Can COVID-19 be transmitted through drinking water?

COVID-19 in drinking water
Photo via Jeanne Menjoulet/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)
  • There is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through treated water
  • The virus has been detected in untreated wastewater
  • The risk from COVID-19 from any water is low

Every day, experts learn more about COVID-19. The list of symptoms has only grown, as has the list of ways the virus can be transmitted. We now know that COVID-19 can be carried on shoes and through aerosol droplets. As the virus continues to rage, some wonder whether COVID-19 in drinking water is another way to become infected. 

The answer, thus far, is no. 

The water that we drink goes through water treatment facilities before it hits our taps. At these facilities, it is filtered and disinfected, making it safe to drink before it reaches our homes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates these facilities to ensure that our water is always safe to drink, even in the time of COVID-19. No trace of COVID-19 has been found in treated drinking water, and the risk to water supplies remains low.

Untreated water is another story. The virus has been detected in untreated wastewater, though it is uncertain if this water could pose a threat of infection. The U.S. government’s coronavirus site notes that “researchers do not know whether this virus can cause disease if a person is exposed to untreated wastewater or sewage systems.” Thus far, no evidence exists that this has occurred. The risk of transmission through untreated wastewater is still considered quite low. 

While we’re talking water, it may comfort readers to know that pools, hot tubs, spas, and water play areas are still safe to enjoy. The CDC notes that “proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus.” The department warns, however, against using chlorine to disinfect household surfaces. Instead, use one of several recommended cleaning products.

If you do choose to visit a pool or water play area, keep the CDC’s social distancing recommendations in mind. The department recommends maintaining a distance of at least six feet, along with donning face masks while out of the water. If you’re not feeling 100% healthy, consider staying home, just in case.

Sources: EPA, EPA, CDC, Mayo Clinic, Coronavirus.gov

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