Coliform Bacteria: Acceptable levels in Well, Spring, Pool & Drinking Water

Humans live in a place where proper sanitization and hygiene are very important and without paying attention to these two important elements, we can never have a healthy life. On the other hand, if we suppress good sanitization and hygiene, it would create many health problems, the one we will discuss today.

We all know that clean water is a must-have thing in our diet. if we don’t pay attention to drinking clean water, we can develop various waterborne diseases. Out of all waterborne diseases, one is coliform bacteria in water.

Coliform bacteria are a type of waterborne disease that includes a group of bacteria that are usually present in the soil, well, spring, pools, and surface water. If we drink such water, we are prone to engulf coliform bacteria in our digestive tract. Coliform bacteria can also be present in human and animal feces.

What are Indicator Organisms?

Check the word again “indicator”. As the name suggests, coliform bacteria can work as the indicator organism because they give the signs and signals of disease-causing bacteria present in the water.

This sort of bacteria does not have the destructive potential of making you ill because it is mostly present in the water to make you aware of the contamination pathways.

Contamination pathways may include septic systems, surface water, or animal or human waste. It also indicates the other kinds of disease-causing bacteria that have more potential to make a person ill.

How can coliform bacteria in water affect your health?

When discussing any virus or bacteria, the most common question arises about how a specific bacterium can affect health. Likewise, most readers are interested in how a coliform bacterium can be harmful to them or what can be the symptoms if the coliform bacteria are present in water.

As we have discussed earlier, if well water, pool water, or soil water has just coliform bacteria in it, then most of the time it does not affect it directly, however, some disease-causing bacteria associated with coliform bacteria can be harmful.

If both the disease-causing bacteria and coliform bacteria are present in water, there can be common symptoms like gastrointestinal tract infections, general abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. These are some of the conditions that a person can feel if he has engulfed minor disease-causing bacteria.

Most of the time in households, people become immune to drinking contaminated water, and they develop immunity in the body against coliform bacteria in the water. The problem arises when guests come to the same household, and after drinking that contaminated water, they develop health issues.

Besides some general infections in the abdomen, some serious infections can be more harmful. These are as follows:

1. It can cause UTIs

E. coli is the bacteria that is a very dangerous disease-causing bacteria. A person that drinks contaminated well water has the chance to get E. coli in the urinary tract.

Getting E. coli can result in various health problems, specific pain in the pelvis, and difficulty in urination. Consultation with a health professional becomes important in this case.

Must Read: Why Does Water Go Right Through Me?

2. Typhoid

Typhoid is a very serious health condition that requires proper hospitalization and treatment by a health professional. The vaccination for Typhoid is common these days, and most people are not vaccinated.

Still, if a person is not vaccinated and drinks contaminated well water, he is likely to develop typhoid.

How to Restrict Entry of Coliform Bacteria in Well Water?

If you want to restrict the entry of coliform bacteria in well water, you must first know how these bacterias find the way to enter it. Restricting coliforms to the well water supplies can prevent many health conditions.

Most of us like to have rainfall, but if your water well doesn’t have proper sealing, then it is possible that the rainwater can wash the surrounding bacteria through the soil into your well.

Below are some of the common culprits that can enable the entry of coliform into your private well water. You must fix these pathways immediately with the help of a licensed Well driller or Professional Pump Installer;

  • Coliforms can enter the well water through the top of the well if the Well cap is not sealed properly or there’s seepage in the Well casing.
  • If the sealing is not effective enough, then it can enter through a loose Well pipe.
  • If your well’s pipes and pumps are not watertight, then there is the possibility that coliforms enter the well water.

One of the very important considerations that some people ignore is that Well should not be located and constructed near animals or human feces. Try not to construct well near agricultural sides like sewage or septic symptoms.

Most of the time, it’s not the design of the well that creates the problem but the location of the well that disinfects water with coliforms.

Coliform bacteria testing in well water

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of coliform bacteria testing for the well water at least once a year to ensure better water quality. These tests can be beneficial to confirm whether your well is having coliform bacteria or not.

Out of all methods, the most common method to consider is laboratory testing. You can also check our detailed guide on how to test well water to learn the different methods.

Laboratory testing 

Private laboratory testing, as the name indicates, this type of testing is solely for water testing. To ensure that the well water is safe enough to drink or not, private laboratory testing can be helpful.

There are many benefits of trusting a private laboratory to test and confirm if there are any coliform bacteria in the well water or not. It is much cheaper than many other tests of well water.

The other benefit of doing private laboratory testing is that it gives you the most accurate results based on your provided water samples if there are coliform bacteria in your well, spring, pool, or drinking water. It gives you the overall estimation of the bacterial growth in the water.

As we have mentioned above, there are not just coliform bacteria that can make the water contaminated, but many other contaminants make drinking water not safe to consume.

For testing, I recommend you to check out Tap Score which is one of the best-certified labs for water testing.

TapScore-Universal Bacteria Genetic Identification Test

The proper way that private laboratory testing labs use is to ask you to bring a sample of the well water, and whatever the results they find after testing, they inform you through email or call.

It’s recommended that you use bottled water until the testing report is not received from the laboratory. If you don’t have bottled water, you should boil water as per the Water Systems Council’s recommendations for use.

