Is It Safe to Drink from Roadside Springs?

Is it safe to drink from roadside springs? It’s a common enough question, but the answer is not always straightforward. While some people say that drinking spring water is healthy, it’s also important to understand the potential risks before you take a sip. Read on to learn more about this potential hazard.

The Big Question: Is It Safe to Drink from Roadside Springs?

First, let’s talk about what roadside springs actually are. In general, roadside springs occur where the underground water comes out near the surface. Although the water may look pure and clean, it is still very important to be cautious. After all, the water might be contaminated. It is coming straight from the ground, so it hasn’t been purified. Therein lies the danger.

Often, the source of the water is unknown. It is also unclear where the spring water has traveled before being collected. Additionally, if a spring flows above ground, this allows animal waste or chemicals to run into the water. As a result, roadside springs can contain bacteria and other unknown substances that can make you sick.

Beware of Bacteria!

By the time the spring reaches a collection point, it could contain mysterious chemicals, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. You can never be totally sure! Waterborne organisms like Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and E. coli can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Even worse, spring water may also contain chemicals that can cause long-term health effects. These can include kidney and liver damage, nervous system disorders, and birth defects. The health effects of drinking contaminated water can be more severe, or even life-threatening, for babies, children, the elderly, and immune-compromised individuals.

Before You Sip

If you’re still considering a drink from a roadside spring, consider the risk. Roadside springs are generally not routinely tested. Instead, drink water from either a regulated public water system that is required to treat, disinfect, and monitor its water on a regular basis, or from a properly installed and maintained drinking water supply well.

Moreover, even when it comes to natural springs or untreated surface water, it is not always safe to drink. Put simply, there are just too many red flags about drinking untreated water. It’s better to avoid it altogether. Instead, opt for purified water that has been mechanically filtered or processed to remove impurities like bacteria, viruses, chemical pollutants, and minerals like lead and copper.

Drinking More Water, But Watching Out

Drinking enough water is crucial for good health, but it’s equally important to make sure that the water you drink is safe. How much water you need per day depends on many factors, including your physical activity levels, climate, age, health status, and more.

As such, it’s best to drink when you feel thirsty, drink enough to achieve clear or pale-yellow urine, and increase your water intake to compensate for water loss, for example after sweating during exercise or in the heat.

If you’re trying to drink more water, there are many ways to make it more enjoyable and effective. Keep a reusable water bottle with you, try to sip water every 15–30 minutes. For extra flavor, add fruit, herbs, or vegetables like lemon, cucumber, or mint. Beyond this, replace sugary drinks like soda and energy drinks with water. If the taste of tap water is an issue for you, invest in an at-home water filter, such as a reverse osmosis filter:

So, let’s turn back to our original question: Is it safe to drink from roadside springs? Overall… probably not. As you can see, it’s generally better to avoid drinking from roadside springs. Instead, opt for treated water from a regulated public water system or a properly installed and maintained private well.