Wilderness Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You ...

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Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You Need to Know About
Written by Paul Kirtley . Topics: Bushcraft, Survival, Water, Wilderness Environmental Hazards
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Is this water safe to drink? Photo: Paul Kirtley.

We can’t tell whether fresh water it is safe to drink by looking at it. Unless, for example, the water is obviously stagnant, dirty or oily we cannot visually determine the presence of some of the potential contaminants. Even if the water looks clean, it may be contaminated. Over the years while leading people in the outdoors and teaching courses in wilderness skills, I’ve found that most uncertainty about how to treat water comes from a lack of clarity over what the problems might be. This is due, at least in part, to the marketing surrounding the many water-purification products aimed at the outdoors user.

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turbid water can irritate your digestive system.com FEATURED BUSHCRAFT EQUIPMENT AND BOOKS Digitally coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicting the upper surface of a Giardia protozoan. Waterborne parasites can be either multi-cellular organisms such as worms or simple. but several cause disease in humans and other animals.01-0.. turbidity can reduce the effectiveness of chemical treatments. 2013 course now! www... Frontier Bushcraft provides high courses quality and bushcraft wilderness BUSHCRAFT COURSES expeditions. In addition. They obtain food by ingesting other organisms or organic particles. Many protozoa are free-living microorganisms.frontierbushcraft.co. Removal of turbidity is important. mud. Protozoa are typically 0. benefiting at the expense of the other. capable of motion. Examples include Cryptosporidium and Giardia. Even if there are no waterborne diseases present. the better equipped you will be in determining the solution. http://paulkirtley. Protozoa are colourless microbial organisms. thick or cloudy.Wilderness Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You . Source: CDC (via Wikipedia) 2 of 7 13-01-06 05:00 PM . Parasites are organisms that live in or on another organism. Owned and run by Paul Wilderness Water Purification: Useful Detail Kirtley. This can be due to sand. Reserve your place on a Turbidity: Turbid water is muddy. single-cell organisms such as protozoa. There are five categories of contaminants you may need to eliminate from fresh water to make it safe to drink: Turbidity Parasites Bacteria Viruses Chemical pollutants Frontier Bushcraft: Wilderness skills and adventure. Protozoa lack the cell walls of algae and fungi and in this respect resemble animal cells. silt or other suspended particulate matter such as decomposing organic material..uk/2011/water-purification-5-contam.05mm in diameter. The better your understanding of the potential contaminants. Don’t be baffled by scientific terminology or over-technical marketing hype.

uk/2011/water-purification-5-contam. 3 of 7 13-01-06 05:00 PM . More serious diseases such as Hepatitis A and Polio have long been known to result from faecal contamination of water. Viruses lack many of the attributes of cells. some of which cause disease. Bacteria are a large group of single-cell organisms. water. Typically a few micrometers across (micrometer or ‘micron’ is one millionth of a metre). http://paulkirtley. Bacteria are widely distributed in soil.Wilderness Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You . the tissues of plants or animals. Many causes of ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’ are considered the result of infection by waterborne viruses. between them producing a wide range of infections.. Viruses are not cells. Only when it is associated with a cell does a virus acquire a key attribute of a living system. viruses are measured in terms of billions of a metre (nano). Source: Rocky Mountain Laboratories. quite stable.. and unable to change or replace its parts.. bacteria are much smaller than protozoa. air. Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli. and on. Many viruses cause disease in the organisms they infect. NIH (via Wikipedia).. While protozoa are measured in terms of thousandths of a metre and bacteria are measured in millions of a metre. NIAID. or in. A single virus particle is a static structure. Bacteria were first observed in the 17th century and first definitely implicated in a disease (anthrax) in 1876. Examples of diseases caused by bacteria include Typhoid fever.co. some of them potentially lethal. reproduction.

http://paulkirtley.Map of Prevalence. forestry and agriculture.Wilderness Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You . heat. Chemical pollution in wilderness areas and national parks are often associated with nearby mining.co. mechanical disturbance such as crushing or vibration. Hepatitis A . allowing it to be much more resistant to drying. Source: CDC. For parasitic species. Chemical pollutants can range from pesticides to heavy metals. water or oxygen for a period of time. the cyst will also enable it to survive outside of the host... That is. Some microorganisms (such as Giardia lamblia) can form cysts.. which allow the organism to live without food.. chemicals. could be protozoa.uk/2011/water-purification-5-contam. The cyst protects the organism from harsh conditions. Other Terminology A pathogenic organism is any organism that causes disease. bacteria or virus. UV and ionizing radiation than the unprotected organism. 4 of 7 13-01-06 05:00 PM . as far as waterborne disease is concerned.

