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Thread: Are water filters good enough in the UK?

  1. #1
    Widdler
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    So I've been looking into what to do about water while wild camping on Dartmoor.

    Let's just assume for the sake of argument that I don't want to take the risk and drink untreated water while camping.

    Having looked into water treatment options a good all round solution seems to be a water filters, something like the Sawyer Mini Water Filter. I know that a filter like this doesn't do anything to prevent water borne viruses. My question is, in the UK (somewhere like Dartmoor) do you really need to worry about viruses?



    Thanks a bunch!

  2. #2
    Ultra King Mole's Avatar
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    No

  3. #3
    Widdler
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    If you can rule out 100% that there is no human or animal contamination then no you don't need treatment, but I would recommend it for piece of mind as diarrhea and vomiting is not only unpleasant but dangerous.

    Kits are cheap enough now but stay away from tablets as they are awful in taste.

    The below is from a useful site

    http://www.v-g.me.uk/WildCamp/WildCampWater.htmSprings

    Springs are generally the best water source in any area and can be used even at low levels, except where they emerge near old mine workings due to possible contaminants. The main problem is knowing where the reliable ones are, especially in summer. People make broad statements about the abundance of springs in mountains which imply that you are never very far from one and don't need to carry much water, as if they occurred with the frequency of bus stops. This is not true in our experience and even if it was merely an exagerration, the information is useless unless we know where they are in advance. With a planned route and schedule we always allow some time for collecting water based on a study of the map, but we could be searching for springs for ages and still not find one. The springs marked on the map are not always reliable either, as we have sometimes passed a whole group of them with not a drop of usable water between them.
    When good springs are found the water is usually excellent - cool, clear and just how all water should be. Streams

    In almost all cases on high and mid level routes we rely on streams for water. For each trip we study the map and circle one, and ideally two or more, stream sources that don't involve a long detour or descent, preferably near the end of each day. The contours give a clue to the chances of success: a steeply incised cleft suggests that the water must at some time flow well and swiftly, whereas a streamlet that cuts the contours at right angles has not formed a significant cleft and is less likely to be flowing in summer. An area of small tributaries that join into one stream is often a good bet. A further clue might be the size of the stream lower down. Recognising likely sources becomes easier with experience but it may still be necessary to descend further than envisaged.

    In all cases we collect the water as near to the source as feasible and check the stream gulley a bit further up for possible contaminants. Large streams may have short side tributaries which are sometimes better as they have less opportunity to pick up discolouration, from peaty ground for example. Streams that issue from tarns are not a good choice due to the risk of human contamination, especially in popular areas, but we have sometimes used them in little frequented regions.

    In rocky mountain areas, stream water should be almost as good as a spring but the situation in other regions is variable.
    In predominantly heather moorland areas the ground is drained slowly and the water is stained by the peat. The colour is usually quite pale near the source and is not really a problem, being only a psychological barrier, but a few people have reported that the acidic nature of peat can upset a very delicate stomach. In summer the water tends to be warmer than a typical rocky stream which makes it seem more unpalatable. Adding flavouring such as crystals of an isotonic energy mix can help here but we don't usually bother.

    Reedy streams on rough grassy hills are a mixed bag. Some give very good water, but some retain a reedy tang even though crystal clear, and again flavouring can help. We have never had any problems with any of these, though we obviously avoid any that taste distinctly bad.

    The best water source we have found outside rocky mountains is forests, especially conifer plantations, which was somewhat surprising. These are often planted on steep hillsides to aid logging,

  4. #4
    Ultra King Diddi's Avatar
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    Never treated water anywhere in UK and drink from streams never carry water on wildcamps only a little on day walks.

    Still ere

  5. #5
    Ultra King That bastard Skip's Avatar
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    He's got guts like a vulture, that Diddi

    There are several brands of microfilter purifiers available that will protect you. I use a Drinksafe Travel Tap. There's a brief review here and there's an old OM thread about it too.

    I rarely drink untreated water. The exceptions are water from springs and fast-flowing water in high rocky terrain (preferably above the sheep grazing line). When I've drunk in those circumstances I've suffered no ill effects.

  6. #6
    Widdler
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    That is all really helpful thank all of you.

    My other question is just animal contamination that was mentioned above. Surely somewhere like Dartmoor where animals can roam around, contaminates can run off into the streams? Isn't that what can potentially carry viruses.

    Sorry this is a very stupid question. In all honesty I am not particularly worried, just interested.

  7. #7
    Ultra King Diddi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by That bastard Skip View Post

    He's got guts like a vulture, that Diddi

    There are several brands of microfilter purifiers available that will protect you. I use a Drinksafe Travel Tap. There's a brief review here and there's an old OM thread about it too.

    I rarely drink untreated water. The exceptions are water from springs and fast-flowing water in high rocky terrain (preferably above the sheep grazing line). When I've drunk in those circumstances I've suffered no ill effects.
    Soft southerner git
    My kids love to drink from mountain streams too......I'm soooo irresponsible

  8. #8
    Ultra King Mole's Avatar
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    @Macleod

    You can't be that interested or you'd have looked it up somewhere more suitable?
    I am the only one to have answered your question re viruses. And I'm just a random bod.
    What waterborne viruses are there that you might catch in the UK? Do you know how long a virus exists outside its host?

    If you want to cover yourself against oocysts (cryptosporidium or giardia) or even bacteria, get a filter. If, like many if us you want to gamble based on the numbers then drink it untreated. Cryptosporidium is your most likely risk IMO. If it's a problem on Dartmoor, I am either tolerant or immune, as I have drunk the water untreated for 30+ years without illness. Use your judgement re extraction sites as discussed above.

    I don't drink untreated water everywhere. As also discussed above, there are popular sites which are likely contaminated by human use. parts of North Wales Ogwen Valley is rumoured to be one, as are parts of the lakes.

