In Terms of Backcountry Water Treatment, When is Water Considered Safe to Drink?

Brown, silty streams, tea-colored rivulets, even clear, ice-cold lakes—any backcountry water source can serve up a cocktail of contaminants. But not everything that’s present in an undeveloped water source is necessarily harmful, and only some things pose an immediate threat to your health. In fact, it’s impractical and unnecessary to remove everything, all the time. So in terms of backcountry water treatment, when is water considered safe to drink? First, what’s commonly in backcountry water? The types of contaminants that make water “dirty” depend a lot on that source’s surrounding environment. But most contaminants can be placed into these categories: Microorganisms- Simply put: tiny bugs or germs. Microbes are the primary focus of treatment devices because of their immediate and potentially serious risk to your health. The pathogenic ones include…

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Water Treatment 101: Cryptosporidium

Research backcountry water treatment and you’re sure to be warned about cryptosporidium or “crypto.” And for good reason. This microscopic protozoan parasite is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in humans in the United States. Like the parasite giardia, crypto is found in water sources worldwide, and affects individuals differently. Fortunately, the disease it causes is rarely life-threatening in healthy adults. In fact, some 80% of the U.S. population has had cryptosporidiosis at some time, according to the FDA. Still, its symptoms are nasty enough that you’ll want to take strides to avoid it on your next backpacking trip.

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