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Roadside Springs

Do Not Drink Water From Roadside Springs!

Image of a roadside spring

While it is the perception that roadside springs provide water that is natural and good tasting, that perception comes with a significant health risk.

In a study performed by the Penn State Extension from 2013 to 2015 at various roadside springs across Pennsylvania, over 90% of the roadside springs that were sampled were found to be contaminated with total coliform bacteria3. Samples were taken throughout the year and microbial water quality was poor, no matter what time of year the samples were taken1. E. coli was also tested for and found in 1/3 of those springs3. Giardia and Cryptosporidium were also detected at a subset of the springs. The concentration of most aesthetic contaminants was low which explains why most consumers think water from roadside springs tastes good1. Taste or appearance of the water alone is not a good indicator of the water being safe to drink since many harmful contaminants are not visible2.

Efforts in the past, by spring owners, to post information warning that the water was unsafe to drink resulted in the signs being defaced or destroyed by visitors to the springs1.

While not much information is known about roadside springs because they are not regulated and most are not sampled regularly for drinking water contaminants, enough information is known to say that they should not be used as a potable water source for humans.

Even in remote locations, the water could still be contaminated. A user does not know what the water passes through between the source of the spring and the outlet for collection.

Image of a roadside spring

For more information, please refer to the Department’s fact sheet on Roadside Springs.

1Issues Associated with the Use of Untreated Roadside Springs as a Source of Drinking Water, Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education. Issue 156, Pages 78-85.

2Water Scavenging from Roadside Springs in Appalachia, Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education. Issue 166, Page 46-56.

3Website: Roadside Springs,