The Importance of Clean Drinking Water for Overall Health

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60 percent of the human body consists of water, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the water we put into our bodies can have a significant effect on our bodily functions. 

Here, we’ve shared everything you need to know about the importance of clean drinking water for overall health

📌 Key Takeaways: 

  • Clean drinking water is essential for maintaining healthy cells, organs, and bodily functions. 
  • We need water for hydration, proper digestion and organ functioning, and waste removal.
  • Health risks of drinking unclean water include digestive upset, kidney and liver damage, nervous system harm, reproductive effects, and cancer.  

🚰 Why Is Clean Drinking Water Important For Overall Health?

Clean drinking water is important for overall health because water assists numerous important functions in the body. Without water, these functions wouldn’t be able to occur, and without clean water, these functions may be hindered or negatively impacted. 

When we drink water, it doesn’t simply travel straight through the digestive system before being expelled as urine. The body retains water to be used for various purposes, and the last thing you want is dirty water flowing through your blood, organs, and cells. 

If you don’t have access to a clean water supply, you put yourself at risk of waterborne diseases, organ problems, and even cancer, depending on the contaminants present in your water and their quantities. 

When it comes to overall health, it’s important to view your water supply with the same value that you view the foods you put in your body. 

We all know that we should eat plenty of fruits and veggies and avoid sugary foods and foods contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, pathogens, microplastics, and other nasties. Yet many of us don’t take the same approach with water, and don’t think twice about drinking trace levels of chlorine, pesticides, heavy metals, and chemicals in our tap water. 

Ultimately, since water plays such an important role in the body, we’re neglecting our overall health by not treating water quality with the importance it deserves. 

Woman clean drinking water for hydration

🔍 The Role Of Water In The Human Body

To further understand the importance of water for overall health, let’s look at the role of water in the human body. 

Water is a vital nutrient that’s needed for a variety of functions. Without water, we couldn’t survive. 

Here are three of the most important functions of water in the human body: 

Maintaining Hydration

One of water’s primary functions is to maintain hydration. Almost every tissue, cell, and organ can only function properly if it’s properly hydrated. 

Water takes the role of a carrier in the blood, helping to transport oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells. It’s also responsible for perspiration, helping us to regulate our body temperatures through sweating. 

Staying hydrated enables us to balance our bodily fluids and electrolyte levels, which is key to good cellular function. 

Drinking unclean water won’t affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated, but it could lead to diarrhea, which results in dehydration due to the loss of a large volume of water and salts. 

Nutrient Adsorption & Digestion 

Water is also an essential tool for nutrient absorption and healthy digestion. 

In the digestive system, water assists in the breakdown of food particles, enabling the body to absorb vital nutrients in the small intestine and excrete the unimportant substances. 

Water also acts as a lubricant and a softening agent, so that substances can pass smoothly through the digestive tract. 

If you don’t drink enough water, you could get sick, and drinking dirty water could lead to all kinds of digestive complications as a result of aggravating the stomach and intestines. 

Functions of water in the body

Supporting Organ Function & Waste Removal

Additionally, water supports the function of our organs and plays a role in the body’s waste removal processes. 

Drinking plenty of clean water is essential for the kidneys to function properly, enabling them to effectively filter toxins and waste products through the urine. 

We also need water to deliver enough oxygen to our organs in the blood. Plus, water helps protect tissues, lubricate joints, and promote cell health. 

Water is so widespread in the body that it’s easy to understand the dangers of drinking dirty water. All the body parts, cells, organs, and functions that rely on water may be hindered or damaged by the contaminants or pathogens present in an unclean water supply. 

⚠️ Health Risks Associated With Drinking Contaminated Water

Let’s look at some of the health risks associated with drinking contaminated water. 

Waterborne Diseases & Infections

One of the most common health risks of drinking contaminated water is waterborne disease. 

If you drink water that hasn’t been adequately disinfected, or water that has been contaminated by another source, there’s a chance that it contains pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and parasites, which could make you sick. 

There are a few possible diseases that you could contract from drinking unclean water, including: 

  • Giardiasis
  • Typhoid fever
  • Cholera
  • Dysentery
  • Hepatitis A

These diseases could cause you to experience diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and abdominal discomfort. Older people, infants, immunocompromised people, and people with preexisting health conditions, are even at risk of death as a result of drinking water contaminated with pathogens. 

