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#161622 - 02/02/12 12:50 PM Finding a water source and filtering
Jackamo Offline
member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 50
Loc: Central Oregon
As someone who has primarily car/canoe camped, its never been too big of an issue for me to bring any water i may need. with backpacking, i would imagine packing water wouldnt be practical, so im guessing finding and filtering water on the trail is my best bet.

aside from obvious contaminators, like upstream farms/livestock ranches, is it safe to assume that water from natural sources can be filtered and drank? should i avoid lakes/reservoirs and go for rivers/streams? should i boil in addition to filtering?

the area ill likely be hiking in this spring, on the east side of the cascades, is full of rivers and streams, fed by melting snow i believe. it sounds pretty clean to me, but any advice would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
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He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.
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#161623 - 02/02/12 01:17 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jackamo]
MattMan Offline
newbie

Registered: 02/02/12
Posts: 1
Loc: North Texas
Sadly no advice from me but, I am very interested in this topic and can't wait to see the advice people have to give!

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#161624 - 02/02/12 01:18 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jackamo]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3915
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
You probably don't need to boil water that's been filtered with a good filter where you're talking about, and you probably don't need to filter water from there that's been boiled either.

But this is a very local thing and it's best to get some info about the source if you can. When it doubt, always do one or the other or both.
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#161625 - 02/02/12 01:54 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jackamo]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
For a thorough discussion of water in the wilds, I'd refer you to Colin Fletcher & Chip Rawlings [/u]The Complete Walker IV[u] and Ryan Jordan's [/u]Lightweight Backpacking and Camping[u] (Alan Dixon and George Cole are listed as co-authors on some editions of Jordan's book.)

I can't speak with any authority on filtering in the western US. In the eastern US, filtering with a .2 micron filter is generally adequate, and no additional treatment or boiling is needed. "Filters" are labeled as "filter" or "purifier," indicating (to oversimplify) whether it will kill viruses; both will kill most other bugs. Because harmful viruses are not commonly found in US water (yet), filters and purifiers are functionally equivalent in the US without additional chemical treatment, and chemical treatments are generally effective without filtering.

However, you need to make some inquiries with the local management agency where you'll be hiking (US Forest Service, Park Service, or state equivalents.) They'll be able to tell you whether there are any local conditions that affect the sweeping overgeneralization I made above. For example, there is a cyst at Isle Royale that chemical treatment will not kill. Your only options there are to boil all water, or use a filter with a .2 micron absolute pore size or smaller. Likewise, there are places in southern Ohio where the tailings from old mines have so poisoned the water that the concentrated chemicals (such as arsenic) cannot be neutralized by filtering, boiling, or chemical treatment. Your only option then is to carry all the water you need. (At one popular spot, the Ohio DNR actually buried water tanks, and keeps them filled with potable water for hikers.)

Read one (or both) of the above books, and supplement with local knowledge, and you'll be fine.

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#161639 - 02/02/12 06:33 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jackamo]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6581
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
A good filter (0.2 micron or less) filters out everything except viruses. Most of us have been vaccinated against the really nasty waterborne virus diseases, such as polio and hepatitis. However, there are the noroviruses, which won't kill you (unless you're immune compromised) but will make you feel as though they are! If you are upstream of habitations (septic tanks and sewers), you don't have to worry about viruses. If you are downstream of such things, add a chlorine dioxide tablet (such as Katadyn MicroPur), which will take care of the viruses in 15-20 minutes (the reason for the 4-hour wait time on the tablet label is to kill the giardia/crypto cysts, which the filter will already have taken care of). This is by far the cheapest/lightest method of double-treating.

You have another problem if if you are downstream of mine tailings (you know, those picturesque old holes in the ground), or of areas of considerable agricultural chemical use. Fortunately, most mine shafts are shown on USGS topographical maps. Unfortunately, there are no filters that will effectively filter out things like mercury and pesticides.

