Over 130 million United States citizens rely on groundwater supplies to meet their water needs every day. Around 15 million private wells are in use supplying groundwater to more than 40 million people. The EPA monitors and regulates municipal drinking water, but those homes supplied from groundwater sources are responsible for their own water safety. So, it should come as no surprise that groundwater microorganisms are a problem for many homeowners across our nation. In this article, we will take a closer look at the most common microorganisms found in groundwater and how you can deal with this problem.

What is a Microorganism?

The most common microorganism that poses a health risk to humans is bacteria. There are microfossils in the fossil record that show bacteria existing 3.2 billion years ago. In fact, many scientists believe that bacteria caused the appearance of oxygen on our planet around 2 billion years ago. Bacteria are also small; approximately 25,000 of them could exist on a three inch pencil line.

Bacteria in Water Supplies

It’s important to understand that some bacteria don’t cause disease, but many do, and this is a problem. There are many different microbe types found in rock and soil naturally, and every natural water source will contain a certain amount of microorganisms. Groundwater usually has a lower level of microorganisms present compared to surface water. This is because the water remains in a subsurface environment for a prolonged travel time before it’s used. But, groundwater is still at risk from other sources of pollution, such as agricultural runoff, domestic sewage, and feedlots. Wherever there is a geological feature that allows surface water to rapidly move into groundwater supplies these pollutants and potentially harmful bacteria can enter the groundwater.

Coliform Bacteria 

This is the most common bacteria typically associated with drinking water health. This particular classification includes a large number of different bacteria species. One of these is the fecal coliform commonly known as E-coli; this lives in the intestines of warm blooded animals, and it’s present in droppings and human sewage. The EPA requires a zero count for coliforms in municipal water supplies, and it’s regarded as an overall indicator for the presence of other harmful organisms.

Viruses and Protozoa

There are two other pathogenic organisms that can affect water quality, viruses and protozoa. We’ve all heard of viruses; they are responsible for more than 100 diseases including polio and hepatitis. Protozoan parasites may be less familiar to some people; they include parasites, such as Giardia, lamblia, and Cryptosporidium. Protozoa are fairly large; they are usually filtered out of the water as it makes its way through rocks and soil into groundwater supplies. As such they are less of a problem unless there is easy access to the groundwater supply as discussed earlier. Both bacteriological and protozoic pathogens cause waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery and certain types of gastroenteritis.

What Can You Do?

It’s essential to get your well water test regularly for the presence of microorganisms. Depending on the makeup of your well water a local water treatment professional can recommend a variety of treatment options, such as disinfection, filtration and UV light.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.