Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by James from Clarksville, OH. James Wonders, “Why do you have to purify water?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, James!
Do you ever get to enjoy a nice hike in the woods? With so much going on in our lives these days, it can be refreshing to walk on a trail in a forest or park, listening to birds chirp and the wind blowing the leaves on trees.
Hiking can definitely make you thirsty, though, especially in the summer heat. If you've ever hiked near a beautiful babbling brook you may have been tempted to partake in a drink of the water. After all, the water often looks crystal clear. Certainly it's safe to drink, right?
Staying hydrated on the trails is important when you're in the woods. If you're going for a short hike, you can always take several bottles of water with you. If you're hiking for multiple days, though, you need to learn how to find water in the wild.
Unless you're hiking in the desert, you're probably going to run across plenty of water sources in the wild, including ponds, creeks, streams, lakes, and rivers. But are these waters safe to drink?
Unfortunately, most sources of water in the wild aren't necessarily safe to drink without treatment, no matter how clean and clear they may appear. Water sources in the wild often contain harmful microorganisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites.
If ingested, these contaminants can cause a variety of illnesses, including giardia and dysentery. Common symptoms of water-borne illnesses include nausea, cramping, and diarrhea.
Since water-borne illnesses can be very serious, it's best not to risk drinking water from a stream without treating it. The simplest and most effective way of purifying water is by boiling it. Experts recommend bringing a container of water to a rolling boil for five to ten minutes to ensure that all microorganisms are killed.
If you're unable to start a fire to boil water, you can use chemical purifiers instead. There are a variety of chemical purifiers available where outdoor goods are sold. These might include iodine, chlorine, potassium permanganate, or halazone tablets.
You can also buy water purification devices that contain a combination of chemical purifiers and water filters. These devices vary greatly in their effectiveness, so make sure you know what your chosen device's limitations are before relying upon it in the wild.
If you're heading out into the wild for an extended trip, be sure to talk to an outdoors expert in advance to make sure you're prepared to find and treat water in the wild. Don't drink untreated water from a stream no matter how clear or clean it looks. It's simply not worth the risk!