With the constant purification of our municipal water, is it possible that drinking wild water could actually be beneficial to our general health? Is it possible this benefit outweighs the potential risk of "contaminated" water especially that which is found deep in the wilderness?
After reading your line of questions I have to say you really summed up my own broader thoughts on this better than I ever could have. For me, right now it is impossible not to conclude there are huge and important benefits. I couldn't find a study that focused on that, but I'll keep trying.
Here are a couple good articles that describe how important gut flora is:NY Times: How Microbes Defend and Define Us
(DTape sent me this link. It's packed with info.)Science Mag: Using Gut Bacteria to Fight Diarrhea
(This describes some impressive progress on the above work)
When I consider the above, and then consider the likely effects Chlorine or Iodine have on gut flora, I have to conclude it's best to avoid them.
We know that water can contain some bugs that are bad for us, but as far as I can tell no one has ever looked for bugs that might be good for us. It's pretty near impossible for me to conclude there are none.
Aimless - I WAS a very long way from a large population center...
When I am in the high Wallowas and there's not much above me but snowfields or else there's a nice spring bubbling up, I'll sometimes drink wild water straight, no chaser, even if I have a filter sitting in my pack. The risk in a place like that is vanishingly small. Besides, it tastes sooooo good!
(I guess that means I lied when I said I "always" used my filter.)
I plan trips around water sources, and have for years. Drinking good, pure, wild water is one of the pleasures in life I enjoy and appreciate most. The water here in the Ozarks is one of the main reasons I moved here.
This year has been especially remarkable. We've had huge floods in `08 and `11, and lot of hard downpours this and the years in between those. This has really flushed system, so to speak, and has resulted in visibility in our local lakes up to 50 ft. at times this year.
I know this is not an option for everyone all the time, but it's worth the effort to learn the skills of identifying good water, doing some research on locating sources, and experience bending over a cool running pristine stream or spring and drinking from it. There are probably few things in life you could do that would be better for you. Maybe someday our medical industry will study the effects of that.