Giardia contamination of tap water

Health Effects Of Metals & Chemicals

Pathogens are present in water that hasn’t been disinfected properly, but heavy metals and chemicals are found even in disinfected water supplies. Many of these contaminants are tiny and difficult to remove completely from a water source, which is why they’re so often found in municipal tap water. 

There are a few ways that metals and chemicals can enter a natural water body, including agricultural runoff, industrial activities, and poor waste disposal practices.

Here are some common contaminants and their possible health effects:

  • Heavy metals – Such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. Enter water supplies due to industrial pollution or natural deposition. Exposure to high levels of heavy metals over long periods may result in cognitive development problems, kidney and liver damage, cardiovascular issues, nervous system harm, and cancer. 
  • Pesticides and herbicides – Such as glyphosate and atrazine. Enter water supplies as a result of runoff from agricultural land. May cause neurological problems, hormonal imbalances, increased cancer risk, and reproductive issues when ingested in large quantities over a prolonged period. 
  • Pharmaceuticals and personal care products – Such as hormones, antibiotics, and endocrine disrupters. Contaminate water due to improper disposal. May significantly impact human health even in low concentrations, causing reproductive effects, hormone imbalances, and antibiotic resistance. 

🔬 How Unclean Drinking Water Affects Different Parts Of The Body

Below, we’ve outlined which parts of the body are affected by exposure to unclean drinking water. 

Digestive System

The digestive system is at the greatest risk of being impacted by water contaminated with pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and other nasties. 

Once these pathogens enter the digestive tract, they infect the digestive organs, leading to stomach pain and diarrhea. Some pathogens may even damage the tissues in your stomach and small intestine, and, in severe cases, may lead to long-term complications. 

The best way to safeguard your digestive health is to only drink disinfected or purified water that’s free from harmful pathogens. 

Woman having stomach ache

Respiratory System

Your respiratory system may also be affected or hindered by exposure to contaminated or unclean water. 

In a typical setup, your home’s drinking water is also the water you shower in, wash your hands in, cook with, and so on. The contaminants in your water may pose a respiratory health risk if they’re inhaled in steam or water vapor (such as when showering or boiling water on the stove). 

For instance, chlorine, which is commonly used to disinfect municipal water supplies, commonly reacts with organic matter in water supplies to form byproducts that are dangerous to inhale and may cause respiratory irritation. 

Or, if your water is contaminated with bacteria or mold, it could pollute your indoor air, resulting in respiratory problems.

So, having access to a clean drinking water supply is more than protecting your body from the water you drink – it’s also about protecting your respiratory health from the water you use for cooking and washing purposes. 

Skin & Hair

The cleanliness of our drinking water also affects our skin and hair health. 

Water that’s high in iron, calcium, and magnesium minerals is known to cause soap scum and form scale and iron deposits that dry out the skin and scalp, leading to skin irritation and dull hair. 

Certain pollutants and chemicals, including chlorine, can also irritate the skin and exacerbate preexisting skin conditions, leading to rashes and itchiness.

 Ensuring you have access to a clean, filtered, or purified water supply will eliminate the possibility of skin and hair issues as a result of certain contaminants. 

Dry hair and itchy skin

🧾 What Are The Clean Water Regulations In The US?

So, we know the importance of clean water in the US – but how is our water regulated? And how do these regulations affect the actual cleanliness of the water we receive?

Public drinking water is regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which produces legal limits – known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) – for certain contaminants with health effects, which all water utilities must adhere to.  

You can view all the contaminants that are currently regulated by the EPA in the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.

The purpose of these regulations is to ensure clean drinking water for everyone on a municipal distribution system. 

But does this mean that public drinking water is actually safe?

Legally, yes. Your tap water should be disinfected, so it won’t contain pathogens, and its chemical, metals, and pollutants concentrations should be within the legal limits, meaning that they’re not present in levels that are thought to be harmful to health. 

However, knowing the potential health effects of these impurities, you’d probably prefer to drink filtered, clean, contaminant-free water for the sake of your health. 