You can also test the well water for other types of coliform bacteria like E. coli, and fecal coliform bacteria which are more harmful than total coliform.

Drinking contaminated water with E. coli can worsen health, especially for people who are not built up immunity against this bacterium. You can find plenty of E. coli water testing kits that are available online or also consider lab testing for it.

Common disinfection methods to treat coliform bacteria in drinking water

There are different ways a person can use to avoid the entrance of coliform and other bacteria into the well water as we discussed earlier.

But if the Well water tests positive for coliform bacteria, don’t worry, we’ve many scientific procedures available that use chemicals or water treatment solutions to kill pathogens and harmful coliforms in the well water. We are going to discuss all those treatments in detail.

Keep reading the details so that you’ve all the information you should know to avoid having bacteria in your Well, pool, or drinking water.

1. Chlorination

The first procedure that we are going to discuss today is the chlorination method. The chlorination method is the most common method that is famous not just in the United States but also in many other countries. This cheap method is affordable and easy to handle.

Implementation Process

Coming towards the procedure of chlorination, this method, a chlorine solution or dry powder is injected into the water.

Chlorine solution is composed of sodium hypochlorite while dry powder has calcium hypochlorite in it that does the magic to make the water bacteria-free. The procedures through which well water and disinfectants are combined are suction-type chlorinators and chlorine droppers.

The role of chlorine in treating coliforms in the well water is that chlorine kills all the bacteria in the drinking water. Not just that, there are some common impurities in the drinking water; hydrogen sulfide and iron, and chlorine also play a role in consuming all these impurities in drinking water.

There are some technical terms that link to chlorination, and the first is chlorine demand.

Chlorine demand means the amount of chlorine that is required to purify the drinking water. It varies from situation to situation. On average, 0.3 to 0.5 milligrams of chlorine is beneficial for drinking water.

Lastly, like any other treatment solution, the chlorination method also requires proper hygiene and maintenance;

  • Chlorine supplies need replenishment routinely,
  • The operation needs proper checking every single time. 

Municipal or public water filtration plants also use Chlorination treatment systems to clean the water from bacteria.

You can also use this method to treat coliform bacteria in pool water

2. Ultraviolet light

The next treatment that is more popular than chlorination is UV light. It is more popular than chlorination because in this process, there is no need to add the chemical to the well water, and most people prefer using this treatment method due to its ease.

But, there is a disadvantage to the treatment with UV light. The disadvantage is that it does not work well if the total coliform bacteria exceed 1000 colonies per 100Ml or the fecal coliform exceeds the limit of 100 colonies per 100ML.

Implementation Process

The below points are very important to implement if you are using UV light to purify your well water.

  • You should clear the water before treating it with UV light;
  • There should not be any sediment or turbidity in the water.

You can check some of the best whole-house sediment water filters to make the water sediment-free.

3. Boiling

If you are looking for the cheapest method as compared to chlorination and UV light, you must go to the boiling method. Boiling is a very common practice that we all use in our residential applications like cooking food, boiling milk, etc.

In commercial use, boiling is not very popular because it cannot purify water in bulk quantity, and it is therefore not a very good method of supply disinfection for commercial applications.

But, if you are willing to boil a small amount of water, you should give it a try.

4. Ozonation method

This method is getting quite popular to kill all the unnecessary bacteria in private water well and make them safe to drink.

Like chlorination, ozone is also an oxidant that kills all the dangerous bacteria in the well water. Commonly, this method is not preferred for the fact that it is costlier than all the other methods discussed.

This method is common on a large-scale level where eliminating bacteria is not the only problem, but also some other harmful contaminants. For example, the removal of E. coli with iron and manganese.

Also, check our review for the best whole-house iron filters for well water to remove iron and manganese from water.

When it comes to taking care of yourself, one must consider it a very important job in his life. There are so many health conditions in the world that a person can never imagine. Half of those health conditions are common because of the unhygienic practices in daily households that need to be taken care of.

Also Check: Best Whole House Water Filter Cartridges


Is there any other useful way to adopt if we want to drink clean water?

We have covered all the essential treatments you must follow if you want your well water to be free from any pathogen or bacteria. If you want to have clean water without spending a penny, you should try the boiling method.

Boiling water is the most common method that one can apply daily in the home. It does not require must cost but do note that it is not a permanent method. You have to take permanent precautionary measures.

What should be the time duration between water testing?

As per the guidelines by EPA and the New York State Department of Health, one must test their well at least once a year, but if you’re finding the water quality getting lower causing health issues, then you must test the well water quite often.

What is the most expensive and least expensive method for the treatment of well water?

The most common and cheapest method that everyone can practice in their households is the boiling method, but it is not a very good method if you strive for the long term.

The ozonation method is the most expensive method for the treatment of well water.


In conclusion, coliform bacteria are common in various sources of water, including wells, springs, pools, and drinking water. While some types of coliform bacteria are harmless, others can cause illness and disease in humans.

Therefore, it is important to monitor and maintain acceptable levels of coliform bacteria in water sources to ensure that they are safe for consumption and use.

Regular testing, proper sanitation practices, and adherence to guidelines set by local health authorities are essential to prevent the spread of harmful coliform bacteria and protect public health.