Can you drink water from hot water heater? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Use it for washing purposes. Don't drink it. It will normally contain much more contaminants than cold water. Most minerals which dissolve in water dissolve way faster in hot water.

I'm very serious about this; if you don't believe me for some reason, ask any person who is knowledgeable in water quality issues.


-- Al K. Lloyd (, December 07, 1999


well, don't drink it FIRST. If this is all the water you have, and you have no filter, and your other option is ditchwater ...

-- bw (home@puget.sound), December 07, 1999.

HUH? I drink it all the time, when I shower I take a gulp or three. Sometimes I make coffee with it. I'm a licensed PE and know of no reasons not to drink it at all. The "contaminants" you speak of could be:

- Minerals that come out with the water. This is lime and other junk that precipitate out when water is heated. Minerals are forced out of solution by heating, usually along the heated surfaces. You're already drinking them in dissolved form in your cold water. Just filter the chunks out.

- Disease organisms? Water *stored* for long periods at lukewarm temps can become contaminated. If your heater is hot enough to wash dishes and you use it normally (five people in my house -- it NEVER sits for more than a day) nothing will get a chance to grow.

- Funny taste? That's from the dissolved minerals not being in the water any more. If you want to flavor it, add a pinch of salt.

- Bubbly haze? Gasses in the water are foced out by heating. Again, you'd be drinking these anyway. If the cloudy look is a concern, let it sit. The bubbles will go away after a few minutes.

If you know of any *documented* problem with drinking heated water please let me know. I've never heard of any (from household systems). I consider my water heater to be a primary source of potable water.

-- Gary S. (, December 07, 1999.

I read up on water heaters and drinking water (used altavista, searched on "hot water" near drink* and danger*) and I think I know what ALK meant. Hot water can assist in transporting lead from old (pre 1986) solder and some types of brass into the water. This is the ONLY issue I could find in my search.

This shouldn't be relavent for Y2K purposes because:

- Lead/hot water problems occur when heated water flows *through* the solder or brass fittings, or sits in them after heating. I'm talking about using water that has just sat in the tank (most are glass lined) and has not flowed out through the plumbing at all. It has also cooled by the time you'll use it.

- Lead poisoning is a long term issue, brought on by chronic exposure (particularly in children). The water we're using won't last for months and months (and I hope it won't have to).

A good place to learn about water quality:

These links mention the greater likelihood of lead in heated water:

A great Y2K site that also had the great idea of using your water heater as a potable water source (plus a ton of other good info):

Hope that helps!

-- Gary S. (, December 07, 1999.

"Water *stored* for long periods at lukewarm temps can become contaminated."

Really? I hadn't heard this, I've stored city treated water in plastic soda bottles in the garage for several months and certainly during that time it has been luke warm. Should I be concerned?


-- Hope I (Won't@Die.Com), December 07, 1999.

No problem with the pop bottles. I should have been more precise. Water stored at ~100 - 110 F has been shown to encourage the growth of certain bacteria. This has only been found where water heaters (large, industrial or commercial units) are kept unusually cool to prevent scalding. This was an occasional problem in nursing homes and other locations where the burn danger was highest. Water is now requred to be stored at 120 F minimum.

Your bottles were not maintained at a *constant* temperature and the water did not get to degas its chlorine. They're fine.

-- Gary S. (, December 07, 1999.

Heard recently that the whole "ingestion of lead" from pipes and lead- based paints, was another empty SCARE. It's off-topic, but where is the medical literature on all this. OBVIOUSLY its unarguable, conventional medical dogma -- like don't breast-feed; ircumcise all newborn males; never sleep with your children, etc.


-- SH (, December 07, 1999.

"Legionaire's Disease" is a bacterial infection brought about by organisms that grow in water optimally at about 102 degrees.

One of the reasons this disease was so deadly for the aged legionaires is that the organism's natural state temperature was at the human body's natural infection defense temperature. (100-104 degrees) The human body can't fight off the disease by "natural" methods.

In the original case of Legionaires' disease, a leaking recirculating heat exchanger sprayed 102 degree water into the HVAC airstream caused a fine mist that could be inhaled by the Legionaires. Small droplets containing the disease were inhaled causing the infection to start in the lungs of the infected.

It didn't help that the water in the HVAC system was "recirculating" and was likely the modern equivalent to "swampwater." (Which no one in their right mind would knowingly consume anyway.)

In the case of your water heater, you likely won't be inhaling the water and the temperature of your gut is somewhat less than optimal for the bacteria. Also, you will likely take your water at some temperature other than "Legionaires' temperature" since most of us don't like to drink large quantities of lukewarm water (Campbell's soup notwithstanding.) Also, the recent "turnover" of the water in your waterheater limits the "multiplication" of the bacteria.

The water in your waterheater is probably *perfectly fine* to drink, especially if you're an adult and in reasonably good health.

Best regards,

-- Joe (, December 08, 1999.

Squirrel Hunter said, "Heard recently that the whole "ingestion of lead" from pipes and lead-based paints, was another empty SCARE. It's off-topic, but where is the medical literature on all this. OBVIOUSLY its unarguable, conventional medical dogma -- like don't breast-feed; circumcise all newborn males; never sleep with your children, etc."

