Methods of treating your water in the Grand Canyon!




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Water Sources

Trails in the Canyon

Backcountry Hiking!

Once we spent a week in Clear Creek in February, and really felt like we were alone, and in the wilderness. Camped up the creek, we quit treating our water because it was just so clean, pure, and clear. About the forth day we dayhiked upstream and found a ripe, dead, stinking, buck lying right in the middle of the creek! Charlie Bongo and I dragged him out of the water up on the bank, but you can bet we treated the water after that!

Always treat your water with iodine, or use a filter. Some hikers use bleach, three drops per litre. Springs are the best but remember that the water filters down from above. And above may include cows and other contaminants. Be careful of pothole water, also, you may think you're in the wilderness, but someone might of come along and bathed or washed in that sweet, beautiful pothole! The Colorado River is considered safe, but remember it comes down from Moab, Page, and the Little Colorado drains from Cameron, so treat it too. Mike Quinn and Bill Keryan drinking that muddy Colorado River water!
Look at that brown water in the gallon bottles that Mike and Bill are drinking! It's hot and dry, and they are happy to be resting in the shade and drinking that muddy Colorado River water!

Methods of treating your Water

Boiling This method kills, pretty much everything and is practical when at camp. If you have the fuel, boil up some drinking water for the next day. It won't remove metals or contaminates that are non-volatile. It won't make muddy water clear; Colorado River water has to set for a while for the silt to settle to the bottom. It won’t hurt you to drink it but mentally it might be tough! Experts say to boil the water for at least a minute then let it cool. Realistically, get it to a boil and then let it cool.
Iodine Iodine tastes bad, especially in the heat when your stomach is queasy anyway, but it will remove most waterborne pathogens. Typically, its advisable to use iodine in conjunction with a filter since some protozoan cysts are resistant to iodine, and, because of their size, they will filter out. Iodine is also subject to lengthy contact time depending on water temperature, and is not a quick way to make drinking water. Iodinated resins, small black iodine beads, which sometimes are a filtration option, are effective if there is sufficient contact time with the liquid. If water is forced through this form of iodine it is not very effective since iodine requires soak time to kill the waterborne pathogens. To make iodine treated water taste better, dissolve a vitamin C tablet to make drinking easier.
Chlorine Many people use an eyedropper bottle of bleach, and use 3-5 drops per litre of water. It needs some time to work, and the chlorine taste might bother some people. This method is not generally considered effective.
Filtration The safest method, filtration, is where technology meets our need for water, now! Whether you decide to buy a paper, ceramic or carbon filter, and learn to use it properly; you will decrease your chances of acquiring waterborne illnesses dramatically and have better tasting water. Each water filtration device has different specifications, varying degrees of filtration, pump design, filter life expectancy and pack weight, to name a few differences. Since they're mechanical, by nature, they're going to have mechanical difficulties and require repair or replacement, eventually. The major drawback in the Canyon is the bulk and weight of the filter. You might have to leave that book or camp sandals at home to make room and still keep your pack weight down.

For your own safety, health, peace of mind, and enjoyment either boil, treat, or filter your drinking water. Find the method that works for you!

Harvey Butchart's Water Sources List

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