A final problem is if your water source comes from glaciers and is full of fine silt. That will plug up your filter in a hurry. In that case you're better off to use chlorine dioxide and (for really cold water) wait the 4 hours. You can get some of the silt out with a bandanna or coffee filter, but not enough to save your filter from sudden death!

For the Cascades, unless you are downstream from ranches/farms/towns, a good filter is sufficient. I always take some ClO2 tablets, though, just in case something happens to the filter, since they are so light in weight.

The best source on effective backcountry water treatment methods is the Centers for Disease Control. I do not consider authors of backpacking books, most of whom are not scientists, a reliable source of water treatment information!


Edited by OregonMouse (02/02/12 06:37 PM)
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#161646 - 02/02/12 08:09 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: OregonMouse]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
The reason I mentioned the two I did is that Chip Rawlings spent considerable time working for a government agency (USFS? - I'm too lazy to go look it up) taking water samples, and Ryan Jordan is a scientist (or engineer) who specializes in water science of one sort or another (again, too lazy to go find specifics.) Other than those, I don't trust audthors, either (and, without Rawlings, would not have recommended St. Colin - though it was Fletcher who memorably defined giardiasis as "the feeling that the bottom was falling out of your world, and vice versa.")

The best advice I ever got on water treatment was a phone converstation with the ranger who was responsible for water quality monitoring at Isle Royale - he was knowledgeable, and I was smart enought to sit back and listen.

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#161653 - 02/02/12 10:06 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Glenn]
tramp Offline
member

Registered: 01/24/12
Posts: 79
Loc: WV
I use a Sweetwater filter. Has served me well for 10+ years of intermittent use. I fill a pot with water and let it sit a bit before filtering and use the pre-filter which help keep the fine stuff from clogging the filter element. I also carry iodine for emergency use.

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#161663 - 02/02/12 11:54 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jackamo]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3939
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Jack lives over here by me. Most streams around here are spring fed and a water filter is pretty optional. If you want want from the Deschutes - filter it, but you aren't gonna find any water hiking around here on lava. frown grin You'll have to carry it unless youre up on the mountain or along the cascade lakes hiway west of here.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#161664 - 02/02/12 11:59 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Glenn]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
The further upstream and the closer to the source of the water, the better the chances of it being uncontaminated. However, don't treat all springs as pure sources - you just never know.

I personally like boiling. It is the most broadly effective method, although it does use up your fuel. If you can't trust a ranger, whom can you trust? Truthfully, they usually give accurate information, although they will tend to be cautious and conservative.

Finally, if you are desperate for water,and out of treatment materials, go ahead and drink. Whatever is in the water can be dealt with once you get back to civilization, but dehydration is very deadly! This from an old desert rat....

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#161683 - 02/03/12 08:44 AM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Glenn]
topshot Offline
member

Registered: 04/28/09
Posts: 242
Loc: Midwest
Originally Posted By Glenn
"Filters" are labeled as "filter" or "purifier," indicating (to oversimplify) whether it will kill viruses; both will kill most other bugs. Because harmful viruses are not commonly found in US water (yet), filters and purifiers are functionally equivalent in the US without additional chemical treatment
First, filters don't kill anything, of course. They simply remove it. Second, filters and purifiers are only functionally the same in this case if the filter has a pore of 0.2 micron. Many filters are larger.

When using chlorine dioxide, the longest wait time for giardia is 2 hours. 30 minutes is commonly accepted by most to be sufficient. It's crypto that takes up to 4 hours in the worst case. Most don't seem to concern themselves with it, though it is definitely present in the backcountry, mostly near livestock areas.


Edited by topshot (02/03/12 08:45 AM)

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#161684 - 02/03/12 09:04 AM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: topshot]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
You're absolutely right - they remove, not kill. (The warning about oversimplifying applies to "kill" too.) You're also right about filters with pore sizes larger than .2 microns - I'd personally never buy one that wasn't .2 or smaller (are there any smaller?)