Pre-trip research will also help you determine which waterborne pathogens are possible. Use Common Sense and Research In a wilderness or remote travel situation. How to Deal with Water Contaminants 5 of 7 13-01-06 05:00 PM ... http://paulkirtley. then the water can be free of pathogenic organisms and safe to drink. The presence of waterborne pathogens is often associated with the presence of humans and domesticated animals (and their excreta contaminating the water).co. and the signs much more subtle. likely or endemic in the country you are travelling through. Dead fish and vegetation are clear signs of serious chemical pollution.. or is there a lot of agriculture up river?). The life cycle of Giardia. Use common sense and research to find out what you are likely to be facing. if any. We can see turbidity and it can be removed with coarse filtration.. With a little bit of pre-trip research we can judge if we are visiting an area where chemical pollutants may be an issue (for example will you be near sulphide mining. it is unusual to have to deal with all five types of contaminant at the same time. Source: CDC.Wilderness Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You . But remember we can’t know for sure without testing the water. Even if the locals drink the water. remember that they may well have been doing it for years and have an acquired immunity to pathogenic organisms we may never have encountered before. This type of research can easily be combined with determining which inoculations. however.uk/2011/water-purification-5-contam. you require before a trip. In many places where there has been little or no human activity and no livestock or pack animals. Chemical pollution is often less extreme than this.

Some chemical treatments (chlorine. and adopt a solution that best fits the circumstances.. iodine) will kill many pathogenic organisms (in particular bacteria and viruses). No single method. Photo: Amanda Quaine. while other treatments (chlorine dioxide) will deactivate all of them. will provide satisfactory treatment for all of these contaminants. If you understand these fundamental principles. parasites. however. Here.co.uk/2011/water-purification-5-contam. including pros and cons and tips for application. there are many water purification products on the market which make use of some of these methods. bacteria. Microfiltration will remove the larger pathogenic organisms (protozoa and some bacteria). the important points you need to remember are as follows: Coarse filtration will remove turbidity..Wilderness Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You . Hence. The author using a water purification pump that combines filtration and chemical treatment. Boiling will kill all pathogenic organisms (at any altitude). http://paulkirtley. Further.. This proliferation of products along with marketing tends to create some confusion amongst potential users as to which method is “best”. viruses and chemical pollutants. you will be able to deduce that a combination of filtration and a suitable chemical treatment or boiling will deal with any or all of the specific contaminants. I’ve gone back to first principles. free from the influence of marketing. The best solution depends on the circumstances. Recommended Books for Further Reading: 6 of 7 13-01-06 05:00 PM . There are methods of dealing with each of turbidity. To keep things as clear as possible. Certain types of filtration (activated carbon) can remove some chemical pollutants.. The details and pros and cons of various methods will be covered in future articles. In future articles I will look at the various methods in more detail. then you can start to make an informed judgement.

co. Sign Up to see what your friends like.2013 Paul Kirtley. 2011 Here's the permalink for this article: Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You Need to Know About Learn more about: Protozoa Bacteria Chemical pollutants Water purification featured Filtration Pathogenic organisms Turbidity Viruses Back to home page Home About Paul Images Free Tips and Advice Resources Contact Sitemap Privacy Policy Blogcatalog.. All Rights Reserved. http://paulkirtley.Wilderness Water Purification: The 5 Contaminants You . Bio Latest Posts Paul Kirtley Paul Kirtley is a professional bushcraft instructor. Posted on October 5. Designed by 7 of 7 13-01-06 05:00 PM . Hosted by Powered by WordPress. offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft.com Copyright © 2010.uk/2011/water-purification-5-contam. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. a wilderness bushcraft school.... Print this article/Share it!: Print it! Email to a Friend Tweet 23 +5 Recommend this on Google Share Like 3 43 people like this.

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