Risk of viral acute gastrointestinal illness from nondisinfected drinking water distribution systems
Acute gastrointestinal illness (AGI) resulting from pathogens directly entering the piping of drinking water distribution systems is insufficiently understood. Here, we estimate AGI incidence from virus intrusions into the distribution systems of 14 nondisinfecting, groundwater-source, community water systems. Water samples for virus quantification were collected monthly at wells and households during four 12-week periods in 2006-2007. Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection was installed on the communities' wellheads during one study year; UV was absent the other year. UV was intended to eliminate virus contributions from the wells and without residual disinfectant present in these systems, any increase in virus concentration downstream at household taps represented virus contributions from the distribution system (Approach 1). During no-UV periods, distribution system viruses were estimated by the difference between well water and household tap virus concentrations (Approach 2). For both approaches, a Monte Carlo risk assessment framework was used to estimate AGI risk from distribution systems using study-specific exposure-response relationships. Depending on the exposure-response relationship selected, AGI risk from the distribution systems was 0.0180-0.0661 and 0.001-0.1047 episodes/person-year estimated by Approaches 1 and 2, respectively. These values represented 0.1-4.9% of AGI risk from all exposure routes, and 1.6-67.8% of risk related to drinking water exposure. Virus intrusions into nondisinfected drinking water distribution systems can contribute to sporadic AGI.