One thing that seems to get mentioned in connection with the larger pore size filters is the ease of use: it's a lot less effort to pump them (because you're not trying to push the water through as small a hole.) Don't be misled by "easy to pump" nonsense. In fact, I think the advertising about how easy it pumps is one of the reasons I'm having difficulty building confidence in the MSR Hyperflow I'm trying to like. Its specs say it's a .2 micron filter, but I keep hearing a little voice in the back of my mind saying, "But it pumps so much easier than the Miniworks; are you sure it's .2?")

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#161690 - 02/03/12 09:39 AM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jackamo]
Blue_Ridge_Ninja Offline
member

Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 98
Loc: North Georgia
Boiling is the lightest method since there's no additional gear to carry, but is the least convenient. Chemical treatment is the simplest and second lightest method, but there's at least a 30 minute wait before you can drink. With filtering the water is instantly ready to drink, but is the biggest weight penalty.

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#161692 - 02/03/12 10:30 AM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Blue_Ridge_Ninja]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Boiling is the lightest method if you are using wood to build fires and boil water. It is the heaviest if you use a stove and need a bunch of fuel extra to boil all your drinking water as well as water for meals.
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#161694 - 02/03/12 10:41 AM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
It can get complex; let's say you use a cartridge stove, and you have fuel excess to your bare cooking needs. Your treatment times for the boiling of water - just bring to a boil and let cool - are much shorter than the treatment times for other techniques and you can make tea into the bargain, without bothering about pore size, clogging of filters, and other issues. I have used some pretty nasty water sources (e.g. Canyon de Chelly) without incident by boiling. It is simple and definitive.

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#161725 - 02/03/12 10:38 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: oldranger]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3939
Loc: Bend, Oregon
I've had to boil water over wood a couple times and wood smoke smell in the water was pretty bad. I think the easiest lightest way to go here in central oregon is a PUR hiker.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#161735 - 02/04/12 12:01 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jimshaw]
tramp Offline
member

Registered: 01/24/12
Posts: 79
Loc: WV
I had a PUR hiker before the Sweetwater. Nothing but problems for me.

Here in West Virginia there are many springs. Haven't had any issues drinking straight from them. In fact when I go to Judy Springs in the Monongahela my pack is always heavier on the way out. Great water straight from the mountain,bring some home and toss it in the fridge.

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#161737 - 02/04/12 02:39 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: tramp]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3915
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By tramp
Here in West Virginia there are many springs. Haven't had any issues drinking straight from them.


Same's true here. I still filter or boil it. It's just to ingrained in me not too, but I'd love to have the water tested from a few of the places I go often just to know for sure.

For years, when I was a kid growing up in No IL, the government told us we had an aquifer with water that was over 2000 years old and pure as arctic ice. Some of it came out in artesian springs. People used to go to one of them and fill jugs and bring them home. I drank out of it when I was a kid. Turns out that pollutants did seep into it before it got to us.

Around here (the Ozarks), water can flow for miles and miles underground. I do know that local wells have very pure water, and that makes me feel better, but I'll never be completely confident again without testing the source.
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"You want to go where?"



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#161757 - 02/05/12 12:51 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: billstephenson]
Jackamo Offline
member

Registered: 11/06/11
Posts: 50
Loc: Central Oregon
Thanks for all the info everyone! It may be a little while before im able to implement it, i learned yesterday that i may have to relocate for work, possibly to new jersey, so ill probably have to wait to see what the backpacking/water situation is there for one, and until i have time for hobbies.
_________________________
He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.
-Samuel Johnson

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#161766 - 02/05/12 09:49 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Jackamo]
tramp Offline
member

Registered: 01/24/12
Posts: 79
Loc: WV
New Jersey from Oregon? Man it better be a very well paying job. Jersey is one of my least favorite places on the planet Earth.

