Glacier water drinkable?
Here goes another AK greenie question: I am curious if silty water coming directly out of a glacier is drinkable w/out treatment? Are there bugs that live in glacier ice that can screw up your digestive tract? If so, do most of you use filters to get rid of all the silt or will the silt quickly plug filters? How about using pills?
I filter just about everything that I drink. Dealing with glacial silt can be done by collecting some water and allowing it to settle before filtering or by using some sort of pre filter. Coffee filters seem to work pretty well to get the bulk of the silt out. You could also just use your filter, I'm not sure how many liters you can get out of a filter when it is getting loaded with silt.
Another option would be to find another source of water that is from runoff.
Theoretically, Giardia cysts or other pests could get into water 10" from the glacier face, but chances are it's pretty safe. There are ice worms in some glaciers, but I believe they are safe to ingest. Of course, the farther you get from the source, the more likely something could get into the water. So if you're 10-20 miles from the glacier it's probably not that safe, even though it's still cold & silty.
The reality is most fresh Alaska water will not make you sick. 9 times out of 10 you'll be fine. But that's not much better odds than playing Russian Roulette, so I don't do it.
The silt won't hurt you though. You can strain it through your teeth if you want. Leaves a funny grit in your mouth, but I've drunk plenty of it years ago.
Silty water is a pain to filter. Even after sitting overnight there is enough fine silt to clog your filter pretty quick. Pre-filtering helps, but doesn't cure the problem, and your prefilter clogs up quick. You could use chemical treatments, but some cysts are notorious for suviving chlorine and/or iodine. UV lights are great on the cysts, but don't penetrate well enough in the silt to be effective. The only other solution is boiling. Well, that and taking the bet that this is one of those 9 out of 10 safe places.
I look for clean (looking) sources for filtering.
There are enough clear streams in Alaska that I have never contemplated dealing with glacier water. Never liked having sand in my mouth and don't plan on drinking sandy water if I can help it. You can filter it out but it will clog up your filter in no time and will even make it past a pre filter and or clog the pre filter in no time.
Use a coffee filter over a nalgene bottle to collect the water. Then use a stiry pen, pump, or chemicals to treat it. It would suck being out in the middle of no where with "stomach" issues.
Two drops CL2 per quart of water, wait 1/2 an hour and you are good to go. Water will taste like crap but you won't need to........
I always thought the bleach tasted better than the iodine drops. Then again fresh mountain spring water with no disinfectants taste the best!
Originally Posted by Tombo
Drink the water
If you are high in a valley and taking water out of a fast moving glacial stream just drink the water. I have for over 40 yrs, and when I was young we drank from the lakes although I wouldn't suggest that now knowing a little more about the bugs in some water. I think high in a sheep drainage is a whole lot safer than 9 out of 10. Unless its really turbulent water the silt is probably not even noticable.
There is clear water at the airstrip-base camp location where you will be at. I forget if the canyon right behind your camp has a trickle of water of not. But most of the canyon/valleys in that country have some water somewhere some of the time.
The main river will be very thickly silted with glacial silt of "flour". But there are some places just 100 yards from your base camp where clear water simply oozes up out of the ground in several small, but "usable" seeps.
Up high where the sheep are at you can almost always find a clear water seep. You might have to fill your water bottle lid-full by lid-full. I seldom pass up a good water source when sheep hunting. Sometimes water is everywhere. Other times, not.
I have drank a bunch of glacial water over the years. Don't look at it. It is easier to drink if you do not look at it. But I have never suffered any strange effects (or is it affects).
I personally drink alot of water unfiltered. I will, until I get sick someday. I do have one friend who has had "beaver fever" three times!
I strongly dislike chlorine.
I do not dislike iodine tablets.
I do filter all water on the guided hunts I conduct.
Drinkable water will not be an issue...where you are going.
If you have to hike out...water is a possible problem the last 8+- miles after you hike up, out of the valley bottom.
filtered water on a sheep hunt. Have never been sick. I guess until I get sick, I will continue drinking it "right from the tap"!
Glacial silt will jam up a filter in a hurry.
If you dig a hole a few feet back from the river in a spot where the bank is low (so you don't have to dig too far down) the water will trickle in clear, filling the void.
If you're going to be in one spot for a few days it's worth the effort.