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Can You Drink Water From a Mountain Lake or Stream?
We all know that you should drink enough water when hiking. If you are hiking in the mountains, you will come across many mountain streams or lakes, and the question arises: can you just drink the water? The answer is generally: Better not. Drinking water from the tap or from a well is definitely the safer option. Water directly from nature often makes you sick, as it can contain harmful bacteria or microorganisms. However, there are many people who fill up their water bottles directly in the stream in the mountains, even though this is not very smart. In this article you will learn everything about drinking water in the mountains.
What water is safe to drink in the mountains?
In general, in many Alpine countries, you can drink tap water without any problems. In fact, there are few places in the world where tap water tastes as good as in the mountains. But be careful: in many restaurants and mountain huts, the washrooms indicate that it is better not to drink the tap water. Mostly -depending on the country- marked by: 'No drinking water', 'Niente acqua potabile' or 'Pas d'eau potable.' It is not always true, some hut owners simply want to increase the consumption of guests by preventing hikers from filling up with free water instead of buying drinks in the restaurant or hut. If you see such signs, however, better be careful and don't fill up your water bottle to be on the safe side or ask the innkeepers. If there are no such signs, you can assume that the water is drinkable anyway. Water from drinking fountains is also safe and wonderfully refreshing.
Do not drink water from mountain streams, rivers or lakes.
Even if the water looks fresh and delicious, you should not drink it directly from mountain rivers, lakes or streams. It sometimes contains bacteria, viruses or microorganisms that can make us sick. It often happens that an animal or a human being has relieved itself in the water just before you want to drink from the beautiful fresh water, or that somewhere in the water a dead animal is rotting. Mountain lakes are also home to many animals that excrete substances that are not good for us. You wouldn't be the first to suffer from stomach and/or intestinal problems after drinking mountain water. This can seriously affect your wonderful hiking vacation in the mountains. So don't take unnecessary risks and better not drink water from streams, rivers or lakes in the mountains.
Always take enough "safe" drinking water with you
There is plenty of water in the mountains, but don't rely on it; always make sure you have a good supply of drinking water yourself when you're hiking in the mountains. On a six to eight hour hike, you should drink about two liters of water. The actual amount of drinking water you need depends on you and the weather. If it's very hot, you'll obviously need more water than on a cold day in the fall. But even then it is important to drink enough when hiking in the mountains.
What to do when you really need water?
Of course, there may be situations when you urgently need water in the mountains. So if you ever urgently need to drink water directly from nature, you should consider the following points:
- The higher, the cleaner. The higher you are in the mountains, the cleaner the water. That's because high up, you're closer to the source, which means there's less risk of contamination, such as from cows. Water above 2,500 meters or on a glacier is much cleaner than water from lower climes.
- Does the water flow quickly? Another important aspect is whether the water flows quickly. If so, it is generally safer to drink it.
- Check where the water is coming from. If you can see where the water is coming from, you can better assess the situation. Water from a glacier is safer than water from a source you can't see.
- Test with a small sip first. If you want to drink the water, it is recommended to smell it first. Then take a small sip first and spit it out again and try to taste if something is wrong. If you are not sure if it is safe, it is better not to take a risk and continue drinking it.
- Never drink stagnant water, hot water, or water with visible particles.
- Filter: If you can't avoid drinking water in the mountains from time to time, use a water bottle with a filter. You can find these in any better outdoor store. There are also chemical tablets that purify water. Be sure to get good advice when buying.
- Boil: Boiling the water (for at least a minute) will kill a lot of bacteria and other possible pathogens. However, small particles such as dust and sand must be filtered out by other means.