Water and health

OWASA water meets or surpasses all Federal and State regulations.  We are committed to providing high-quality drinking water to our customers.  However, some customers, such as those with weak immune systems, may need to take additional precautions.  Additionally, there are some activities, such as cleaning contact lenses, where it is never advised to use tap water.  More detailed information is provided below.

What should I do for drinking water if I have a weak immune system?

Some people are more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. People undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, who have had organ transplants, who have HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, and some elderly people and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. 

Guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for reducing the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available through the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791).

In our community, businesses including Weaver Street Market and Whole Foods offer specially treated water.

What are Cryptosporidium and Giardia?

Cryptosporidium and Giardia are microscopic organisms that can cause diarrhea, fever and other gastrointestinal symptoms. They come primarily from human and other warm-blooded animals’ wastes. We test our drinking water for Cryptosporidium and Giardia annually and have not detected them. We protect against Cryptosporidium and Giardia through source water protection and water treatment.

Is it safe to use OWASA water for sinus rinsing?

If proper precautions are taken, OWASA water can be safely used for sinus rinsing.  We recommend following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for using tap water when rinsing, irrigating, or flushing your sinuses.  These include using water that has been either

  • boiled for 1 minute and then allowed to cool or
  • filtered through a filter labeled NSF 53, NSF 58, or “absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller.” Please note: most household point-of-use filters do not meet these requirements.

Any device used for sinus irrigation, such as a Neti pot, must be properly washed, disinfected, and stored dry to prevent contamination by microorganisms including amoebas.

Although extremely rare, infection by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri can occur when infected water enters the nose, from where it can then migrate to the brain.  In most cases, people who get the disease do so by swimming in warm freshwater such as a lake.  However, infection can occur via sinus rinsing or ritual ablution with water that has not first been treated by boiling or filtration.  Infection by Naegleria fowleri cannot occur by drinking water.

For more information, please visit the CDC’s Naegleria fowleri website.

Should I use OWASA water to clean my contacts?

OWASA water should not be used to clean contacts or contact cases.  Only fresh cleaning/disinfecting solution should be used each time lenses are cleaned or stored and for cleaning lens cases.

Although rare, serious infection of the eye can occur from improper handling or use of contacts.  Infection by the amoeba Acantheamoeba can result in inflammation of the cornea of the eye and potentially permanent visual impairment or blindness.  Acantheamoeba is very common in nature; it can be found in fresh and salt water, soil, dust, and air.

We recommend following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for contact lens users to help reduce the risk of eye infections.  These include never using tap water to clean lenses or lens cases.

For more information, please visit the CDC’s Acanthamoeba website.

If you have sensitivity or health concerns about drinking water disinfectants

If you have sensitivity or health concerns related to disinfection with chlorine or chloramines, we suggest contacting your physician or other health care provider.