Drinking Water From Lakes & Rivers

Untreated surface water in rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds is not safe to drink unless it is treated to remove bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Drinking water contaminated by these organisms can cause diseases like cryptosporidium or giardia. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, gas, and energy loss.

Sources of Contamination

The quality of surface water is unpredictable, because the water continually moves and pollutants can be introduced at any time. In other words, an area of lake or stream that is fine one day may be contaminated the next.

Biological contaminants can come from sewers and failed septic systems, boat toilets, animals, and other sources.

Chemical contaminants, like gasoline, oil, pesticides, and heavy metals, can come from discharge pipes, chemical storage areas, gasoline tanks, oil drums, or anywhere chemicals have been used close to open water.

Return to Top

Location, Construction of Water Intake

To use surface water as a source for drinking water, you must have a properly constructed water intake and a treatment system that includes filtration and disinfection. (See Water Intake and Treatment System Diagram). Hire a qualified consultant to design the system.

Be aware of possible contamination sources, like barnyard runoff or discharge pipes, when locating the intake pipe. Place the pipe in the deepest, most remote ‘clean water’ possible. Avoid areas of high algae growth.

Return to Top

Water Treatment

Treatment has two steps, filtration and disinfection. Both steps are necessary to remove or kill all bacteria, viruses, and parasites and make the water safe to drink.

Step 1. Filtration removes soil particles and plant material that can interfere with disinfection. It also removes parasites that are not killed by disinfection. A one-micron filter is required for complete removal, because some parasites can be as small as two microns.

Step 2. Disinfection is needed because some bacteria and viruses can pass through filters.

Return to Top