dangers of drinking spring water

The Hidden Dangers of Drinking Spring Water: Beware the Babbling Brook

Hello, fellow adventurers! It’s your favorite survivalist, sharing my hard-earned wisdom from years of exploring the great outdoors. Today’s topic? The perceived health benefits and lurking dangers of drinking spring water. Sit tight, grab your water bottle (hopefully filled with safe, filtered water), and let’s get started.

Spring Water: What’s the Hype?

Listen, I get it. There’s a romantic notion tied to drinking water straight from a pristine mountain spring, roadside springs, or any bubbling brook, for that matter. It’s natural, it’s fresh, and let’s face it, those water companies with their idyllic nature scenes on their bottled water labels know how to sell it. Spring water is often touted as a pure drinking water source, superior to your typical tap water or even your typical well water. It’s said to taste better, and who doesn’t love the thought of drinking water from something untouched by human hands?

However, just because a brook is babbling doesn’t mean it’s spilling secrets about its water quality. So, let’s address the elephant in the room: is it safe to drink spring water?

Key Takeaways:

  • Spring water can be dangerous: It can harbor harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemical contaminants.
  • Wildlife can contaminate springs: Avoid springs near signs of wildlife to reduce risk of fecal contamination.
  • Vulnerable groups need to be cautious: Pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are at greater risk.
  • Collection method matters: Use a clean container and observe your surroundings when collecting water.
  • Always treat the water: Options include boiling, using iodine tablets, chlorine, or a portable filter.
  • Filtration isn’t foolproof: Filters can remove some, but not all, contaminants. Always treat filtered water.
  • Test your water sources regularly: If you often drink from a specific spring, get it tested by professionals.

The Clear but Potentially Murky Truth

Here’s the skinny: Drinking untreated water, even if collected from a seemingly pristine natural spring, can pose a risk to your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), untreated water sources can contain harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses, despite looking crystal clear to the naked eye(1).

The primary culprits are microscopic nasties like coliform bacteria, including Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other Total Coliform Bacteria. These organisms are often indicators of fecal contamination, which sounds as disgusting as it is. Remember, wildlife frequents these springs, and let’s just say they’re not concerned about sanitation!

Additionally, harmful contaminants aren’t limited to living organisms. Spring water can also pick up inorganic contaminants as it moves through the ground surface. Lead, arsenic, and other harmful chemicals can seep from the ground into the water, which can lead to severe health effects when ingested.

dangers of drinking spring water

Spring Water and Specific Populations

If you’re a regular healthy adult, you might be thinking, “Well, I’ve sipped on spring water before and felt fine.” But remember, everyone’s bodies react differently, and not all dangers are immediate.

For some, many humans, especially pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, drinking untreated water sources can be significantly riskier. Even short-term exposure to these contaminants can lead to illness or serious health complications.

Let’s Get Tactical: Safe Drinking Practices

Nothing quenches the thirst of a survivalist like a cool, refreshing sip of water, especially after a grueling trek in the wilderness. Stumbling upon a natural spring can feel like striking gold. However, as I always say, every silver lining has its cloud, and in this case, it’s the potential dangers lurking in untreated spring water.

To turn this potential health hazard into a hydration haven, grab your survivalist notebook (you do have one, right?), and let’s dive deeper.

dangers of drinking spring water

Collecting Water Correctly

The golden rule when approaching a spring is to collect water as close to the source as possible, where it’s less likely to be contaminated. But let’s break it down further:

  • Use a Clean Container: Ensure your container is clean to avoid introducing any foreign substances into the water. Bacteria love to grow on food particles and other organic matter.
  • Watch for Immediate Surroundings: Be mindful of the surrounding area. Avoid springs near human activity or signs of wildlife, such as animal droppings.
  • Clear Doesn’t Mean Clean: Even if the water looks clear, don’t assume it’s safe to drink. Remember, many harmful microorganisms and chemicals are invisible to the naked eye.

Treating Water: Multiple Methods for Multiple Menaces

There are numerous ways to treat water, each with its own advantages and suited to different survival scenarios.

Here’s some handy info comparing some common and treatment options and methods:

Treatment Method Advantages Disadvantages
Boiling Kills most types of harmful organisms Does not remove chemical contaminants
Iodine Tablets Easy to carry and use Can leave an unpleasant taste, not effective against all parasites
Chlorine Drops/Tablets Highly effective against bacteria and viruses Less effective against some parasites, can leave a slight chlorine taste
Portable Filters Can remove many bacteria, parasites, and some chemicals May not filter out viruses, can be bulky to carry

Filtration: From Portable Devices to DIY Solutions

Filtration devices, whether store-bought or homemade, can help remove larger parasites and some chemicals. Here’s a more in-depth look:

  • Portable Filters: These come in many varieties, from pump-action filters to straw-like devices. They’re easy to use and can filter out bacteria, protozoa, and sometimes viruses, depending on the model.
  • DIY Filters: In a pinch, you can make a basic filter with sand, charcoal, and a container. While this won’t remove all contaminants, it can reduce the load on any chemical treatments you use afterward.

