Water is one of the most important substances humans need to survive. If you're like me, you pretty much take it for granted that clear, clean water will come out of your tap when you turn it on. How often do you think about where it comes from or what it goes through to become clean? I've heard about water treatment plants, but I've never given two thoughts about exactly what they do.
For the first part of my research, I was examining how important water is for civilized society and how it can contribute to illness. Believe it or not, there are quite a few pathogens in water, even water that comes from the tap and is fit for consumption. Most of the time, the pathogens aren't in high enough concentrations to make us sick. Other times, we aren't so lucky.
This scene from The Walking Dead was part of the reason I wanted to examine water.
Aaaaaaah! The water has been tainted!
You would think this would be damning and that water would be infected with zombie bugs until the end of time. Interestingly, that may or may not be true. Soil acts as a natural filter for pathogens occurring in water. Depending on how deep and how connected this well is to other underground water supplies, it might not taint everything around it. Then again, pathogens can travel for miles in underground water sources. This one act could taint water sources for communities a long way off.
It got me wondering: what if the zombie pathogen is transferred through the water supply? It's easy to test water to see if a certain pathogen is present, but it's incredibly difficult to trace the source or figure out exactly what a "lethal" dose is. Thousands of people can be affected before authorities figure out the contamination came from the water. Once that happens, it's easy to stop the spread. However, we ALL have to drink water to survive. How late is too late if you ingest the zombie disease?
This is one of the questions I will be looking at in my new nonfiction novel. What is the probability of the population being infected through water? How long would it take to realize the water was tainted? What could be done about it once that is realized? We still have to drink water, even with zombies wandering the earth, so how do we protect ourselves?