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#161768 - 02/05/12 10:10 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: topshot]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2806
Loc: California
I use chlorine tablets. I find that it takes some time before the chlorine does not smell. I really do not know what that exact time is, but I have consumed some water early and it had a distinct chlorine smell. If I let it go for 4 hours there is no smell.

Using chlorine tablets is very light but takes lots of planning. I usually treat one 2.5-liter platypus when I get into camp. I cook with untreated water, because it boils when I cook. Say I get in camp at 4PM, the first thing I do is get water and put in 2 tabs. The water will be ready by 8PM. I try to save one cup of water during the day so that I can have enough to mix my Emergen-C when I get into camp. Then I drink tea made from boiled untreated water. Before bed I pour some of the treated water into my drinking bottle for the night. In the morning I gather more water and use it untreated for breakfast. Then I pour the remaining treated water into my water bottle(s) I carry during the day. This works for me, but if you are a huge drinker of water, it may not work as well.

Also, most of the water I encounter is probably just fine without treatment. I really do not hesitate to drink untreated water if I need to. Treating some of the water simply reduces the risk. The risk is pretty small to begin with.

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#161789 - 02/06/12 12:49 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: tramp]
Steadman Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 513
Loc: Virginia
New Jersey drivers might be nuts, but the surf can be good, particularly in South Jersey. The Delaware Water Gap is near North Jersey; good hiking possible, and good canoing.

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#161794 - 02/06/12 01:21 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: wandering_daisy]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3915
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
I use chlorine tablets. I find that it takes some time before the chlorine does not smell.


I could be wrong, and if I am I hope someone corrects me, but as I understand it...

When you add chlorine it combines with organisms and kills them. One of the by products from that process is "chloramine". Chloramines are bad for you.

I think the chlorine smell goes away when/if all the chlorine has been converted to chloramines.

If left in the sun and allowed to aerate the chloramines will be removed by a photoactive process, but this takes some time.

So, I think that if you are using chlorine treated water you should filter it after it's been treated to remove the remaining chlorine and chloramines. I am pretty sure most of it can be removed with a charcoal filter.

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"You want to go where?"



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#161799 - 02/06/12 02:00 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: billstephenson]
aimless Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2969
Loc: Portland, OR
The chlorine in tablet form for hikers is chlorine dioxide and does not form the sort of organic contaminants you are referring to. It is the chlorine in household bleach you have to be careful about.

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#161801 - 02/06/12 02:31 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: Steadman]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Quote:
New Jersey drivers might be nuts, but the surf can be good, particularly in South Jersey.


You got that right Steadman. It just can get a little cold at times.


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#161802 - 02/06/12 02:46 PM Re: Finding a water source and filtering [Re: aimless]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1772
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
It is the free chlorine produced by both chlorine dioxide tablets or solutions and sodium hypochlorite bleach that is the active microbiological agent in these compounds. It is the free (and dissolved) chlorine gas that produces the "chlorine" taste and smell. Chloramines are produced by the reaction between free chlorine and amino acids.

For most clear lakes and streams, the amount of biological mass suspended in the water is small - on the level of nanograms per liter. In some of the soupier water the biological mass is in the milligrams per liter (ppm) range; it can reach levels of a gram or so per liter. The amount of potential chloramines produced by free chlorine contact with proteins should be pretty small. Most water borne organisms consist of around 10% protein on a dry weight basis and for most of these organisms the dry weight:wet weight ratio is about 0.3 or less. Proteins are composed of amino acids.

I wouldn't just treat cloudy water with ClO2, it would take too much to be sure all the bugs were dead. I filter water that is cloudy or that I can't see through before I treat it with chlorine dioxide. But, if the water is clear I just add the pill and wait. One reason that I often filter and then chemically treat is that a lot of the water I find in the desert mountains is pretty cloudy and after filtering it still can have a rather foul odor and taste. The ClO2 tabs remove much of the icky aroma.







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