No dangerous gasX
Taste and odor of water not affectedX

The Right Solution Starts with an Accurate Test

U.S. Water offers comprehensive well water testing services through its Wisconsin state-certified water testing lab. This ensures the most accurate testing and, with our test facility onsite, you are guaranteed a fast turnaround time. In addition to our basic analysis, we offer a full range of certified water tests and well inspection services.
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Treatment Solutions

Based on the test results, U.S. water can recommend treatment solutions tailored to your specific issue. These may include chemical treatment, water filtration, or well maintenance.

Water Filtration

Install a UV filtration system from U.S. Water to effectively kill the bacteria in your tap water.

Well Maintenance

If the contamination is a recurring problem, a well inspection can identify the source of the problem (such as a defective well seal, or cracked casing).