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  1. #1
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    Default Am I overthinking this?

    We get our water from a well. We don't have any type of filter or purifier system at our house. What's preventing us from getting sick? Are there no nasties in water that comes from way underground? What's the difference in that and getting water from a piped spring somewhere on the trail?

    Hubby says I think too much...
    Dear Karma, I have a list of people you missed.

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  2. #2
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    Lotta people don't treat or filter their water on the trail others always do. I guess the question to ask is "What's up ahead of the water supply" and do you want to risk spending time being miserable with a case of Giardia.

    You decide.

    BTW, I believe most people get sick on the trail from eating out of others food bags than from the water.

  3. #3

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    The earth or ground is a great purifier of water, much better than any filter can do. Well water is fine without filtering. My wife used to get several kidney infections per year drinking city water. Now that we live in the country and drink well water, she has had one infection in six years. Go figure.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by OBXWaMi View Post
    We get our water from a well. We don't have any type of filter or purifier system at our house. What's preventing us from getting sick? Are there no nasties in water that comes from way underground? What's the difference in that and getting water from a piped spring somewhere on the trail?

    Hubby says I think too much...
    If your source of potable water is from a well, it is responsible then to have it tested for contaminants regularly.

  5. #5
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    BTW, I don't intend to not filter on the trail, I was just thinking (too much) about our water at home.
    Dear Karma, I have a list of people you missed.

    A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.

  6. #6
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    I'm in the education business. I would never tell my students that they think too much!

    "Are there no nasties in the waetr that comes from way underground?" - Yes, there are microbes in ground water.

    "What's preventing us from getting sick?" - Several answers here:
    - Well water is filtered by the earth. For those of us who drink city water from surface sources (Lake MI in my case), guess how it is filtered and cleaned. It is percolated through a bed of sand and gravel. Your well water probably percolates through a lot more sand and gravel than mine.

    - Not all nasties are nasty. Most microbes are not a problem. Some are good for you. There are only a few microbes that would make you sick.

    - Your immune system. Your body is constantly being invaded by microbes which you successfully fight off. In fact you are a walking community of microbes (human microbiome). Just look at what happens when an animal dies. As soon as an animal stops actively fighting off these microbes (i.e. dies), the decay process begins within minutes. In a few days, the body is reduced to a blob of goo.

    - Luck - there are probably plenty of people who get sick from drinking contaminated well water.

    "What's the difference in that and getting water from a piped spring somewhere on the trail?" - Depends. There are lots of people who drink untreated water along the trail and don't get sick. Many people will probably chime in to claim that most gastrointestinal disorders among hikers come from poor sanitation and not from contaminated water. That piped spring water may come from deep underground and be perfectly safe. However, it might be just downstream from a cow pasture, last week's thru hiker's cat hole, etc...(you know what bears do in the woods). The problem is you just don't know. Hence the conventional wisdom to treat all water.

  7. #7
    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    Generally I do not bother to treat water that comes from a nice looking spring, piped or otherwise.

    That said, spring water is no guarantee. The fact is that many "springs" are nothing more than shallow underground streams that may have had their origins above ground, and thus be susceptible to contamination.

    Many streams are also perfectly fine to drink from, but there is more of a risk due to the possibility of human, beaver, bear, deer, coyote, raccoon, dog, cattle, wild boar, etc. contamination.

    The only way to be certain is to frequently test a source (not done) or treat every source (But must be done properly, with properly maintained equipment. Something greatly lacking according to my non-scientific observations.)

    When it comes down to it, use common sense, and depend on your immune system to do it's job. Quite thinking it to death. :-)

  8. #8
    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    Has more to do with how the well or spring water is delivered right? In general, the water starts clean at the underground source, but its where you get it from on the surface and how you get it than can be a problem. Doesn't help if hikers go "dipping" dirty containers.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

  9. #9

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    I have a well. When I moved in I had it tested. There was some bacteria. I shocked it and retested and it was fine. "They" recomend testing every year, Personally I won't for several years but I think it is a good idea to do on occasion. In VT our state lab will test for bacteria for 15$ and will test for everything for around 125$.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by scope View Post
    Has more to do with how the well or spring water is delivered right? In general, the water starts clean at the underground source, but its where you get it from on the surface and how you get it than can be a problem. Doesn't help if hikers go "dipping" dirty containers.
    Or washing things in it.

