Causes And Effects Of Contaminated Water. What Causes Water Contamination?

by Curtis Grossi | Last Updated: March 14, 2024

It is estimated that over 700 million people worldwide have no choice but to drink polluted water, with up to 3.4 million deaths annually caused by water-linked diseases, with, according to UNICEF, 3,000 children dying daily owing to consumption of contaminated water.

Clearly, having access to safe potable water is a critical necessity for good health.

Public Water Utilities

While water utilities are required to ensure that the water they supply to the public is clean and safe for drinking. To achieve this, raw water is filtered, treated with a flocculant to cause particles and sediment to settle out, and then dosed with chlorine to kill any bacteria.

During periods of high demand, water may not have time to stand long enough for all the particles to settle out, and dosages may be insufficient for the volume of water that is flowing through the water treatment plant, potentially resulting in some impurities remaining in the water when it leaves the plant.

For example, in April 2007, the chemical feeder system at the water purification works in Spencer, Massachusetts, dosed the town’s water supply with so much sodium hydroxide, a de-acidifier, that the water caused chemical burns to about 100 of the town’s residents.

Private Water Supplies

With private water supplies including well water or water drawn directly from surface sources such as rivers and dams, the potential for impurities reaching household water systems is relatively high. This is because ground water may be contaminated by high levels of minerals such as iron and manganese, as well as pollutants from nearby agricultural or industrial activities.

Water from rivers and dams may be polluted by upstream outfalls from other users such as farms or factories, as well as, for example agricultural or recreational use of dams. Pollutants may include fertilizers, animal excreta and motor oils.

Where found in sufficient quantities, some of these pollutants will persist in the water and could also cause algal bloom in dams and other stationary bodies of water, depriving them of oxygen and causing fish and other aquatic wildlife to die in the water and further pollute it.

Effects Of Contaminated Water

In the above cases, people may accidentally end up drinking contaminated water which is not fully fit for human consumption, resulting in various illnesses.

Water-borne diseases resulting from contaminated water include cholera, typhoid and dysentery, as well as gastro-intestinal complaints caused by the presence of parasitic cysts such as cryptosporidia and giardia in water from untreated surface water sources.

If your household relies on a private surface or well water supply, it is critical to have your water tested for metals, minerals, parasites and other inorganic and organic pollutants, in order to protect your family from the health risks associated with consuming contaminated water.

Even if you receive your water supply from a water utility, you should still have the water tested to determine what types of additional filtration you may want your water supply to receive – for example to lower chlorine or iron levels – before you and your family drink from it.

In addition, many authorities require that fluoride is added to water supplies before they are distributed to households through water supply networks, as fluoride has been shown to strengthen tooth enamel.

Concern has, however, been raised in some quarters regarding the potential negative health effects of fluoride which are seen as outweighing the positive effects. For this reason, many households would prefer to filter out the fluoride from their drinking water before drinking it.


Fortunately, there are a wide range of filtering and water treatment options available to help you ensure that the water you drink is safe and healthy, ranging from simple fabric filters to remove sediment particles right through to ultra-violet (UV) elements that will kill harmful bacteria, and a whole host of other filter types in between.

Granular activated carbon (GAC) filters are commonly used to remove many organic contaminants, the high surface area of the carbon grains allows high absorption rates. This will reduce odors and bad taste in the water, as well as absorbing and removing many toxic compounds from the water, including chlorine.

To prevent micro-organisms from growing in the carbon grains under certain circumstances and causing contamination, household drinking water filters may also contain nanoparticles of metallic silver, which are an excellent anti-bacterial material that also is effective at degrading toxic pesticide residues into non-toxic compounds.

Bone-char filter media or activated alumina filters can be used to remove excess levels of fluoride in drinking water, if so desired.


Clearly, protecting the quality of the water you and your household consume is a high priority that cannot be taken lightly, especially if you are on a private water supply.

Unfiltered water can carry invisible dangers that may be catastrophic if left undetected. Filtering your household water supply will give you peace of mind against the effects of contaminated water.

Curtis is the founder and owner of He is the lead guy concerning all the water-softening accessories in this site's guides and reviews. If he is not writing a reviews, guides or any other useful tips, you will find him testing them to find out their suitability. He is passionate about softening water. You will find him extremely helpful and always willing to educate the general populace all there is concerning water and its effects on their health and appliances.