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Tribal-FERST Issue Profile: Microbes in Water

Microbes are tiny organisms that can be found everywhere on the planet, including our air and water. Most microbes are harmless or even beneficial to people, however some can be harmful.

Microbes that can contaminate drinking water include bacteria such as E. coli or parasites such as Giardia. Sources of microbe contamination include nonpoint sources such as land runoff or precipitation, septic systems, stormwater runoff and combined sewage overflows. Negative health effects that can result from drinking water with microbe contamination range from gastrointestinal illness (diarrhea, vomiting, cramps) to Legionnaire’s Disease (a type of pneumonia). Microbial drinking water contamination is regulated by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

To learn more about drinking water issues related to microbe contamination, visit the links below.

General Information


Environmental Concentrations, Human Exposures, and Health Risks

Exposure and Risk Reduction Options

Strategies Implemented By Other Communities

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