How Is the Water We Drink Made?

Medically Reviewed on 11/29/2021


Water is essential for your body to function efficiently. The water you drink from your tap or bottled water comes from a utility company—where it's treated and made safe for consumption.
Water is essential for your body to function efficiently. The water you drink from your tap or bottled water comes from a utility company—where it's treated and made safe for consumption.

The water you drink from your tap or bottled water comes from a utility company—where it's treated and made safe for consumption. The water goes from the source (like a river or lake) into a treatment tank, a storage tank, and then to the taps in your house or bottle.

The water you drink initially comes from either surface water or groundwater. Most people use water from those two sources for drinking, cooking, farming, recreation, cleaning, and industrial uses. If you live in a city, you probably use surface water. Those in rural areas are more likely to use groundwater from wells.

Surface water is found in streams, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and the ocean. Groundwater comes from springs or is accessed by drilling a well. Only 15% of the people in the US use groundwater for their daily life activities. About 68% of people in the US use the community water system, which supplies surface water.

How is drinking water made?

The standard method used by most treatment facilities involves four steps:

  1. Coagulation and flocculation. Chemicals that bind with impurities to form larger particles (floc) are added to the tank.
  2. Sedimentation. Here the large particles that have formed are allowed to settle to the bottom.
  3. Filtration. With the sediments at the bottom, the topwater is filtered through sand, gravel, and charcoal to remove chemicals, bacteria, parasites, and various dissolved particles.
  4. Disinfection. This involves putting chlorine into the water to kill any remaining living contamination, including bacteria and viruses. Fluorine might also be added to keep teeth from decaying.

In some cases, other chemicals might be added to change the hardness and prevent corrosion. Adjusting hardness also usually alters pH (acidity or alkalinity). Adding other chemicals depends on where the water has been sourced.

Why drinking water is good for you

The human body consists mainly of water, which composes more than half the total weight. Water is essential for your body to function efficiently. It is impossible to live for long without drinking water. You can't go for more than a few days without it. Water has vital functions in the body. 

The cells that make up your body need water to function. Essential body fluids like blood and lymph fluid are mostly comprised of water. Water makes it possible for these fluids to carry out their functions properly. The blood can supply oxygen to cells around the body, while lymph combats illnesses and infections.

Clean water:

  • Gives the body nourishment.
  • Aids in the removal of toxins from the body.
  • Prevents illnesses from contaminated water.
  • Helps in cleaning and sanitation.
  • Is vital in agricultural and food production activities.

Dangers of drinking contaminated water

Drinking contaminated water can be detrimental to your health. Impure water can expose you to preventable diseases, such as:

Tips to help protect water sources

There are a few things you can do to prevent contamination of water sources:

  • Careful disposal of harmful waste. Some waste materials that are hazardous to the environment are pesticides, household detergents, leftover paint, motor oil, and medicines.
  • Proper maintenance of the septic system. A poorly maintained septic tank can dump bacteria, chemicals, and viruses into the waterways, causing a potential health hazard.
  • Try to avoid using harmful chemicals on your lawn. Pesticides and fertilizers can seep in through the soil and contaminate groundwater or get carried by running water into rivers and streams.
  • Proper disposal of medical waste. Dropping prescription and over-the-counter medications in a septic tank might let medical waste seep into groundwater. Consider using the pharmaceutical take-back collection programs that take medical waste for proper disposal.

Bottled water undergoes treatment before being packaged to avoid infection by Cryptosporidium — a parasite known to cause diarrheal disease. It's treated with distillation, reverse osmosis, and filtration with an absolute 1-micron filter. Cases of infections from bottled water are rare, but they happen. Make sure to avoid contamination of the water after purchasing it. Make sure water is well treated before bottling if you are involved in the process.


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Medically Reviewed on 11/29/2021

Aid & International Development forum: "5 Reasons Why Everyone Needs Clean Drinking Water."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Water Sources."

npr: "How Do We Get Our Drinking Water in The U.S.?"

The Nemours Foundation: "Why Drinking Water Is the Way to Go."

United States Environmental Protection Agency: "How Can You Help Protect Source Water?"

World Health Organization: "Drinking-water."