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Where Does E. coli in Water Come From?

By January 17, 2018November 29th, 2020No Comments

Water plays significant roles in everyday living. Pollution and scarcity underscore the issues that deals water and these have potentially weighted to upkeep safety and security. Various factors have contributed to these issues; one is the existence of Escherichia coli. Where does E. coli in water come from? Here is a syntheses compiled to further learn and gauge on this matter.




Origin of Escherichia coli


Escherichia coli or known as E. coli is a gram-negative, rod-shaped, a common kind bacterium that lives originally in the intestines of animals (such as sheep and cattle, etc.), usually in the lower guts of warm-blooded ruminant animals and can be found in the guts of humans as well. A large group of bacteria called coliform bacteria is where E. coli part of and this group plays a helpful role in the animals’ nutrition, but the waste or feces of these animals are saturated with the high content of bacteria.


There are a number of strains of E. coli and most are harmless but one dangerous strain is called as E. coli O157:H7. If this kind of bacteria gets contaminated into your food or water, you would be likely very ill because it produces dominant toxin and this can potentially cause serious diseases and life-threatening illness, worst when ingested, death can happen.


When normal strains of E. coli inhabit in the guts of animals, this can help them produce vitamin K2, which is beneficial in preventing disease-causing microbes from existing. However, though the strain of E. coli O157:H7 is infamous, it pays very destructive and life-threatening impact. It is so distinct that it can live for an extended period outside the body of its host, making it as an indicator organism for the presence of animal waste in the environment.


E. coli as an Indicator Organism

Since E. coli is originally found in the guts of animal and in their waste, once it exists in the environment, clearly it is a sign of pollution. When an E. coli is found in water, then it is an obvious indication that the supply of water has been contaminated with microorganisms like animal wastes. Because E. coli can live outside of its host for a long time, so it can be considered as an indicator organism.

Most places in North America, a test for coliform bacteria and a test for E. coli has undergone bacterial water sample for analysis. In case an E. coli bacterium is found in a water sample, the supply or source of water is deemed unfit to consume.


E. coli Contamination Found in Tap Water

You would probably have asked why E. coli gets into your water tank where in fact they are inhabiting in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. E. coli can often be found in water tanks and even in bore water. In New Zealand, most households have birds and sometimes opossums flock onto the rooftop.

Imagine the scenario, when these animals poo all over your roof, then the rain pours, it would likely wash the poo into your tank. There are millions of bacteria in a single poo from one bird or opossum. If the condition is likely true in your house tank, then you have developed possibly dangerous bacteria coming from every tap in your home. With this, it is possible that contaminants are found as well in drinking water. Here are five relevant questions laid to you that might be your concerns too.


How come water become contaminated with E. coli?

As mentioned above, animal waste is the only main source of E. coli. The supply of water or its source gets contaminated when the animal’s waste makes its way into the water and this can happen in several different ways; one is from the deep well water. There are actually two common means that this may occur; first is from septic system discharge. If the well cover is cracked some septic discharge that is rich in E. coli will end up contaminating the well water.

Second, deep well water may also become polluted with E. coli from surface water which usually when the deep wellhead is below the level of the ground. The cover has been dislocated or not correctly posed, then the surface water this is contaminated with E. coli can run down the outside of the casing and then going its way into the water table and finally the well water.


Can E. coli be easily removed?

 Using the modern water filtration equipment, various types of bacteria can easily be removed, like E. coli and needless to use chemicals or power in most cases.  Bring your water to a rolling boil for one minute to kill or inactivate E. coli bacteria. After that, you should let the boiling water to cool down then stored in a clean sanitized container with a tight cover on it, after refrigerated it.


You may also sanitize your well; contact your local health department for suggested procedures. Remember to have your well water tested on a regular basis, at least once a year, after disinfection to make sure the problem does not happen again.  You may try using water filter. If you don’t have a water filter, then YOU are the water filter.



Is water contaminated with E. coli a serious problem?


There was a time in U.S. wherein an estimated seventy thousand people got sick each year because of E. coli and around 60 died. It was believed that the total number of illnesses and deaths has been reducing since then but still it needs to be tested out. There are many anecdotal pieces of evidence from people who reject to put up an E. coli removal system for years. Eventually, when people realize to put a system, they have testified that they feel much more energized and less tired. This has been cleared up by the water filters because a low dose of infection is suspected.



How Can I Protect My Water Supply from E. coli?


  1. coli and other bacteria are not that difficult to kill. Chlorine is one common approach to handle this kind of problem. A chlorine is a disinfectant substance that kills bacteria where it can be mixed up into the water pump and does it into water lines. Another way is through a UV system application which is popular in killing bacteria in residential drinking water. It is plumbed in line with home water main line, the water passing through it is blasted with bacteria-killing UV rays. It is popular because there is no chemical substance added to water. It is easy to maintain and are highly effective in killing not only the E. coli bacteria but also a range of other viruses and water-borne parasites.



