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Bacteria in Your Water?



Bacteria are tiny organisms that exist in any natural water source. Not all types of bacteria in water are harmful. Many organisms found in water are of no health concern since they do not cause disease.

Bacterial contamination cannot be detected by sight, smell, or taste. The only way to know if a water supply contains coliform bacteria is to have it tested. In addition, there are sulfur-reducing bacteria that can be present in deep wells. If present in high concentrations, these bacteria can cause the well water to have a rotten egg smell. If iron bacteria are present, they can give a musty odor to the water and give the water a brownish tint. Sulfur/iron bacteria are not coliforms so they must be tested for separately.

Biological contamination of drinking water may be separated into two groups: (1) pathogenic (disease-causing) and (2) non-pathogenic (not disease-causing).

Pathogenic bacteria cause illnesses such as typhoid fever, dysentery, gastroenteritis, infectious hepatitis, and cholera. All water supplies should be tested for biological content prior to use and consumption. E.Coli (Escherichia Coli) is the coliform bacterial organism which is looked for when testing the water. This organism is found in the intestines and fecal matter of humans and animals. If E.Coli is found in a water supply along with high nitrate and chloride levels, it usually indicates that waste has contaminated the supply from a septic system or sewage dumping, and has entered by way of runoff, a fractured well casing, or broken lines. If coliform bacteria is present, it is an indication that disease-causing bacteria may also be present. Four or fewer colonies / 100 ml of coliforms, in the absence of high nitrates and chlorides, implies that surface water is entering the water system.

Single Fluoride-Arsenic-Lead Reduction Cartridge w/Housing
Fluoride-Arsenic-Lead-Chlorine-Sediment-E.Coli-Bacteria-VOC Double Filter w/Housing
Bacteria Filter
  • The most common non-pathogenic bacteria found in water, is iron bacteria. Iron bacteria in water can be readily identified by the red, feathery floc which forms overnight at the bottom of a sample bottle containing iron and iron bacteria. The U.S.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate private wells.
  • Private well owners are responsible for the quality of their drinking water.
  • Homeowners with private wells are generally not required to test their drinking water. However, they can use the public drinking water standards as guidelines to ensure drinking water quality.
  • The Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for bacteria in drinking water is ZERO total coliform colonies per 100 milliliters of water as established by the EPA.

Sources of Bacteria in Drinking Water

Most coliforms are harmless bacteria that are found in large numbers in the intestines and feces of warm-blooded animals and occur naturally in soil and vegetation. While most coliform bacteria are not harmful, their presence indicates the possible existence of pathogens in the water supply. Coliform bacteria should not be present in a properly constructed well. When looking for potential pathways for coliform intrusion, the following sources should be investigated:

  • Human Waste associated with malfunctioning septic systems and leaking sewer pipes have been identified as a potential source of bacterial contamination to a drinking water well. A septic system located too close Bacteria in Private Drinking Water Wells can physically trap bacteria as it moves and once over a distance of 75 feet, the bacteria will die in unsaturated soil conditions.
  • Animal waste is a common source of bacteria in water. These sources of bacterial contamination include runoff from feedlots, pastures, dog runs, and other land areas containing other animal wastes. Bacteria from these sources can enter wells that are open at the land surface, that lack water-tight casings or caps that are shallow, or do not have a grout seal in the annular space (the space between the wall of a drilled well and the outside of the well casing).
  • Insects, rodents or other animals entering the well are also potential sources of contamination. Dug wells usually have large access openings and casings that may not be properly sealed. This makes it easy for insects, rodents, or other animals to enter the well. Inundation or infiltration of the well by floodwater's and surface water runoff can result in high levels of bacterial contamination to the water supply. Even small depressions around the wellhead that fill with surface runoff provide an excellent breeding ground for bacteria.

Bacteria can easily enter your water supply when the well is shallow and/or the well casing is not properly sealed and watertight. This is especially a risk in sandy soils. Older wells and water sources, especially dug wells, spring-fed systems and cistern-type systems are very vulnerable to coliform bacteria and other pathogenic contaminants. Any systems with casings or caps that are not watertight, or lack a grout seal in the annular space, are vulnerable. This is particularly true if the well is located where surface runoff can accumulate and enter the well.


Potential Health Effects

Health symptoms may include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, possible jaundice, and associated headaches and fatigue. (These symptoms, however, may be caused by a number of other factors not associated with bacteria in drinking water.) Water contaminated with bacteria should not be used for drinking or cooking unless you bring it to a rolling boil for a minimum of one minute or the water is disinfected by other means.


There are two basic types of water filter. Those that are installed inside a water ionizer and those that are installed outside a water ionizer or as a standalone filter. External filter systems can be configured in any number of stages with each stage removing a particular type or group of contaminants. Removing one type or group of contaminants is often considered a 1-Stage filter (i.e. removing either chlorine, fluoride-lead-arsenic, or nitrates). Filters can be combined to form any number of stages to form: 2-Stage, 3-Stage, and even 7-Stage (i.e. reverse osmosis) filter systems. How many stages you need to filter your water depends on the possible contaminants in your water. The most common water contaminants include:


By combining different filters into a 2-Stage or 3-Stage system, you can remove multiple contaminants to produce a higher quality drinking water than with just a 1-Stage filter. Reverse osmosis filtration systems are more expensive, however, they are recommended for removing the highest percent (up to 99%) of contaminants from your water.


Please contact our customer support center for help with your water ionizer questions.

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