Have you ever gotten sick from drinking water? Really sick? It's not nearly as much fun as sitting around a campfire…or a million other things. I've been lucky enough to only get mildly ill while out and about but I'm also very cautious. I haven't been in the situation where I had to choose between dehydration and drinking unknown water but I know it can easily happen, especially in the southwest where I've lived for years. Whether you are rving , camping or hiking, you should keep your water levels in mind. Clean water is getting harder to find as an increasing population leaves it's footprint on every last bit of earth.
Do you have one of those fancy water filter systems you bought at REI or wherever? That is great and it helps out a lot but you still shouldn't rely on it completely. It may not cover every bug you encounter in the wild. And even if it does, it may not work to one hundred percent effectiveness. So don't go taking a filter system into nasty green colored, beaver feces filled water and think you'll be fine.
Here are some tips to at minimize your risk while in the great outdoors, whether you have a filter system or not.
Go to the source of the water if you can. Follow streams upward for better water. Then go up the tributaries that flow into that stream if you can. The closer to the source the better.
If you are at a large lake, try to go 200 hundred feet away from the shoreline. The more the better. Weigh your container down and sink it in the lake with a rope. You want more deep water than surface water. Use motion on your rope to try exchanging the water out and get more water from down below.
Note that this is the opposite in small sunlit pools. Then you want the water near the surface in the sunlight. The nasty microbes like to swim below the surface of calm water and out of the sunlight.
Clearer is great but it doesn't always mean the water is fine. Just like you can have tan water and it be perfectly fine. Tan water is better than green. Tan is more natural where as green indicates algae and an increased likelihood of tiny stomach churning organisms.
Find fast moving waters if you can. Avoid stagnant waters where things are more likely to breed, as well as defecate.
Go towards clear air
Avoid getting your water near any industrial locations. In more remote areas, this can include paper mills, lumber and mining facilities. They put all kinds of nasty things into the ground and in turn, the water. You don't want to drink that stuff.
Go away from animal homes
They didn't invite you to their home but they may still serve you something you don't want to drink. Look for obvious animal habitats near the water, which are most likely to be beavers. There is going to be more waste in the water around them and in turn you are more likely to be welcoming Giardia into your body. This is a nasty little protozoan that enters the water through feces. This common water bug causes severe discomfort and may stick with you more months or even years. Most people become a carrier rather than a full blown victim. Symptoms include cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. If you get this out in the wild, it makes it hard if not nearly impossible to do the things you need to do to get out of the bad spot you are already in.
Do you have any more water tips I've neglected to mention? Have you ever gotten sick out in the wild? Let me know.