How will I know if my water is safe?


Your water system is required to notify if your water is not safe to consume.  To safely know about your drinking water, refer the water quality report that you should receive annually from your local water system, or call your local water system directly.


If boiling is not possible and If you don’t have safe bottled water, you often can make small quantities of filtered and settled water safer to drink by using a chemical sterilizer such as odorless household chlorine bleach.





E. coli bacteria is named after, Theodor Escherich, a German pediatrician, who discovered it in 1885. He originally named it” Bacterium coli commune,” then, it was reclassified and named after its discoverer in 1895.


Nearly every mammal and birds are carriers of E. coli and that, there are a variety of “flavors” E. coli has. Humans are not only colonized by these bacteria but there are plenty kinds of animals. Yes, it can colonize us, humans, it can colonize birds, but it can colonize pigs, goats and cows too, in other words, some can colonize all of the types of animals, therefore, one E. coli indeed does not equal all.


Over one million E. coli per gram humans carry per poop. That’s right, even humans carry that huge number of bacteria in waste in their guts. If you are healthy enough, then none of these E. coli is capable of affecting a gastrointestinal illness like diarrhea.


E. coli can be your friend too. This bacterium can be used to make beneficial substances, in the laboratory, like human growth factor, human insulin, taxol (a cancer treatment) and epidermal growth factor, used to treat burns and wounds.


Know the Remedy of E. Coli Sickness at Home

 If your sickness is due from exposure to contaminated water or food, then you should consult a physician. Your body will gradually have to fight the infection on its own especially there are no medications or treatment that can cure a certain infection. Adults usually can recover from an infection for a span of a week, but during the period you may experience severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea and even vomiting. With this, getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluid is very important to prevent you from dehydration and fatigue. Remember, there is no such cure for E. coli infection but there are several ways to help your body fight the illness. Take these simple yet essential help for a fast recovery once you are hit with an illness.


  • Drink plenty of clear fluid or liquids that includes purified water, hot soup and broth, juice and avoid drinking apple and pear juices, coffee and alcoholic drinks.
  • Have a comforting and satisfied bed rest. Refrain from physical activities and stay in bed as much as possible to get enough sleep. Remember that the key to a fast recovery from sickness or illness is Rest.
  • When you are ready to eat solid foods, eat it gradually, take first low-fiber, then followed by soda crackers, eggs, then rice.
  • When you start eating solid food, it is important to be meticulous in choosing the right food for your stomach. Foods like dairy products, fatty foods, highly seasoned foods or high-fiber foods can make symptoms worse.
  • Do not take any Anti-Diarrhea Medication because it will slow down the digestive system and this will prevent your body from getting rid of toxins.


When you or your loved ones develop signs of dehydration like dry mouth, dark urine, tear-less eyes or lightheaded, you may see a physician as soon as possible. Always keep in mind to work backwards to determine the source of E. coli infection, this is also to protect your family and others. Remember to practice safe food handling to prevent from the spreading of diseases.


Tips on Keeping Your Home Free from E. coli

 E. coli occurs naturally in humans and animals and it is in the intestines and from the wastes. It can end up in food in many different ways in the process of production. The most likely to get severely ill and potentially need hospitalization are pregnant women, children, elderly and people with weak immune system especially in contact with E. coli bacteria. To minimize the risk of getting a disease or other sicknesses, use the C-C-C-S cleaning system.


CLEAN – Wash your food with running water and rubbing it thoroughly and your hands with soap often. Keeping your kitchen and other surfaces clean and disinfected. Always use clean utensils and towels.


SEPARATE – It will be a risk to use same cutting boards, utensils, plates and any other tools when you prepare fresh raw foods because cross-contamination may occur. Make sure to store raw meat on the bottom shelf of your fridge so it does not drip juices or other liquids on other foods. See to it that cutting, preparing meats, seafood and other procedure in preparing food is done separately.



COOK – Make sure to cook all meats, poultry and eggs properly. You can use a probe thermometer to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe temperature.


CHILL – Ensure to keep your food cold and stored properly to avoid the harmful bacteria grow and unable to take hold for a long period. Do not leave foods go get to room temperature more than two hours and maintain the leftovers and other perishable goods refrigerated. Do not overcrowd your refrigerator and keep it clear.



Always take extra precautionary measures especially with meat, dairy, eggs and other kinds of foods that easily contaminated, foods with high protein generally have the highest risk for E. coli. Following this cleaning system will greatly help your upkeep good health, safety, and get rid of E. coli from invading your home.


Related Article and News about E. coli 


The Scientist 

The Conversation 

Science Daily

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is a replacement water and air filter company located in the United States. The views and opinions contained herein are solely those of the original author and do not represent Eco Blue Life or its affiliates. This article was originally published on  

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