If you can get sick from drinking most of the water that you encounter, how have humans lived so long?


I am not anything close to an ecologist or a biologist so this question may be really dumb. But I know that water is essential. It is used in many important bodily processes and we would die without it very quickly.

So my question is, how did so many generations of humans survive without the water purification standards that we have today?

Is there a reasonable amount of dirt, toxins, bacteria, etc… that can be in water and it won’t make us sick?

I also know people have boiled water for a very long time but didn’t we only discover bacteria and viruses in the lasts several hundred years? Did people know that boiling water would purify it?

Also am I wrong for thinking that most water in nature is dangerous to drink?

Hopefully these questions make sense.

In: 1437

They likely collected running water from a stream or something similar. Still water is what you typically want to avoid as it’s more of a breeding ground for bacteria.

It really depends on when you are talking about. If you are talking about neolithic humans we survived like any animal survived. Nature is riddled with parasites. It’s not a comfy living but it’s a living. We likely suffered from wide spread parasites and got frequently sick and just toughed it out because you had to survive. Humans would be smart enough to prefer running water over still water and stuff but at the end of the day we just have a much higher standard for what the basics are now. This level of comfort and health simply did not exist back then.

Most water in nature is dangerous to drink when you consider that most water is salt water. For fresh water, if it’s running, it’s often safe. Nature also has a few natural filtration methods. Rain water is usually safe to drink and there are places where it rains frequently. A lot of modern water pollution comes from civilization – whether that’s crowded cities using waterways as sewage dumping grounds, or farms having spillage, or companies dumping their waste in places that drain into water sources.

A few things.

1. Drinking from untreated water is more dangerous than from treated sources, but it is not guaranteed that you will become ill if you do so.
2. Many early humans did die from unsafe drinking water; according to the NIH, 200kya ~75% of people died due to infection predominately caused by the lack of access to clean food and water. Average life expectancy was 33 years.
1. Even today as many as 3.5 million people die per annum due to lack of access to clean water
3. Some water sources are less dangerous than others, and early humans would have learned this fairly quickly. Ground water can be filtered by the soil, and running water will generally be less dangerous than others
1. Note; the presence of fast moving or ground water does not guarantee safety. You should always drink from a safer source when possible, or boil when not
4. Humans learned to boil water as early as about 30kya

Edit: realized I was missing a word

Before wide spread agriculture and mining, fresh water streams and rivers were relatively more safe to drink from. Also, people have been digging wells for a long time and there’s a natural purification that happens in them.