The coronavirus can not travel through treated water. Conventional municipal water treatment methods effectively remove the COVID-19-causing virus or render it inactive. The virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in untreated wastewater and sewage. There are no known cases of COVID-19 transmission via contact with sewage as of now.
Coronavirus in Water and Sewage Facts
The Center for Disease Control’s “Water and COVID-19” FAQ explains the different ways the coronavirus can (or, in the case of treated municipal drinking water, can’t) spread through water. The facts are:
- Municipal water treatments successfully disinfect the coronavirus in water. The coronavirus will not transmit via treated drinking and tap water.
- The coronavirus has been found in untreated wastewater such as sewage.
- Researchers do not know whether the coronavirus can be contracted via exposure to untreated wastewater. There are no reported cases of this happening.
- Risk of contracting the virus from coming into direct contact with an infected person’s waste is thought to be low.
Long story short, your risk of contracting the coronavirus via water is very low. As long as you don’t come into contact with untreated wastewater, there is virtually no chance you will even encounter a version of the COVID-19 causing virus in water, let alone contact an activated, dangerous version.
To further contextualize this information for you, we’ve put together this comprehensive list of questions about the risks facing your home water sources. This is everything you need to know about whether or not the coronavirus could spread through your water and how to protect yourself as effectively as possible.
Waterborne COVID-19 Risks in Your Home
Can the coronavirus spread through my home’s tap water?
No. Conventional municipal water disinfection and sanitization treatments remove or inactivate the COVID-19-causing virus in water. If you receive water from any city government, then it has been treated and the COVID-19 virus is not present in it. Your sink, shower, and bathtub water is all safe. Unless you hear otherwise from your local water supplier, don’t be afraid to shower or bathe! Definitely don’t be afraid to wash your hands!
If you draw your own water from a well, then your conventional treatment system should be sufficient to treat COVID-19 the same way it treats other viruses. If you’re worried about the quality of your private water, then you should maintain or replace your current filtration system.
Can the coronavirus live in my toilet water?
Not if the toilet water is unused, no. Your home water system pulls water into your toilet tank from the same source as your tap water. Your toilet tank and bowl’s water is treated and safe. “Wastewater” refers to water that has been used by people; not water for waste.
The reason the coronavirus can exist in some forms of wastewater is because it spread there from infected people. Hypothetically, if an infected person used your toilet and didn’t flush their wastewater, the virus could exist in that wastewater. After flushing the wastewater, however, the water that replaced it would be uninfected. Don’t be afraid to plunge your toilet!
When do I come into contact with wastewater?
The only time the average homeowner would come into contact with wastewater is if they had a plumbing problem. Sewage leaks, ruptures, back-up, or flooding could all potentially expose you to wastewater. Each of these problems is a sign that there’s something wrong with your drain or sewer pipes. If you smell or see wastewater leaking, flooding, or backing up around your home, call the pros right away.
This counts double if you use a decentralized wastewater treatment like a private septic tank. If your tank is installed correctly and functioning properly, you should never come into contact with wastewater. If you do notice flooding, backed-up sewage, overflow, or another sign of septic trouble, you should repair your septic system ASAP. A malfunctioning septic system could affect private well water nearby, as well, because leaking wastewater could seep into the groundwater you pull from. Obviously, you don’t want wastewater in your drinking water under any circumstances.
How can I make sure I don’t come into contact with wastewater?
The most common reason you’ll have to deal with wastewater in or around your home is a clog or rupture in your drain line. When something blocks the passage of wastewater through your drain line into the municipal sewer, wastewater could back up into your home or leak out into your yard.
The single most important way you can avoid sewer line clogs by only flushing waste, wastewater, and toilet paper down your toilets (and nothing else!). You should also check your sewer line clean out regularly. Make sure the cap is on and that you’re not storing anything that could fall in nearby. Tree and bush roots can also damage your sewer pipes and create ruptures over time. Always know where your sewer pipe is before you plant or dig anywhere in your yard. If there’s already a tree growing near your sewer line, keep a close eye on it and call a plumber at the first sign of trouble.
The bottom line: water is not a significant vector for the spread of the coronavirus. You should worry much more about coming into contact with other people than about what’s in your water. Stay at home, but don’t be afraid to use your tap water.
That being said, coming into contact with wastewater is never healthy, global pandemic notwithstanding. If you’re having sewage issues while you’re sheltering in place, you should give us a call right away–not necessarily because of COVID-19, but just because you deserve to live in a healthy environment! As an essential business, Ben Franklin can be there to help you with sewage issues or any other plumbing problem right away. And don’t worry, we’ll observe social distancing best practices while we’re at it.