Groundwater Virus Monitoring Studies: Clean Water Fund - EH: Minnesota Department of Health

Groundwater Virus Monitoring Study
Clean Water Fund

Certain viruses can travel through water and can infect people. Illness outbreaks have been associated with viruses in groundwater – the source of drinking water for 75 percent of Minnesotans. However, little is known about the presence of viruses in Minnesota groundwater and what it means for public health. A virus study was requested by the Minnesota Legislature and is funded through the Clean Water Fund.

March 10, 2017 News Release: Study finds new evidence that viruses and bacteria may be found in some public water supply wells

The Study

The project includes two components which will help MDH understand and reduce the public health risk from viruses in groundwater used for drinking water.

Water Monitoring – sampling to see if viruses are in the groundwater and develop tools to predict virus without expensive and difficult testing

Community Illness Study – participants in study communities keep a diary of symptoms and activities to link illness with viruses in water

Person in a laboratory Person sick to his or her stomach


Virus in Drinking Water

  • Data from national surveys estimate that 30 percent of drinking water wells may be contaminated with viruses that can infect humans.1
  • People who drink water contaminated with viruses may become sick with hepatitis A, gastroenteritis, or other illness that causes diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Viruses get into water when feces from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, or wildlife is not managed properly or is impacted by weather events.
  • How many people get sick from viruses in drinking water is unknown.

Viruses in drinking water.  Estimated number of U.S. wells containing viruses in the sample is 30 percent.  How do viruses get into drinking water?  From Feces, which could be animal or sewage.  It is unknown the amount of illness causes by viruses in drinking water.

What Activities Protect Minnesotans from Viruses in Drinking Water?

Protecting drinking water from sewage and animal feces through management of potential contaminant sources

Monitoring public water supplies for signs of sewage and animal feces and treating water if it exceeds standard

Providing assistance to private well owners to test for signs of sewage and animal feces and treat if it exceeds health guidance value

1 U.S. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2006c. Occurrence and Monitoring Document for the Final Ground Water Rule (PDF) (EPA Publication 815-R-06-012, accessed June 2, 2015)

Updated Friday, March 10, 2017 at 10:46AM