  9. #9
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    I'm with Diddi and Mole on this and never treat water in the UK. Just use sense in where you get it from. FWIW, I spend a great deal of time on Dartmoor and am, I think, still alive...

    Off to N Wales tomorrow morn for 4 days camping/biviing- we're not takng a filter! I expect to return...


  10. #10
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    @ Mole...dont be grumpy

    @TbS ....ever camped on a farmers campsite - chances are the water coming out of the field tap is untreated...so you have been drinking untreated water much more than you think!

    @ MacLeod92...do you really believe that even mains treated water is devoid of all contamination? Filters - by definition - will not remove viruses. (just think of the size of a virus, therefore the size of the filter pore needed to block them therefore the throughput of that filter).

    Virus's need treatment, either UV or chemical. Then there is the question of how long a virus remains viable out of its host and where said virus can be communicated to a human. I'm not saying that it is impossible to pick up a virus from drinking water...but that it is very unlikely.

    Bacteria and oocysts are a different matter. They can be removed by a filter and I am told, it is impossible to build up a resistance to them.

    Will I drink from standing water - no. Will I drink from a lowland stream - no. In both cases I think that the chances of something nasty lurking is relatively high because of farming practices and density of human habitation.

    Upland, fast flowing, springs and streams...sure.

    Personally I have been drinking untreated water for 50 years with no problem I am aware of.

  11. #11
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    'Will I drink from standing water - no.' Not sure if this is re UK or world-wide, but I have no problems with it, again, using sense. In Greenland last year,almost ALL my water for the first 12 days or so was from lakes - there were no streams for much of it, and none seen in the first 3 day or so. The water was lovely!

  12. #12
    Widdler
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    Thanks for all the info everyone. Very useful. As with a lot of things these days it is hard to know what is actually an issue and what is marketing designed to scare you in to buying everything.



    Thanks!

  13. #13
    Ultra King Diddi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by macleod92 View Post

    Thanks for all the info everyone. Very useful. As with a lot of things these days it is hard to know what is actually an issue and what is marketing designed to scare you in to buying everything.



    Thanks!
    exactly.

  14. #14
    ‹bermensch cathyjc's Avatar
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    Only once in 30 yrs in the UK, have I been ill thru' drinking 'hill' water - and that was when, in hind sight, I should have realised the source would be contaminated and avoided it. Now I carry a few water purification tabs, just in case I have to use a less good source.

    Abroad - that's another matter.

  15. #15
    ‹bermensch
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    I seem I be in a minority here as I purify as a matter of course. Everything is alright until it isn't.

  16. #16
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    rob - just here in the UK.

    greenland wouldnt have a lot of people (forgetting animals) around

  17. #17
    Goon gix gixerson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SD View Post

    I seem I be in a minority here as I purify as a matter of course. Everything is alright until it isn't.
    Same here, the risk may be minimal but it's hardly like filtering is expensive or hard to do these days is it.

    I do find the "done it for 30 years" responses amusing, like thats any indication that something is not bad for you, i know folks that have been smoking at least a packet a day for over 30 years, going by the "done it for 30 years" "logic" they will obviously not get lung cancer or heart disease.



    There are very few things in life that have a dead or not consequence, most everything else is a risk.

    The chances of getting ill from drinking contaminated water is very small, but thousands if not millions of people get ill every year from it, ok not all are in the UK, but still it happens.

    I've been driving for 30 odd years, i've never had a crash (on the road) where a seatbelt saved my life, yet i still wear one, mainly because it's the law but also because the inconvenience is inconsequential, especially compared to the risk.

    It's not like you can spot contaminated water, most the stuff we worry about thrives in clean well aritated water sources, so anyone that says they use their "experience" or "judgement" is talking absolutely rubbish.

    It's a gamble, taking water from higher streams stacks the odds more in your favour but it's still a gamble.

    Does the very slight risk of being seriously ill and possibly cancelling your planned trip outweigh £20 and 2 mins of your time to filter?

    Your money, your time, your choice.

  18. #18
    Ultra King Diddi's Avatar
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    Gix do you drink tap water on campsites and hotels etc in the lakes?

  19. #19
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    Diddi - its a case of what I dont know doesnt hurt....so dont burst a bubble by pointing out that many establishments in the Lakes have their own private water supply that may be tested at source but probably isnt filtered as such and wont be chemically treated.

  20. #20
    Goon gix gixerson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Diddi View Post

    Gix do you drink tap water on campsites and hotels etc in the lakes?
    Don't do campsites and if i'm in a hotel i'm either drinking tea or Guinness and the op was asking aboutDartmoor



    As i say "Your money, your time, your choice" should probably add "your stomach" in there as well.

    I just think it's a bit rubbish when people say they "i'm still alive (or still ere)" as if that is some kind of concrete proof there isn't any risk.

    It gets worse when folks talk about taking water from areas completely different to where the op was asking.

    As an example, my Mrs has NEVER been ill drinking water while wild camping in Dartmoor, neither has my Mum or my brother.

    Of course non of them has ever been to dartmoor, never mind wild camp or taken water from there so the statement is pretty useless.



    Lastly, how do you know you've never been ill from non filtered water?

    The symptoms can often take days if not weeks to show, by that time most of us are back home and would put our illness down to bad chicken curry or too much Guinness the night before.

    Then there is the fact that some peoples immune system copes better with these sort of water born "problems".



    I'm not saying you're wrong or that i'm right, i'm saying that no matter what or where you take your water when out camping there IS a risk of illness, you can't see what's responsible for this with the naked eye and clear well airiated is no guarantee either, so belittling the risks with anecdotal experiences in completely different areas to where the op intends to go, with completely different people, with a different immune system is pretty much useless.

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