When Should I Worry About...

Can Coronavirus Live In Water?

May 12, 2020 - Katie McCallum

Water is a big part of your life. You drink it, you wash your hands with it, you bathe in it and a lot of us also swim in it. In fact, more than half of your body weight is water — so you could even say that you practically live in it. And, as you turn on the tap to fill up another glass of water, you may be wondering if the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can live in it, too.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) state that there's currently no evidence the new coronavirus is spread through the public water supply.

However, the new coronavirus has been found in untreated wastewater — although it's unclear exactly how long the virus can actually survive in it. It's also important to know that all wastewater is heavily treated to kill germs, including viruses, and the CDC reports that there are no known cases of COVID-19 resulting from exposure to untreated wastewater.

Since most people aren't likely to come into contact with sewage water anyway, here's what you need to know about COVID-19 and the water you do come into contact with — like the water in your home, pool or hot tub, as well as oceans, lakes and rivers.

Your tap water is safe

In the U.S., our public water systems are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — a federal government agency that, among other things, enforces the water treatment methods that prevent germs from contaminating water supplies. And this all works pretty well since, according to the CDC, our country's public drinking supplies are one of the safest in the world.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has reassured us that the required public water treatment methods, which include filtration and chlorination, should be sufficient to remove or kill the new coronavirus. In addition, the EPA reports that the new coronavirus has not been detected in public drinking water and that, based on current evidence, the risk of getting COVID-19 from our public water supply is low.

If you're a homeowner with a private well, the EPA recommends that you consider using a certified home treatment device, such as a filtration system, water softener, distillation system and disinfectants, to remove any bacteria and viruses, including the new coronavirus.

This means that the tap water you have access to in your home is safe to consume and use for your personal hygiene — so there's no need to rely on bottled water (unless you really want to) or boil your water before drinking or using it.

But, keep in mind, while your drinking water is safe, sharing that glass of drinking water with someone else probably isn't. Remember, sharing an item like a drinking glass means potentially sharing germs, like the new coronavirus, as well.

Your swimming pool is safe — if it's properly maintained

As summer creeps closer and closer, you may be wondering if the COVID-19 pandemic is going to affect pool season.

The CDC states that it's unlikely that the new coronavirus can survive in a pool that's properly maintained — which includes regularly checking and adjusting the pool's chlorine levels and pH. In addition, the CDC also reports that there's currently no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through water in a pool or hot tub.

But, while pool water that's properly maintained is likely safe, you'll need to make sure your pool time stays safe as well. As public pools reopen, be sure to maintain social distancing — both while you're poolside and in the water.

Take steps to stay safe while at beaches, lakes and rivers

Oceans, lakes and rivers aren't treated to kill germs like public water supplies are, but the movement and size of these natural bodies of water may make up for that. The larger the body of water, the better the chance that any coronavirus contamination that may occur will quickly become diluted to a level where infection is unlikely. In addition, waves and running water may help disperse and dilute any viral contamination, as well.

When it comes to limiting the spread of COVID-19, the larger concern at a beach, lake or river is the increased likelihood of person-to-person spread as crowds form. Whether you're tubing the river with friends or trying to huddle under an umbrella to escape the heat and sun, it's hard to practice social distancing during many water activities.

If you do decide to go to a beach, lake or river, make sure to keep six feet of distance between yourself and others — even while you're in the water.

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Categories: When Should I Worry About...