Throughout the course of human history, water has always played a pivotal role. Water helps to nourish life, and to sustain crops that build the foundations of empires. Without water, there would probably not be human civilizations to begin with!
That said, not all water is healthy for you. Water must be boiled and filtered before it can be drunk by the general population. If water is not good enough for drinking purposes, then we call it non-potable water, and non-potable water can potentially cause a lot of health hazards.
What is non-potable water?
Non-potable water is water that is not suitable for drinking purposes. This kind of water is either full of harmful bacteria or substances that cannot be processed by the human body. Thus, when a human drinks non-potable water, they will put themselves in a very dangerous situation. Sometimes, the health hazard is so bad that it can kill them outright.
Non-potable water is all around us, but the most common sources of non-potable water are rainwater, lakewater, water from rivers or streams that is used for dust suppression, and agriculture waste water. If you do find these water sources, it is best not to drink them at all.
Even though non-potable water is not suitable for drinking, it can still be used for other purposes. For example, clean water from rivers and creeks can be used to help you wash your clothes. Just make sure not to drink it under any circumstances.
Potential health hazards when drinking non-potable water
Non-potable water causes a wide range of health hazards that can even lead to deadly consequences. The sad fact is that in many parts of the world, non-potable water is the only option available, and the local people have to drink this water in order to survive, in spite of the terrifying risks associated with it.
The most important thing you need to worry about is the bacteria. Non-potable water comes with a wide range of microbes that can cause waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and fluke. All of these diseases can ravage your body if the proper treatments are not administered as soon as possible. Special mentions go to cholera, which is an acute disease that can develop very serious symptoms such as water diarrhea. Cholera is especially dangerous to children.
Sometimes, non-potable water can also cause health issues even if you have not intentionally drunk them. For example, when you are swimming in contaminated water, you might contract cryptosporidiosis, which is a diarrheal disease. This disease is caused by a parasite that is active in swimming pools. When swimming, you could accidentally ingest in the water that carries these bacteria, causing you health issues.
What is the difference between non-potable water and potable water?
The main difference between the two kinds of water lies in the lack of deadly waterborne bacteria. Potable water has been treated and thoroughly boiled, so there are considerably few bacteria in there, since they have almost all been eliminated. The few that remain will not be able to cause damage to humans. Potable water is always colorless. It is only colored if there are added flavors.
Meanwhile, non-potable water is full of bacteria, because they have not been eliminated yet. It might contain residues of metal compounds and other organic compounds, which can be extremely dangerous when ingested. Some non-potable water sources are no longer colorless. You can clearly see the discoloration caused by dirt or other impurities in these water sources. If you see discolored water, it might be the best idea to just leave it.
How to detect non-potable water?
Detecting non-potable water is a key skill that you need to learn, because sometimes tap water can become non-potable water. Here are the key signs of non-potable water.
- Cloudiness: The cloudiness of the water is the warning sign. Potable water is not supposed to be cloudy. It is supposed to be colorless all the time. Thus, if the water is even slightly cloudy, you should not touch it and just find another source of water. If the tap water in your residence comes out with a lot of cloudiness, you should simply notify the landlord to discuss a potential fix.
- Smell: Potable water is completely odorless. If the water smells strange, you should assume that it is non-potable water, and you should stay away from it if possible.
- Visibility of contaminants: Non-potable water may contain contaminants that are visible to the naked eyes. If you see them in the water, do not drink it.
Even though humans need water to survive, non-potable water does much more harm than good. If you drink non-potable water, you will be at an extremely high risk of catching waterborne diseases such as dysentery and cholera, both of which can cause diarrhea, which will worsen your thirst.