COVID-19, Your Water System, and the Disinfection Connection

It’s no surprise that we are in uncertain times. Perhaps the understatement of the year. During moments like this, people rely on little certainties to get them through the day. The certainty that the sun will still rise; that “The Tonight Show” will probably never, ever get canceled; and the certainty that we will all have access to safe, reliable drinking water.

Nobody wants to second guess themselves every time they go grab a glass of water or brush their teeth. Yet, with so much still unknown about COVID-19—and plenty of misinformation feeding the fire—many are questioning the safety of their water supply. So let’s debunk the fiction with some facts.

Can I Drink Tap Water?
The short answer? Yes. The long answer? Yes. The answer in all caps—YES!

The CDC, the EPA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have all gone on record to state that current water treatment systems dismantle the virus and keep our water safe to consume. The processes of chlorination and chloramination (more on these in a moment) are effective at removing pathogens (including viruses) from our drinking water.

How Is My Water Disinfected?
There is quite a bit of science behind the process of disinfecting water while still maintaining potability. Going beyond giving it a boil or pouring in a capful of bleach, the water supply’s safety is maintained through the processes of Chlorination and Chloramination (don’t worry, we’re not making pool water).

While harmful in large doses, the addition of chlorine and chloramine to water systems in small doses ensures that water remains safe to drink while killing any harmful pathogens present in the supply. Water suppliers — including Central States Water Resources — use a method of alternating the two chemicals to offset the drawback of any single method being used for an extended period of time.

How Does This Combat COVID-19?
To start this conversation, we need to have a quick science lesson.

COVID-19 is an enveloped virus, meaning that it is surrounded by a thin membrane (part of the reason it can survive on surfaces for longer than a few minutes.) This membrane, however, cannot survive long when combined with an oxidising agent, like chlorine and chloramine. With just a trace amount of the two disinfectants, the membrane surrounding the coronavirus germs is broken down and the core of the virus is exposed to the disinfectant, deactivating it.

So, while it can survive on surfaces without any cleaning agent applied and it thrives in the ecosystem inside the human body, the disinfection process of our water system has proven a formidable opponent to the virus. Looking for a more in-depth look behind the science of it all? Take a look at WHO’s most recent report on the subject.

All it takes to separate fact and folly is just a little bit of science, and hopefully this information will help put the mind at ease. It’s a challenging time, but with the right information (and a lot of social distancing,) we can all do our part to get things back to normal. Until next time— be safe, drink plenty of water, and wash your hands!