Where Does E. coli in Water Come From?

Where Does E. coli in Water Come From?

Water plays a significant role in everyday living. Pollution and scarcity underscore the issues that deal with 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 are syntheses compiled to learn further and gauge this matter.

Origin of Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli or known as E. coli, is a gram-negative, rod-shaped, 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 valuable role in the animals’ nutrition. Still, the waste or feces of these animals are saturated with the high content of bacteria. 

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

When normal strains of E. coli inhabit 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 a 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 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 animals and their waste, it is a sign of pollution once it exists in the environment. When E. coli is found in water, it is obvious that the water supply has been contaminated with microorganisms like animal wastes because E. coli can live outside of its host for a long time to be considered an indicator organism.

In most North America, a test for coliform bacteria and a test for E. coli has undergone a bacterial water sample for analysis. If 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 they are inhabiting 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, and 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, you have developed possibly dangerous bacteria from every tap in your home. With this, contaminants may be found as well in drinking water. Here are five relevant questions laid to you that might be your concerns too.

How come water becomes contaminated with E. coli?

Where Does E. coli in Water Come From?

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 two common means that this may occur; the first is from septic system discharge. If the well cover is cracked, some septic discharge rich in E. coli will contaminate the well water.

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

Can E. coli be easily removed?

 Using modern water filtration equipment, various bacteria can easily be removed, like E. coli, and needless use of 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 cool down, then stored it 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 regularly tested, at least once a year, after disinfection to make sure the problem does not happen again.  You may try using a 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 the 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 is much anecdotal evidence from people who refuse 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. E. Coli and other bacteria are not that difficult to kill. Chlorine is one common approach to handle this kind of problem. 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 the home water mainline. 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 is highly effective in killing the E. coli bacteria and a range of other viruses and water-borne parasites.

How will I know if my water is safe?

Where Does E. coli in Water Come From?

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

Suppose boiling is not possible and you don't have safe bottled water. In that case, you can often make small quantities of filtered and settled water safer to drink by using a chemical sterilizer such as unscented 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 a carrier of E. coli and that, and there are a variety of “flavors” E. coli has. Humans are not only colonized by these bacteria but there are plenty of kinds of animals. Yes, it can colonize us, humans, it can colonize birds, but it can colonize pigs, goats, and cows. In other words, some can colonize all 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, and even humans carry that huge number of bacteria in waste in their guts. If you are healthy enough, then none of these E. coli can affect 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 to exposure to contaminated water or food, you should consult a physician. Your body will gradually have to fight the infection on its own, and especially there are no medications or treatments that can cure a certain infection. Adults usually can recover from infection for a week, but you may experience severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and even vomiting during the period. With this, getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluid is very important to prevent 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 this 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 satisfying 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 them gradually, take first low-fiber, followed by soda crackers, eggs, and rice.
  • When you start eating solid food, it is important to choose the right food for your stomach. Foods like dairy products, fatty foods, highly seasoned foods, or high-fiber foods can worsen symptoms.
  • Please 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 lightheadedness, you may see a physician as soon as possible. Always keep in mind to work backward 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 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, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems, 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.

Where Does E. coli in Water Come From?

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

SEPARATE – It will be a risk to use the 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 to get to room temperature for 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 easily contaminated foods. Foods with high protein generally have the highest risk for E. coli. Following this cleaning system will greatly help your good upkeep, health, and safety and eliminate 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  

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