Here’s a basic guide for a DIY filter:

  1. Find a container (like a plastic bottle) and cut off the bottom.
  2. Layer the bottom with small pebbles.
  3. Add a layer of activated charcoal (if available).
  4. Top it with a layer of fine sand, then a layer of coarse sand.
  5. Pour the water through the filter and collect it in another clean container.

Keep in mind, even filtered water should be treated with either chlorine or one of the methods mentioned above for complete safety.

Adventuring in the great outdoors can be thrilling and rewarding, but it’s also fraught with potential pitfalls, like the dangers of drinking untreated spring water. With these expanded tactical tips, you’ll be better equipped to quench your thirst safely, ensuring many more exciting adventures to come! Remember, folks, “Treat before you taste!”

testing water in the wild

Springs Occur, But so Should Testing

While it’s true that natural springs occur, testing the water you collect from them for contaminants should also be a natural occurrence. Even if you’ve drunk from a spring before without any immediate adverse effects, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Water quality can fluctuate, and bacterial contamination can vary from day to day and season to season.

If you frequently source your drinking water from a particular spring, consider having its water quality tested regularly by a professional service. The Penn State Extension, for example, offers such services and can analyze your water for total coliform bacteria, chemicals, and other harmful contaminants(2).

Sure, here’s a table with some options for water testing services across the U.S.:

Water Testing Service Location Services Offered Website
National Testing Laboratories, Ltd. Cleveland, OH Tests for bacteria, minerals, metals, and other contaminants watercheck.com
Penn State Extension University Park, PA Provides kits for testing coliform bacteria, pH, and other contaminants extension.psu.edu
Babcock Labs Riverside, CA Comprehensive chemical and microbial analysis babcocklabs.com
Tap Score by SimpleLab Berkeley, CA Home water testing kits with easy-to-understand results mytapscore.com
Weck Laboratories, Inc. Industry, CA Inorganic, organic, and microbiological testing wecklabs.com

Please note that while these laboratories offer services to the general public, there may be costs involved, and it’s important to follow the sample collection instructions precisely. Additionally, turnaround time for results may vary between laboratories. Always ensure to contact the testing service for their specific protocols and procedures.

Before using these services, consider your local health department. In many areas, they offer water testing services, often at lower cost or even free of charge. This may be particularly useful for individuals who source their water from private wells or springs.

However, it’s essential to understand that this is not a practical solution for a survival situation or during your wilderness hikes. But it’s an excellent practice for those living off-grid and sourcing their water regularly from a spring.

fresh water

The Last Drop: Bottled Water, Tap Water, and Spring Water

As a survivalist, you know that water is essential. You must drink enough water to stay healthy and alert. But the source of this water, be it bottled water, tap water, or spring water, matters immensely. Despite the alluring taste of spring water, drinking it untreated carries substantial risk.

Bottled water is often safe and convenient, though it can be expensive and isn’t eco-friendly. Tap water, on the other hand, is typically treated and regulated to meet the drinking water standard, making it safe for most people.

Finally, while spring water carries the essence of nature, it also carries the risk of nature. Untreated water, be it from a natural spring or other sources, often houses invisible risks in the form of bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemical contaminants.

So the next time you’re on an adventure and come across a burbling spring, remember: it’s better to treat before you drink. Your future self will thank you. Remember, when it comes to your consumption and hydration, safety should always take precedence over taste.

That’s all from me today. Keep exploring, stay safe, and remember – adventure is out there, but so are waterborne nasties. Here’s to quenching our rivers of thirst – safely, of course! Keep those iodine tablets handy!

clean water


How do I know if my spring water is safe?

You can determine if your spring water is safe by having it tested by a professional water testing service, which can check for bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemical contaminants. Remember, even clear, clean-smelling water can harbor invisible threats.

Is spring water the healthiest water to drink?

While spring water can contain beneficial minerals and often tastes refreshing, it is not necessarily the healthiest water to drink due to the potential presence of harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemicals. Always treating and testing, if possible, ensures the safety of spring water.

Can spring water become contaminated?

Absolutely, spring water can become contaminated from a variety of sources, such as fecal matter from wildlife, harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, and inorganic contaminants like lead or arsenic. Contamination can also arise due to changes in the surrounding environment, like heavy rains, landslides, or human activity.


1.CDC. “Avoid Contaminated Water during Travel | Travelers’ Health | CDC.” Wwwnc.cdc.gov, 2022, wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/water-disinfection.

2.Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. “Drinking Water Testing (Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences).” Drinking Water Testing (Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences), 2020, agsci.psu.edu/aasl/water-testing/drinking-water-testing.