Seven W's of Hiking Safety: Water

Number 6 of the Seven W's of Hiking Safety is Water.

Untreated water from open water sources such as lakes, ponds, streams and springs may not be safe to drink.

Be Prepared

Bring plenty of water with you when  hiking so that you won't need an alternate source. Purchase and bring a pump or chemical water treatment kit.

Finding water sources when outdoors can be unreliable, so try not to rely on finding water sources in the wilderness. Also, avoid further contaminating streams, especially when camping, by following these simple rules:

  • Do not pollute open water sources with any type of waste, including human waste.
  • Choose a campsite at least 200 feet away from open water sources.
  • Wash any camp cookware (or your own body) at least 200 feet away from open water sources.
  • Do not immerse yourself in a water source if you are wearing deodorants, sunscreens, perfumes, or lotions.

Don't Panic

Avoid drinking water from lakes, ponds, streams, and springs if at all possible. Water from these open sources can be boiled (for about 15 minutes) or treated with a pump or chemical water treatment kit to make it safe to drink.

One of the most common contaminants in lakes, ponds, streams and springs is human and animal waste which can cause Giardia, an infection of the small intestine, when untreated water is ingested.

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Riverside Hiking Examiner Cathy Flores is a freelance author currently writing a hiking guide for the San Bernardino Mountains.

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