Since public tap water isn’t entirely impurity-free, you’ll need to take your own steps at home to further filter your water and make it safer and healthier to drink. 

🧪 How To Test Your Water For Safety

Want to know for certain whether your water quality might be compromising your health – and if so, which contaminants are to blame?

The best way to learn this is to use a water test kit for the most common drinking water contaminants

You can choose to use an at-home DIY test, or upgrade to a laboratory test for more comprehensive testing and accurate results. 

You can buy water tests online for pathogens, heavy metals, chemicals, hardness, and other contaminants of concern, like fluoride, chlorine, nitrate and nitrite, and pharmaceuticals. 

Take a sample from your faucet and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test for contaminants. 

You can then test your water again after installing a water treatment solution to see how the quality of your water improves. 

Tapscore water report

💧 3 Clean Drinking Water Solutions

There are three drinking water solutions that protect against contaminants that could affect our overall health. 

These are:


Disinfection is the process of treating water to kill or remove microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. 

Municipal water suppliers disinfect their water, typically with chemical disinfectants like chlorine and chloramine, to make it safe to drink and unable to cause digestive health issues. 

Of course, disinfection doesn’t guarantee that water is unable to become recontaminated with pathogens. Water utilities sometimes have to issue boil water notices to their customers if pathogens have been detected in the public drinking water supply. 

Chemical injection system


Filtration involves sending water through a special filtering media that removes contaminants of various sizes. 

Water utilities use a few different filtration processes to remove sediment and larger particulates from water, but most large-scale applications are unable to thoroughly remove every contaminant. 

There are at-home water filters that provide more comprehensive water treatment, eliminating the trace levels of contaminants that remain in a treated water supply, making it safer to drink and better for your health. 

Whole home water filter


Purification is the process of removing all impurities from a drinking water supply, guaranteeing clean, contaminant-free water that has no health effects. 

Common purification processes are water distillation, which purifies water through the vaporizing and condensing, and reverse osmosis, which uses membrane separation to remove up to 99.99% of total dissolved solids from water. 

The only issue with purification is that it removes impurities that are good for your health, like minerals and salts. However, we get the majority of these from a healthy diet, so they’re not essential in our water. 

Reverse osmosis purification

📑 Final Word

Hydration is essential for many bodily processes – but it’s equally important to make sure you’re staying hydrated with clean, uncontaminated drinking water. 

Contaminants, pathogens and pollutants can have a range of health effects, including diarrhea and digestive upset, organ and cell damage, and skin and hair problems. 

If you care about your health and you want to enjoy the cleanest water at home, we recommend installing a water filter that will remove the contaminants you’re the most concerned about in your water supply. 

This is especially important if you have a private well, and your water supply isn’t treated before being delivered to your home. 

👨‍🔧 Our guide to the best water filters is a great place to start your search


How do I know if my water is clean and healthy to drink?

The only way to know if your water is clean and healthy to drink by your own standards is to conduct a water test. You can either use an at-home test kit or buy a laboratory test, depending on which contaminants you want to test for, and how comprehensively. If your water comes from a municipal supplier, it’ll be legally “safe” to drink, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your definition of clean. 

What are the signs that my water quality is affecting my health?

There are a few different signs that your water quality is affecting your health, depending on the contaminants your water contains. For instance, if your water contains pathogens, you may experience nausea and diarrhea. If your water contains metals or chemicals, you could experience nervous system, immune system, or liver and kidney effects from consuming these contaminants over a long period. Many water contaminants don’t cause noticeable health effects to begin with, even if they’re present in high concentrations. 

What are the most common contaminants in drinking water?

The most common contaminants in unclean drinking water are pathogens, metals, and chemicals. Most drinking water contaminants are invisible, which means they could be present in very large amounts and you’d be none the wiser. That’s why it’s important to test your water if you have a strong reason to believe that it’s contaminated, and drink from another water source in the meantime. 

What are the likely side effects of drinking unclean water?

Diarrhea is one of the most common side effects of drinking unclean water. This symptom is indicative of microorganisms in your water (usually bacteria) that have entered your body and made you sick. You’re not guaranteed to experience diarrhea as a result of drinking unclean water – it depends on how your body processes the water and the number of pathogens present.  

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