    Surface water (streams and ponds) are more suspect then springs, as you don't know whats up stream or whats feeding the pond. That said, I'll often drink water "el-naturalel" from small streams up on a hill in the woods, but never from large streams next to roads or in a valley. About the only reason I'll filter my water is to remove the floatsome and jetsomes from it, if needed. Bascially, we are blessed along the Appalachians with surface water which is mostly safe to drink with out treatment.
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  11. #11

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    If drinking that well water is a new experience, then it wouldn't hurt to have it analyzed in case you have a baby or a family member with a weak immune system.

  12. #12
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    That reminds me of the first house I lived in on a well. I was scared of drinking the water for several months and actually carried drinking water up from the city. Then I ran out once. I drank the well water and didn't die. After a couple months of drinking well water, I started carrying that water on trips to the city so I wouldn't have to drink city water any more.

    That changed the way I look at spring water. On the AT, I thought it was a shame to see people in the cities buying bottled Appalachian Spring Water. But when faced with the actual spring, the same people were too afraid to drink from it. Phobias are normal, they are by definition irrational, and what we pack addresses them.

    I did have my well tested when I bought the house. There were septic tanks in the area, and some wells were contaminated. That would be good to know.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  13. #13
    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    drinking water from a well or a very good piped spring should not be a problem. What probably IS a problem is drinking water from a stream where animals can and probably have deficated into it. as for when I am hiking on the trail.. the water may well be safe but why take a chance? I've read that giardia can ruin a hike or at least make one's home coming most unpleasant.

    david

  14. #14
    Registered User squirrel bait's Avatar
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    Welcome to WB, there are now two of us here on the Outer Banks.
    "you ain't settin your sights to high son, but if you want to follow in my tracks I'll help ya up the trail some."

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  15. #15

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    Your "thinking too much" is what leads some of us to make sensible rather than absolutist decisions about water treatment.
    Some knew me as Piper, others as just Diane.
    I hiked the PCT: Mexico to Mt. Shasta, 2008. Santa Barbara to Canada, 2009.

  16. #16
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    I grew up drinking well water, and a shallow, hand-dug well at that. In fact, just a few decades ago, most of the population was rural and did the same. However, they all eventually died. Hmmm.

    Welcome to WB! Don't fret, jump right in, the water's fine. (pun intended!)

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  17. #17

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    Lewis Black did a great routine on drinking water a few years ago, and claims the word "aquafina" is latin for "the end of water as we know it."Years ago we drank water from garden hoses, pipes, fountains, anywhere it could be found and rarely if ever did anyone get sick. In NYC you'll find people carrying their bottled water around in holsters as if they were taking a safari thru the sahara(and NYC has one of the best tap waters in the country.
    Its good for you to ask the question, but with all the groundwater contamination and an unnerving impetus in govt these days to ease environmental regulations, why not be safe at home as well as on the trail. Ive drank from untreated sources from time to time without incident, but 9 times out of ten , ill treat water before I drink it.

  18. #18
    Registered User Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirrel bait View Post
    Welcome to WB, there are now two of us here on the Outer Banks.

    Hey thats great - how did you come across that name....?
    Dogs are excellent judges of character, this fact goes a long way toward explaining why some people don't like being around them.

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  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by hikerboy57 View Post
    with all the groundwater contamination and an unnerving impetus in govt these days to ease environmental regulations, why not be safe at home as well as on the trail.
    The government will only ease environmental regulations on things that your chemical treatment or filter will not be able to get out of the water.
    Some knew me as Piper, others as just Diane.
    I hiked the PCT: Mexico to Mt. Shasta, 2008. Santa Barbara to Canada, 2009.

  20. #20
    Registered User squirrel bait's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Old Owl View Post
    Hey thats great - how did you come across that name....?
    Rhymes with Merle and was meant to reflect I was a bit crazy (seem to be the norm then) in the late sixties early seventies.
    "you ain't settin your sights to high son, but if you want to follow in my tracks I'll help ya up the trail some."

    Rooster Cogburn.

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