While it’s easy to make the assumption that natural water sources provide safe drinking water, many naturally-occurring bodies of water can actually be dangerous to drink from. Some, like seawater and other natural saltwater sources, are widely known to be undrinkable, but freshwater sources, such as river and lake water, aren’t always avoided. Does this mean that drinking from your local bodies of water is good for you, or are the dangers simply less known?
Can you Drink Lake Water?
Simply put, drinking lake water is probably not a good idea. While freshwater lakes avoid some of the dangers of ocean water, according to the US Department of Agriculture, drinking untreated water from any naturally occurring source is still not advisable. It’s important to remember that no matter how clean a natural water source looks, harmful bacteria and viruses can still be present. Likewise, depending on where you are, pollution and contamination from human sources may have gotten into the water source.
One of the most common concerns when drinking lake water is “giardia lamblia,” a disease-bearing pathogen found in human and animal feces. When ingested, this microorganism can cause cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and sometimes worse. Other common contaminants include cryptosporidium, salmonella, and many forms of e.coli bacteria.
Lake Water vs. River and Groundwater
Because the natural movement through rocks and gravel provides some level of natural filtration, you might assume that water from rivers and streams is safer to drink than lake water. In fact, the USDA makes the same recommendations for river water as it does for lake water. While natural filtration can get rid of some of the larger particles found in the water, most harmful viruses and bacteria are not killed or removed by the flow of water alone.
Other natural water sources, like groundwater, should also be approached with caution. Although water from underground reservoirs may not be exposed to the same potential contamination from animals as open surface water, there are a number of other, equally serious concerns to keep in mind. The US Geological Survey identifies nearly 30 types of inorganic, organic, and microbial contaminants that can be found in American groundwater.
Filtration can help eliminate most or all of these contaminants, but in nature, even the clearest water can contain microorganisms and other harmful elements.
How to Make Lake Water Safe
If you’re at home and have the option to drink tap water, that’s almost always a better idea than river or lake water. When venturing out into nature, bringing your own water is the best choice, but depending on how long you’ll be gone, carrying enough may not be practical. In this case, finding ways to purify the water you find is essential.
Boiling the water that you collect can kill off many of the harmful bacteria. This is the simplest way. Another way of making lake water safer to drink is with water purification tablets. These are small dissolvable tablets that contain chemicals (most commonly chlorine and iodine) that kill off pathogens. While extremely helpful, it is important to remember to only use water purification tablets as directed. Incorrectly applied purification tablets may not work as effectively, and chemicals like chlorine can be dangerous if you consume too much.
These tricks are not just useful when you’re out camping. Emergencies such as floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes can knock out local water treatment facilities, as well as introduce new contamination throughout the system, making your tap water safe to drink. Keeping a supply of clean drinking water in your home is always the best option, but in a pinch, neither compares to how good the tap water in your home can be. Water purification tablets are easy to store for extended periods of time, and as long as you have the ability to make a controlled fire, boiling water is far safer than simply attempting to drink from the source.
Does Tap Water Come from Lakes?
As we hinted above, in the United States, more than half of our drinking water comes from surface sources, such as river and lake water, or from groundwater sources. While, as we just mentioned, drinking water directly from these sources is not safe, all municipal water goes through a water treatment process. Depending on local laws, filtration and chemical treatments are applied that remove large and fine particles, as well as kill any dangerous microbes that may be in the water.
There are multiple steps that filters can utilize to make water clearer and safer. Reverse-osmosis and Carbon filtration are the most common types of water filtering systems that are used, with each excelling at handling a different type of hazard.
This treatment makes tap water much safer to drink than lake water, but municipal systems can still leave much to be desired when it comes to purified drinking water. Privately installed water filtration systems can remove contaminants that municipal treatment fails to remove. Depending on the system you choose, carbon filters can also be applied to improve the taste and smell of the water in your home or office.
Get the Best Drinking Water with The Science of Water
At The Science of Water, we assess and install water filtration systems to meet your unique needs. Using filtration technology backed by NASA and the EPA, our advanced water systems purify your water supply to the highest standard. Whatever you’re looking for in a water filtration system, we can help you enjoy tap water in your home that’s clear of contaminants and safe to drink.
We even offer free water quality testing and consultations. When you need answers about the safety of your local water supply, our technicians can assess your situation for waterborne threats and recommend the perfect filtration system to suit your needs and budget.
Don’t settle for dirty tap water that tastes terrible and puts your health at risk. Get your water tested today to protect your household with pure, clean water that can be relied on. For more information about The Science of Water or to book your free water test, just get in touch with our team today!