View Full Version : Getting Water from Dirt Tanks

05-10-2015, 17:27
Hi all...

My wife and I are "young" 60's couple who put in a lot of hiking/backpacking miles and have recently decided to start "connecting the dots" of the AZT sections we have already hiked. We live in Payson, AZ so most of our hiking has been around that area and north including a Rim 2 Rim last September. We are headed out in about a week to do section 29 from hwy 87 to Gooseberry Spr TH. That 30 mile section is primarily dry with the exception of numerous dirt tanks (and one spring. We are hiking SOBO and the spring is only a few miles in.)

We have yet to drink out of tanks... We have a Sawyer Squeeze and aqua tabs so are prepared but, to my question: How do you get water out of the tanks? It would seem if you wade in the water will "murk up" even more than it already is. Most tanks we have passed in our hikes if kind of clear are pretty scummy around the edges.

Just looking for suggestions/methods from those who have experience getting water from these tanks.

Thanks in advance!

Don & Susan

05-10-2015, 20:50
I'm not sure that there's really any good way to get water out of a dirt tank. But here are a few thoughts:

1) Always look for an outlet creek/stream that seeps out of the earthen dam. The outlet streams are usually much clearer because the water is filtered through the embankment.

2) Disturb the bottom as little as possible. I usually tried to find a football sized stone to gently put into the tank about 2 feet out. And then by stepping on the stone, it enables you to reach out 3 feet without actually walking in the tank and stirring up the bottom.

3) Sometimes, you'll just end up with turbid, dirty, smelly and disgusting water. Bring chemical water treatment (Aqua Mira) because your filter might clog and you really, really need to treat the water from cattle tanks.

4) Bring Gatorade crystals. The water is terrible, but at least you can mask the flavour to create a fruit punch flavoured drink with a hint of a cow poop after-taste.

That's all I've got. I can't say that I enjoy cattle tank water...

Spirit Walker
05-10-2015, 21:35
One thing I've done is to scoop water in my cook pot, since that will be boiled clean later, then filter through a bandana into the water bottle, then put iodine in to purify it. Or if you have time, scoop water, let the sediment settle in the bottom of the pot, then filter the top water into your water bottle, and if it's really disgusting, add iodine to kill anything that got through the filter.

05-11-2015, 08:25
Yep--scoop, filter the chunks out with the bandanna and add Aquamira. Maybe a double dose if it really stinks.

When I hiked the AZT, I never pulled water from a dirt tank. I had enough of that on the CDT and learned to carry extra water to make it to a metal tank or well.

Have a great hike.

05-11-2015, 11:01
Thanks for the help! As we look at the trail section, 30 miles which we can do in 2 days... we are leaning toward carrying extra water at least for drinking and maybe just use the tank water to cook with. Just not crazy about drinking dirt tank water! Met an older (than me! Admeration aplenty! ) through hiker in the Grand Canyon last week who had a great story about drinking out f a tank shared by a not so alive coyote! Yuck!

Thanks again!
Don and Susan

05-11-2015, 14:29
Hey! I live across the mountains from you.

Whether you end up taking the tank water or not you do want to be prepared to use it. You might have to.

I use my cook pot and scoop. Prefilter thru a bandana into a bottle. Then filter with a water filter (I don't use the Sawyer in AZ just because of this situation as I want more pumping capability). Then I put the Sweetwater clorine drops in the filtered water (avoid iodine). This should be just fine.

If in doubt and you have to use the tank water, just use the above water for cooking as then it gets boiled also before consumption (and the boiling cleans the pot you scooped the water with too).

You will be fine. It is more a yuck factor than a danger to you with all the filtering and such. It would actually be fine with just the bandana filtering and a good boil in an emergency (not that you would like the taste - well probably not, tastes do differ:).

05-24-2015, 18:58
Trip report... Well never actually had to "dip" out of a tank. We were fortunate to find water seeping from the back side of the tank where we filled up at. This water wasn't too bad to look at, just slightly murky as long as you disregarded-and avoided the bugs swiming around in it. Taste... yea a little "earthy" but not too bad! We chose to pack water from this tank for thevrest of our journey's needs - an extra 5L, but were vindicated as the rest of the tanks we walked by (21 more miles) were WAY MORE MUDDY. We did have to back flush the Sawyer Squeeze while tanking up as it had slowed down a bit. Still not sure we are ready to drink out of the "chocolate tanks!"

05-25-2015, 20:53
The "chocolate" is just a bit of suspended particulate which is unpleasant, but natural. It's the "lemonade" in the water that I don't like!

Glad you found a reasonably clean outlet stream for your drinking water!

08-24-2015, 09:30
The "chocolate" is just a bit of suspended particulate which is unpleasant, but natural. It's the "lemonade" in the water that I don't like!

Glad you found a reasonably clean outlet stream for your drinking water!


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