Backcountry Water Treatment Part 3: What is in Backcountry Water?

12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2008 (EST)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Backcountry Water Treatment Part 3: What is in Backcountry Water?"

Biological, chemical, and aesthetic contaminants can be found in any water source, even in the backcountry, potentially ruining a trip. And you can’t tell just by looking.

Full article at

10:32 p.m. on December 17, 2008 (EST)
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The author writes, "For example, studies in the Sierra have found front-country streams (at the trailhead) that have virtually no contamination, while some streams far from the trailhead and not frequented by humans or pack animals have a high concentration of biological contaminants."

It would be nice if the author provided citations for those studies. For example, one study I am familiar with sampled animal stools along the trail, found microbial contaminates (not surprising), and concluded that the stream water couldn't be trusted. Pretty poor study in my opinion.

11:58 a.m. on December 18, 2008 (EST)
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Re: Backcountry Water Treatment Part 3: What is in Backcountry Water?

The article (series) was long as it is, and not intended as a complete scholarly article. However, you can easily find the articles in a quick Google search. One obvious place with lots of citations is the wikipedia article -

A more scholarly look that is on the web is in publications of the Wilderness Medicine Society. This article covers a lot of the ground.

The following is from Welch's article -

It might well be argued that it “couldn't hurt,” even if universal water treatment were unnecessary. This attitude, unfortunately, overlooks a major issue in wilderness education and human nature. The public's attention span for health advice is not limitless. If our objective is to protect the backcountry user from enteric infection, then we should emphasize the overwhelming evidence showing that assiduous hand-washing or using alcohol-based hand cleansers is by far the most important strategy. It must be impressed upon backpackers (just as it is impressed upon health care, food industry, and daycare workers) that stopping hand-to-mouth spread is the key to preventing gastrointestinal infection. Diluting this message with unfounded concerns about wilderness water quality or the relative merits of various water-treatment methods serves no useful purpose.

However, these go way beyond the aim of my series.

1:32 p.m. on December 18, 2008 (EST)
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Thanks for the info, Bill.

I'll add a brief notation if possible within the article linking to these for more info.

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