13 Contaminated Water Diseases and Symptoms of Drinking Bad Water

water coming out of a steel faucet

Water-based diseases are some of the most common diseases to affect humans worldwide. No matter where you live, you aren’t entirely safe from the perils of contaminated water - though the risk is certainly higher if you have limited or no access to clean drinking water. This heightened risk underscores the importance of understanding the consequences of disease from drinking dirty water.

In this blog, we’re going to talk about the 13 water-based diseases and the accompanying symptoms of drinking contaminated water so you can stay aware and be better prepared to defend yourself against them.

Common Symptoms of Drinking Bad Water

drinking bad water

Gastrointestinal problems are one of the most common symptoms of drinking contaminated water. Diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, stomach aches, dehydration, and fever are all too common when the contaminant in question is a microorganism. This raises the crucial question: What Happens When You Drink Bad Water?

The symptoms for diseases caused by chemical pollutants such as lead and arsenic also manifest as gastrointestinal issues at first, but they’re far more destructive to the body, and the damage caused by exposure to these is often irreversible.


Common Contaminated Water Diseases

1. Typhoid

Typhoid is an infection caused by a type of salmonella bacteria that can be potentially fatal if it’s left untreated. The disease displays all the common symptoms of drinking bad water such as:

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • stomach pain
  • coughing
  • weakness
  • body pain
  • high fever

Some people also develop rashes but it’s rare. WHO estimates that a staggering 11-20 million people fall sick from typhoid fever each year.

2. Cholera


Cholera is a life-threatening disease caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria that affects the small intestines. It spreads through food and water that’s contaminated with feces but can easily be prevented with good hygiene and filtered tap water.

Common symptoms include:

  • stomach pain
  • severe diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • dehydration
  • lethargy

3. Gastroenteritis

One of the most common waterborne infections, gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the intestines. It displays all the symptoms of drinking contaminated water such as:

  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever

Even though it’s not a very serious disease in adults, it’s one of the leading causes of death among children in underdeveloped countries where access to healthcare is limited.

4. Dysentery

Dysentery symptoms

Dysentery is an infectious disease characterized by the inflammation of the intestines. It’s a severe form of gastroenteritis that can be caused by a number of bacteria such as Campylobacter, Shigella, E. Coli, and Salmonella.

Common symptoms of drinking bad water contaminated with these bacteria include bloody or mucusy diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weakness.

5. Giardiasis

Also known as ‘beaver fever’, Giardiasis is an infection of the intestines caused by the microscopic parasite giardia. This is one of the most common contaminated water diseases in the US because the parasite can thrive in public pools and lakes.
Symptoms of giardiasis include stomach pain, diarrhea, and fatigue among others.

6. Legionnaires' disease

Legionnaires' disease is a type of severe, potentially life-threatening pneumonia that’s caused by the legionella bacteria. Rather than by drinking, this infection is caused by inhaling droplets of contaminated water.

The bacteria is typically inhaled through AC units, showers, and diffusers. Symptoms of drinking bad water contaminated with legionella bacteria include fever, chills, cough, and diarrhea.

7. Plumbism

lead poisoning symptom

When lead, a toxic metal, starts accumulating in the body, it causes a potentially-fatal condition known as lead poisoning or plumbism. This can happen over months or years.

Symptoms of drinking lead-contaminated water include:

  • neurological changes
  • abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • loss of appetite

Lead poisoning is known to cause developmental issues in children.

8. Salmonellosis

Salmonella is a common bacteria that can be found in food and water contaminated by feces. This bacteria is often the main culprit for food poisoning and is characterized by typical symptoms of drinking bad water such as diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever.

Salmonellosis is not often a severe infection and most healthy people recover quickly.

9. Cryptosporidiosis


Cryptosporidiosis is a type of diarrhoeal disease that’s caused by a microscopic parasite known as cryptosporidium. The parasite is found in food and water polluted by stool and is known to be resistant to even chlorine disinfection – a major reason why it’s very commonly found in public pools.

Healthy people with cryptosporidiosis recover quickly but immunocompromised people will require critical care.

10. Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a highly-contagious contaminated water disease that’s caused by the hepatitis A virus. It spreads through contaminated food, water, and close contact with infected people.

Symptoms of drinking bad water contaminated with the hepatitis A virus include:

  • abdominal pain
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • nausea
  • dark urine
  • yellow skin and eyes
  • loss of appetite

Hepatitis A can be easily prevented with a vaccine.

11. Polio

Polio or poliomyelitis is a severe infectious disease caused by the poliovirus that causes paralysis and other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, stunted growth, and more. This disease is also easily preventable with a vaccine.

12. Amoebiasis

Amoebiasis symptoms

Most water bodies in tropical regions contain a parasitic amoeba known as entamoeba histolytica which can infect the colon upon ingestion. The infection leads to severe diarrhea known as amoebic dysentery which is marked by bloody stool.

13. Arsenicosis

Prolonged exposure to water contaminated with arsenic can lead to arsenicosis. Symptoms of drinking bad water with arsenic include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramping, and skin rashes. Long-term exposure eventually leads to death if it’s untreated.

According to WHO, approximately 140 million people drink water contaminated with arsenic above the provisional guideline value.

How to Stay Safe from Contaminated Water Diseases

One of the ways to stay protected from diseases caused by drinking contaminated water is to be aware of the symptoms of drinking bad water and always use purified water for drinking.

Don’t rely on the clarity of the water to determine whether it’s safe or not because many contaminants, including microbes and toxic metals, aren’t visible to the naked eye. They don’t leave any recognizable color or smell either.

Practice good hand hygiene and wash your food in filtered or purified water only. Avoid going to overly crowded pools, lakes, and rivers, and swallowing water while swimming.

And if you notice any symptoms of drinking contaminated water, immediately seek professional help.

With AquaBliss, you can easily install filtering devices such as a multi-level shower water filter in order to improve the quality of the water in your home. If you are seeking solutions to help improve your water and combat the negative effects of harsh or hard water, explore simple and convenient solutions at AquaBliss, today.

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