Ingested lead badly deforms red blood cells to the point where they can no longer function and a life-threatening anemia can result. I did a great deal of hematology work in graduate school at a bird of prey rehabilitation program. Lead poisoning was fairly common in the bald eagles we treated. They are primarily scavengers, and given the opportunity will feed on carrion such as waterfowl, many of which have shot lodged somewhere inside them. Once in the very acid environment of the eagles' stomachs, the shot corrodes until it is small enough to pass into the intestine. Until that time, lead is absorbed into the blood stream. The blood smears are very characteristic. The eagles can die if not treated in time.

Meanwhile, my water treatment plant, the one that services all of Greater Boston, keeps my water at a very alkaline level in order to discourage both lead and copper from leaching from any lead or copper-lined pipes that may exist in the water distribution system.

Lead poisoning is real, with nothing in common with the medical "dogma" that you cite. Any good hematology textbook will have the information you seek. Can't imagine where your information came from.

-- Brooks (, December 08, 1999.

Hey, guys, I didn't post this to get into an argument with anyone. I have ALWAYS heard that it's a bad idea to drink water from the water heater. If you want to drink it, fine. Go for it. All I'm recommending is that you should use it for wash water and use something else for drinking. I agree that the amount of lead poisoning, or copper poisoning, or poisoning from the other heavy metals, eg. those used in galvanizing, aren't likely to kill you in the short run, unless your water supply is fairly acid (is it?). My friends were diagnosed with copper poisoning from drinking their well water. The water dissolved their pipes, actually caused a leak after about one or two years, as I recall. Doctor recommended that they let the water run for a minute or two before filling their water bottle, as the copper was stronger when the water had been sitting in the pipes all night, or for however long...

I always assumed that they drank water from the cold water faucet. Imagine how bad it would have been if they had been drinking water from the hot side. Hot water dissolves most metals faster than cold, I am pretty sure.



-- Al K. Lloyd (, December 08, 1999.

The Dachau camp headquarters is now a museum. To a Cantabrigian, the most familiar figure will be Dr. Siegmund Rascher. He did gruesome medical experiments involving freezing people in cold water or air, then trying to warm them up with hot water (this would allegedly help the German air force). He also subjected people to high altitude simulations until they died. Was he cruel? Did he hate non-Aryans? No. He just wanted to get his PhD. He kept submitting research reports to Nazi-controlled universities in an attempt to boost his credential portfolio. He would have graduated with distinction had not his infertile older wife been arrested for stealing babies. ... (more)

-- no problemo (, December 09, 1999


It seems to me concerns about lead and solids absorbtion in heated water will not be relevent in a situation that calls for using the water heater for storage of emergency potable water.

One thing that is worth doing now is flushing out the accumulated sediment from the bottom of the tank. which is where you will be drawing the water from if you have lost your domestic water supply.

Turn off the heat source, connect a water hose to the drain on the bottom of the tank, run the hose outside, open the drain and allow the tank to flush out the sediment on the bottom.

Old tanks on well water may have enough solids accumulated to stop the drain up. Now is the time to find out.

Before you begin, be prepared for the possibilty that once you are finished and close the drain it may drip or leak. The simplist remedy is to have a "bib cap" on hand, you can find them at your local hardware store. Also be aware of the location of your water supply shutoff before you begin in case you have a problem with the drain valve.

It's not a big deal, just use your common sense. I've changed out about fifty residential water heaters and these are just some things that come to mind.

Have some extra paper coffee filters on hand for later, the first time you draw water from the bottom of your tank you may want to prefilter the water in case there is calcium or other sediment the first time you use it, but if you flush it out now there won't be much accumulated in the next month or so.

-- Tom Beckner (, December 09, 1999.

Lead poisoning is not a paper tiger.

See Lead, Fluoride, the Roman Empire and the Decline of Academic Achievement in the United States and Lead Exposure and Health Effects

-- Tom Carey (, December 09, 1999.

A couple of things:

First, I suppose if you're someone, like me, who prefers to refilter his or her tap water, before drinking, these arguments are important. However, if you're one of the millions and millions of people who continue to just suck the water straight from the tap, so to speak, I'm sorry, but this is pretty much a non-issue, when faced with dehydration. That's especially true, if you're a "tap-sucker" who's made no preps, and all you got is what's in your hot water and toilet tank.

Two - I think something really obvious is being missed here. The water coming to your tank is cold water. At that point the water is no more or less contaminated than the water coming from your cold water tap. Any extra lead that is being leached into the water, is happening after the water leaves the hot water tank and continues to the hot water taps. In most homes, where the hot water is used frequently, I doubt there would be much of a backflow problem putting the leached lead back into the water tank.

Three - Mineral deposits are readily removed by basic filtration methods. Most chunky lime sediment would be removed by something as simple as a coffee filter, and low end department store filters that use activated charcoal as a filter medium (like Brittas) will take care of the majority of smaller particle contaminents like leached lead.

Four - Water that is held at 140 degrees for 4 hours is effectively pasteurized, eliminating the bacterial conamination problem. I forget what the exact length of time is for 120 degrees, but I think a day would certainly do it. If you're in the habit of keeping your tank temperature low, make it a point to turn it up.....soon.

Nothing presented in this thread is false, but I think the term "blinded by science" would be appropriate, here. This is one of the few easy to fix problems, in the mess that's coming in just a few weeks. It might be more constructive, in this particular discussion, to focus on the easy fixes, instead of the horrors......Just my two cents worth, with an extra half penny thrown in for good measure.

-- Bokonon (, December 09, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