Answering FAQ About Water Safety and COVID-19

Drawing on information from several reputable industry and public health organizations, we're answering some frequently asked questions about water safety in the era of COVID-19.

Has the COVID-19 virus been found in drinking water supplies?

The World Health Organization says, "The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies" and calls the risk to water supplies low.

Can the COVID-19 virus be spread through drinking water?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not cited evidence of transmission through drinking water. The CDC states that the COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted person-to-person.

How do public water systems ensure drinking water is safe?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires public water systems to treat drinking water to remove or kill pathogens, including viruses. That's done using filtration and disinfectants like chlorine, which should also inactivate the COVID-19 virus.

Is tap water safe to drink?

Americans can continue to use tap water for drinking and cooking, according to the EPA. At this time, the EPA says there are no indications that COVID-19 will impact water safety.

Is tap water safe for hand-washing?

Americans can continue to use tap water for personal hygiene purposes, including hand-washing. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends hand-washing often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

What should customers do if they're concerned about water safety?

To assuage any concerns, the EPA suggests homeowners contact the public utility who provides their water to learn more about how their water is treated. Those with private wells should consider treating their water supply to remove bacteria, viruses, and pathogens.

Should individuals stock up on bottled water?

The EPA doesn't foresee the COVID-19 virus affecting drinking water supplies and recommends citizens use and drink tap water as usual.

Can people continue using private pools and hot tubs?

The CDC has found no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can spread in properly maintained pools or hot tubs. Filtration and disinfection with chlorine or bromine should remove or inactivate the COVID-19 virus.

Will septic systems eliminate the COVID-19 virus?

Septic systems don't disinfect wastewater, according to the EPA. However, a well-maintained septic system should manage all viruses, including the COVID-19 virus. Properly installed septic systems should also be located far enough from private water supplies to avoid impacting them.

Can the COVID-19 virus spread through sewage systems?

The CDC considers the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading through sewage to be low. However, SARS, another respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus, was detected in untreated sewage for up to two to 14 days. Transmission occurred due to sewage aerosols. This emphasizes the importance of having adequate chlorine available during wastewater treatment to inactivate coronaviruses.

Do wastewater and sewage workers need to take special precautions?

Wastewater treatment operators should ensure their workers follow routine practices to prevent exposure to pathogens in wastewater. This includes taking basic hygiene precautions and wearing personal protective equipment. No extra precautions are needed beyond these, according to the CDC.

How are community water systems responding to COVID-19?

The 51,000 community water systems in the U.S. are taking measures to protect their workforce and keep water flowing. They are limiting home services, and asking customers to pay bills online instead of visiting utility offices, according to Water Online.

Are water and wastewater facilities, along with their suppliers and contractors, considered essential businesses?

Yes, water and wastewater facilities, along with material suppliers, testing labs, and contract operators, are considered essential to human health. Even if governments order non-essential businesses to close, these businesses must continue to operate. For example, the New York State on PAUSE executive order listed public water and wastewater facilities under essential infrastructure businesses.

How could this pandemic impact water labs?

Like all businesses, water labs may experience absenteeism due to illness, quarantines, or government mandates. It's important to plan for business continuity during the pandemic, just like you would with any other emergency. Call on your emergency protocols and update them accordingly to ensure operations flow smoothly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The information shared in this article is from the writer and not IDEXX.

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Diana Kightlinger

Diana Kightlinger is an experienced journalist, copywriter, and blogger for science, technology, and medical organizations. She writes frequently for Fortune 500 corporate clients but also has a passion for explaining scientific research, raising awareness of issues, and targeting positive outcomes for people and communities. Diana holds master’s degrees in environmental science and journalism.