The coronavirus infection, officially known as COVID-19, has been declared a pandemic, and people all over the world are trying to learn everything they can to keep themselves safe from the virus. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus are likely to experience mild to moderate respiratory distress and symptoms. However, there are many people who are at a higher risk of developing severe complications from the disease. The best way to prevent and slow down the transmission of this disease is to be well informed about how the disease spreads. While there has been a lot of coverage on person to person transmission and how the virus remains active on hard surfaces, but what about transmission through water? Can the coronavirus disease spread through drinking water? Let’s take a look.
Can The Coronavirus Disease Spread Through Drinking Water?
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a technical brief in early March 2020 related to the survival of the COVID-19 virus in water sources.(1) Till now, there has been no evidence to show the survival of the virus in drinking water or sewage. According to most experts, the two main routes of transmission of the COVID-19 virus remain respiratory and direct contact.
According to research done so far by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conventional water treatment methods followed in most countries use disinfection and filtration. It is believed that these basic systems should be capable enough to remove, or at least inactivate, the coronavirus.(2)
The COVID-10 is an ‘enveloped’ virus, which means that it is not that strong and less stable in the environment and is also more vulnerable to oxidants such as chlorine. Many conventional, centralized water treatment facilities around the world that are using filtration and disinfection methods should be capable of rendering the virus inactive.(3)
However, what about areas that lack basic centralized water treatment? According to the WHO, in such places, people must practice household water treatment methods such as basic boiling, solar irradiation, and high-performing nano filtration or ultrafiltration filters. In non-turbid waters, appropriately dosed free chlorine and ultraviolet radiation should be used.(4)
However, according to the international engineering company Stantec, this is still a new virus, and there is no extensive body of research on how effective the existing water and wastewater treatment processes will be in protecting against the COVID-19 virus.(5)
In 2008, the University of Arizona found that coronaviruses are not more resistant to water treatment than other microbes such as the poliovirus, E. coli, or others. Results from this study found that the survival of coronaviruses in water is temperature dependent, with the virus having a higher chance of survival in lower temperatures.(6) Looking at this research, the appearance of the coronavirus is expected to be reduced in raw wastewater and other surface water sources during the warmer seasons.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still reviewing all data related to the COVID-19 transmission as new data starts becoming available. At this time, though, there is no evidence to show the transmission of the virus into drinking water or through the sewage system is possible. It is believed that standard wastewater system chlorination processes should be sufficient to inactivate the new coronavirus. Nevertheless, practicing basic hygiene precautions and boiling your water if there are no water treatment systems in your area is recommended.
- Who.int. 2020. Water, Sanitation, Hygiene And Waste Management For COVID-19. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/publications-detail/water-sanitation-hygiene-and-waste-management-for-covid-19> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- US EPA. 2020. Coronavirus And Drinking Water And Wastewater | US EPA. [online] Available at: <https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-drinking-water-and-wastewater> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Aquatechtrade.com. 2020. Coronavirus And Water Global Advice | Aquatech. [online] Available at: <https://www.aquatechtrade.com/news/article/coronavirus-and-water-wastewater-global-advice/> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- Ideas.stantec.com. 2020. Coronavirus And The Water Cycle—Here Is What Treatment Professionals Need To Know. [online] Available at: <https://ideas.stantec.com/water/coronavirus-and-the-water-cycle-here-is-what-treatment-professionals-need-to-know> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
- West Center – Water & Energy Sustainable Technology. 2020. UA Study Looks At Survival Of Coronaviruses In Water And Wastewater. [online] Available at: <https://west.arizona.edu/news/2020/01/ua-study-looks-survival-coronaviruses-water-and-wastewater> [Accessed 15 April 2020].
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