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Diseases that You Can Get from Drinking Contaminated Water

by Jennifer Bellini

Marketing expert, Business guru

> 2 min read

Diseases You Might Get from Drinking Contaminated Water

Drinking water in the United States is generally considered safe. Over 286 million Americans drink water from US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved community water systems. The water quality is carefully regulated to minimize the potential for contamination. 

Despite best efforts to prevent it at treatment facilities, water sources can become contaminated. Contamination may also occur within the distribution system. This is often due to naturally occurring minerals leaking into the supply or malpractice of land use. 

Although some contamination is unavoidable, much of the spread of disease is caused by the mismanagement of urban, industrial, and agricultural wastewater. Contaminated water is a significant transmitter of disease.


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Cholera is a disease that infects the gastrointestinal tract. The infection is caused by the cholera bacterium, which is most commonly found in water or food that has already been contaminated by someone with cholera bacteria in their system. It is responsible for approximately 95,000 deaths each year.

While mild cholera bouts are common, around 10% of sufferers experience severe symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, and cramps. The loss of fluids over a short period causes dehydration, sometimes leading to death. Therefore, it is best treated using an oral rehydration solution (ORS).

Severe outbreaks of cholera occur mainly in areas that don’t have adequate water treatment. This results in inferior sanitation and a lack of hygiene.

Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever is one of the most common diseases from drinking contaminated water. It is caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria. While it’s uncommon to contract in developed countries, many people become infected during travel. 

The main symptoms of typhoid fever include a high fever, headaches, stomachache, constipation, and diarrhea. 

The bacteria is passed mainly through feces and urine. People may drink or prepare food with water from a contaminated source, spreading the infection. Those who have the disease are contagious. Even after recovering from typhoid fever, people can carry and spread the disease to others. 

Typhoid fever can be avoided by taking a vaccine. However, it isn’t 100% effective. It is also treatable using antibiotics.

"Typhoid fever is one of the most common diseases from drinking contaminated water. It is caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria." 


Giardiasis is a disease in the small intestine caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia Lamblia. It is contracted from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.

Giardia Lamblia lives in animal and human fecal matter and survives in food, water, and soil. They can live without a host for extended periods and typically contaminate water sources via agricultural runoff. 

Some people carry Giardiasis without developing symptoms, meaning they can spread the parasite easily from person to person. Common symptoms include fatigue, diarrhea, appetite loss, vomiting, abdominal pain, and weight loss. Since these symptoms are often associated with other illnesses, Giardiasis can be difficult to diagnose. 

This disease is particularly prevalent among children as it spreads quickly through feces. Children and daycare staff in daycare centers are more likely to be exposed to feces during diaper changes or potty training. 

Giardiasis is one of the more treatable diseases from drinking contaminated water through antiparasitic drugs. In many cases, symptoms often resolve without treatment.

Escherichia Coli (E. coli)

Many people are aware of the dangers of E. coli. However, most people don’t realize that E. coli bacteria are normal and play an important role in a healthy human’s intestinal tract. 

Problems arise because some E. coli are pathogenic. This means they can contribute to disease outside of the intestinal tract. These types of bacteria are transmitted through contaminated water or contact with animals and people.

E. coli is most commonly associated with food poisoning symptoms. Pneumonia and urinary tract infections are also frequently caused by E. coli. Up to 95% of urinary tract infections are due to E. coli. 

Most E. coli sufferers begin to feel better after a week of contracting the disease. However, some strong strains can make you very ill. E. coli is the primary cause of acute kidney failure among children. 

The best way to prevent E. coli is by regularly washing your hands, particularly after petting an animal or preparing food. Another effective preventative measure is to cook food safely to the recommended temperatures.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a severe liver infection. The infection lives in the blood and stool of those who are infected. It is a highly infectious disease and can be spread unknowingly by someone who ingests even the slightest amount of contaminated water or food. 

Symptoms of Hepatitis A include fatigue, nausea, stomach pains, and jaundice. Although most people don’t suffer for long periods, symptoms can potentially last up to two months. 

There is no known cure for the disease but fortunately, there is a vaccine to prevent you from contracting it.


Salmonella is a common disease spread through bacteria that mainly affects the intestinal tract. People are most likely to contract it through contaminated water or food. 

Although the symptoms of diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps are unpleasant, most healthy people can get over the illness within a few days. However, it’s important to try to prevent dehydration. This is the main danger for those suffering from Salmonella, and it can sometimes require urgent medical attention. 

Good hygiene and proper sanitation can help prevent the spread. Another key factor is to stop the cross-contamination of food. Ensure you keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other food in your home. Try not to cross-contaminate during meat chopping and avoid placing cooked food near storage containers that hold raw meat.


While different forms of Cryptosporidium infect animals, some strains are a danger to humans. The parasite is highly resistant to chlorine disinfectant through its protective outer shell. It is most commonly spread through water. 

Cryptosporidium is the primary cause of waterborne illness among people in the US. It is particularly dangerous for those with weakened immune systems. 

Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration, vomiting, and fever. For healthy people, symptoms generally last around 1 to 2 weeks. For those with weak immune systems, it can last even longer. Symptoms are known to recur for some patients. 

Most patients can recover without treatment. If dehydration is a worry, anti-diarrheal medicine or rehydration solutions are effective.

The Bottom Line

Waterborne diseases don’t spread through clean water. Across the US, state governments work year-round to adhere to EPA water standards. However, people must also be vigilant. If you have any concerns over your water, contact your municipality or have it tested. 

You can also improve your drinking water quality by installing a reverse osmosis filtration system, which uses multiple filters and a semi-permeable membrane to remove contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, heavy metals, chlorine, and plastics. You can also go for best water filters to make sure you are drinking safe water.

Jennifer Bellini

About the Author

Jennifer Bellini is a business guru who’s spent most of her life working in her home state of Wisconsin where she still lives with her family. Her experience lends itself best to sussing out the unique problems a business may face with their water quality. She is also our lead market analyst and is the driving force behind site growth.