How Do You Know If a Spring is Safe to Drink

If you run out of water, on a hike or other outdoor activity, or cannot carry enough water with you for your entire trip, you may need to source drinking water from a natural water source like a Natural Spring. How do you know if a Spring is safe to drink?

You don’t. Natural Springs’ quality & safety can never be guaranteed you should consider all natural water sources as contaminated until tested & limit the water sources where possible, treat the water to make it safe by boiling, disinfection with chlorine, iodine, & ultraviolet light, & filtration

All spring water is definitely not the same. Raw spring water should not be consumed before it is tested for giardia and other parasites. It’s also not smart to consume spring water from mountains nearby polluted cities or industries as it could be polluted by rainwater.

How Do You Know If a Spring is Safe to Drink


You Don’t. Never drink water from a natural source that you haven’t first purified, even if the water looks clear and clean it’s always what you can’t see that can make you sick or worse. Water in a stream, river, or lake may look clean, but it can still be filled with microscopic bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can result in waterborne diseases, the most common are cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis.

While raw spring water has been naturally filtered through underground aquifers, purified water also goes through a strict treatment and filtration process for purity. So both are excellent sources of hydration, but while purified water is classed as ‘pure’, spring water can be better for you. When spring water is tested, and processed, it contains the rich mineral contents that a human body chemically needs.

Almost all surface waters contain some coliform bacteria. Groundwater in properly constructed and maintained public or private wells or springs should be free of coliform bacteria. If coliform bacteria are found in a well or spring, it could indicate that surface water is leaking into the well or spring. The test for a Spring is basically the same as you would run for a Well.

Without sterilizing the spring water you take a huge chance consuming it, untreated or unfiltered water could be populated with dangerous microorganisms, such as Giardia lamblia, cryptosporidium, and Vibrio cholera, which could lead to hazardous health issues, such as diarrhea, sepsis, cholera, and even death.

Roadside springs on federal or state land are generally not protected from contamination and are not routinely tested.  Drink water from either a regulated public water system that is required to treat, disinfect and monitor its water on a regular basis, or from a properly posted, maintained potable drinking water supply well.

Springs and their slower-moving cousins (seeps) are more common than you might think after all, they turn to small waterways that turn into streams and feed rivers to look for the headwaters of a stream. If you need to drink raw Spring water; look for places where water flows out of holes through the earth where a Spring will be filtered and the cleanest.

How do you filter spring water for drinking?
Below are some common DIY water filtering methods you can use.
  1. Boiling. Heating water at a rolling boil for 1 minute makes it safe to drink. …
  2. Tablets or drops. …
  3. UV treatment. …
  4. Activated charcoal. …
  5. Travel-size sediment filters. …
  6. DIY portable sediment filters. …
  7. Fruit peel filters.


What is a Natural Spring?

A Spring is a place where H2O moving underground finds an opening to the surface & emerges, as a trickle, after a rain, or continuous flow when the H2O table reaches above the surface level & is classified by the volume of the H2O they discharge .……………………………………………………………………….. Read more

Types of Springs:

  1. Perennial
  2. Intermittent
  3. Periodic



What is a Seepage Spring?

Seepage springs or Seeps usually occur in sand, gravel, or organic materials & generally are found in depressions or valley bottoms. Seepage springs are different from artesian springs because they are not necessarily contained below a dense layer of clay or other material & usually have low flows. …………………………………………………….. Read more

How Can You Test Spring Water


In many instances, county health departments will help you test for bacteria or nitrates as they would your private Well. If not, you can have and should have your spring water tested by a state-certified laboratory. You can find one in your area by calling the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visiting

Most testing laboratories or services supply their own sample containers. Use the containers provided and carefully follow the instructions given for collecting, preserving, and handling water samples. Samples for coliform bacteria testing must be collected using sterile containers and under sterile conditions.

Some State Certified Private Labs might even send a Tech out to your site to sample the water to be tested. There are core test parameters for any type of water source including a Natural Spring that should be examined and declared safe on a periodic timetable just as you would for a Private Well.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules that protect public drinking water systems do not apply to individual water systems, such as privately owned wells. As an individual water system owner, it is up to you to make sure that your water is safe to drink.

At a minimum, check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems; test it once each year for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. If you suspect other contaminants, you should test for those as well. However, spend time identifying potential problems as these tests can be expensive. The best way to start is to consult a local expert, such as the local health department, about local contaminants of concern.


Examples of Water Quality Indicators:

  • Total Coliforms
  • Fecal Coliforms / Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • pH
  • Nitrate
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)


Do Natural Springs Dry Up?

Yes, Natural Springs can run dry from drought, and high temperatures, or if too many people have sunk wells in the region, the water table will drop & as soon as the top of the groundwater is below the level of the spring, you will get no more H2O out of it until rains replenish the groundwater .……………………………………………………. Read more


JimGalloway Author/Editor


References-Center for Disease Control(CDC)- Well and Spring Testing


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