The United States water utilities deliver some of the safest drinking water in the world, but according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bacteria-laden drinking water continues to cause disease outbreaks in the U.S.

Biologists at the University of Colorado Boulder are collecting water samples from municipalities in the Ohio River Valley to determine why the water drawn from the tap is different from the water that leaves the municipalities’ water treatment facility.

They theorize the deteriorating plumbing infrastructure and chlorine-based disinfectants are the culprits. Many municipalities use chlorine-based disinfectants to destroy harmful cellular organisms that cause illness, like typhoid, cholera, and dysentery, but according to the research it does not remove everything. Researchers estimate that between 10 and 100 million planktonic, free-floating, organisms survive in every quart of tap water. These organisms include methylobacteria, Legionella, and nontuberculour mycobacteria which can infect the lungs, skin, and other organs. Many of these organisms survive in the biofilms – a sticky polymer made of DNA, proteins, and carbohydrates – that cling to pipes like plaque.

Researchers are sequencing the DNA in the collected water samples to better understand and manage the bacteria. Our humble suggestion – start leasing a water cooler with state-of-the-art water filtration and purification technology that removes bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and bad taste.