COVID-19 and the U.S. Drinking Water Supply: What We Know Now

As the nation grapples with COVID-19, we wanted to pass along information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that may not be relayed as frequently as other critical details and advice on prevention and awareness.

Presently, the CDC states that COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water, and that conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection (like those found in most municipal drinking water systems) should be effective in removing or inactivating the virus that causes COVID-19.

According to the CDC, it is known that the virus has been detected in the feces of some patients that have been diagnosed with the disease. However, it is not presently known whether the virus in stool is infectious or whether there is a risk of transmission of COVID-19 from the feces of an infected person. The CDC states that the risk “is expected to be low based on data from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).” According to the CDC, there has been no reports of fecal-oral transmission of COVID-19 to date.

Transmission through sewerage systems is also thought to be low, and there is no evidence that this has occurred. Although SARS had been detected in untreated sewage in 2003, the data–-according to the CDC—suggest that “standard municipal wastewater system chlorination practices may be sufficient to inactivate coronaviruses, as long as utilities monitor free available chlorine during treatment to ensure it has not been depleted.”

Similarly, the EPA advises that based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low and that “Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual.” Further, the EPA states that boiling tap water is not required as a precaution against COVID-19.

Our nation’s drinking water regulations require that treatment at public water systems remove or kill pathogens, including viruses. The EPA states that coronavirus “is particularly susceptible to disinfection and standard treatment and disinfectant processes are expected to be effective.”  The  EPA, like the CDC, states that the virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies.

Future drinking water and wastewater updates and information from the CDC and EPA can be found here and here, respectively.