Why do land managers say to treat water?

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Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby Lophophaps » Sun 13 Jan, 2019 8:54 pm

There are some more remote parts of Australia where water is heavily polluted, and some parts where water is pristine. The polluted water tends to be downstream of built-up areas, farms, factories and the like, or near mines, operating or closed. There are also some places that have a lot of visitors and no toilets, like parts of the Overland Track.

In the last 15 years or so, land managers have advised that all water should be treated. This makes sense if the water quality is suspect. It makes less sense for wild water, well away from OLT-type volumes of visitors.

Two reasons have been suggested to me for the "treat all" advice. The first is that this is a CYA policy - if visitors get sick then land managers can say that they said to treat the water. I saw this on Johnnies Top where a tank that had a sign "Drinking water" changed to "Rain water". There was a sign for both "Untreated rainwater do not drink". Right, put in a tank and then say not to drink it ...

The second reason is that some people are said to react badly to water from remote sources that has not been treated like that for piped city water.

Apart from water that is polluted, do the above two reasons have merit? Is anyone aware of adverse reactions to what very much appears to be clean remote water? Is there any science to support this?
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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby ChrisJHC » Sun 13 Jan, 2019 9:55 pm

It’s much more likely to be CYA than anything else.
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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby Xplora » Mon 14 Jan, 2019 6:17 am

I know many people who drink from rivers which they think are clean. Rafting on the Mitta with a TAFE group and the students told me it was OK to drink the water. No thanks.
defecation Middle Creek Bridge2.jpg
defecation Middle Creek Bridge2.jpg (127.38 KiB) Viewed 369 times

Found this the other day beside the Mitta.
Apart from the increased human traffic in many places we have lots of other nasty things entering waterways. Possums love rooftops and they carry giardia and crypto. Rainwater is collected from rooftops. Deer, wild dogs, pigs and other animals all excrete things which can make you sick. There is no way a land manager can guarantee any water is safe unless is has been treated to be potable. You can either treat the water yourself or take the informed risk. My partner has been through the giardia thing and does not want to do that again. We have drunk from a couple of streams or springs in the mountains and have not had any issue but was that because we were lucky? Who knows. The things that cause this are microscopic so clear, running water is not an indication it is safe. I agree with the land managers. In this day and age they need to protect themselves from litigation.
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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby ChrisJHC » Mon 14 Jan, 2019 10:11 am

I guess the other approach is to decide whether the risk of getting an upset stomach is worth saving yourself a little time and bother.
I am personally happy to wait a bit to reduce the chance of getting sick and ruining a walk.

The only times I don't treat are when there is a water tank that collects from the adjoining structure or where the tanks are filled from a local potable water supply (eg the Larapinta).
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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby Lophophaps » Mon 14 Jan, 2019 10:32 am

Xplora and Chris, good points. I do not regard the Mitta Mitta as wild water - too many people. It would be interesting to see the results of a series of water tests over several years at places like Taylors Crossing. Even one test may inform. I'm quite happy to treat water if the need is there.

This picture is the sign on the Johnnies Top tank. This is the only water for about four hours in any direction, and is at the top of a big hill. Why have a water tank and then say not to drink it? CYA seems right. There's similar signs at other Victorian huts.
Rain water.jpg
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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby rcaffin » Mon 14 Jan, 2019 10:33 am

99.9% CYA.
Can't blame them though.

I own many different sort of filters and UV systems. I rarely use any of them. But some places demand it.

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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby CBee » Mon 14 Jan, 2019 11:02 am

Water is one of the most precious things we have. Individuals who care about water should make the effort to educate as many people as possible, to respect it and protect it. Nowadays we have many options to drink safe water, from a multitude kind of filters and purification systems, so that is not an issue. I think land managers should also make a bigger effort towards education, on the top of building signs to protect themselves from liability.
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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby flingebunt » Wed 16 Jan, 2019 5:49 pm

Most of the pollution is bacteria, especially giardia, which is transmitted through live stock, though it can cross into humans and wildlife. Your purification tabs, water filter or boiling treats this.

Another source of pollution is urban or rural run off, which means thinks like pesticides and herbicides in the water. Eg, don't drink the water here, even if boiled, filtered or treated with tablets. I think carbon filters can remove some pollutants in this case.

Finally there is algae blooms, which can be caused by run off from fertilisers. This can put poison in the water as well.

Oh, also they like to say this as a legal warning to cover themselves.
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Re: Why do land managers say to treat water?

Postby north-north-west » Thu 17 Jan, 2019 7:50 am

rcaffin wrote:99.9% CYA.
Can't blame them though.

I own many different sort of filters and UV systems. I rarely use any of them. But some places demand it.


Exactly. I've never filtered water in Tassie, nor tank water anywhere.
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