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Rocky Mountain Region

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Water Treatment

Water from mountain lakes, streams, and springs is often very inviting - clear, cold, and free-running. However, even though it may look, smell and taste good, you need to be aware of possible danger. Only piped water at developed sites is safe to use for drinking without first being treated.

CRYPTOSPORIDIUM and GIARDIASIS are diseases that may be contracted from drinking untreated "natural" water. Although incapacitating, they are not usually life-threatening for people with healthy immune systems. They do, however, pose a serious threat to people with AIDS or other diseases that weaken the immune system. Symptoms usually include diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps and bloating. These discomforts may appear a few days to a few weeks after ingestion, and may last up to 6 weeks.

Most people are unaware that they have been infected and have often returned home before the onset of symptoms. Other diseases can have similar symptoms, but if you have drunk untreated water you should suspect cryptosporidium or giardiasis, and inform your doctor. With proper diagnosis these diseases are curable when treated by a physician.

All water from natural water sources should be boiled at least 5 minutes. Chemical disinfectants such as iodine or chlorine tablets or drops are not yet considered as reliable as heat in killing cryptosporidium and giardiasis. Although these products work well against most waterborne bacteria and viruses that cause disease. In an emergency where a chemical disinfective must be used, iodine is often more effective than chlorine. If possible, filter the water first, and then allow the iodine to work at least an hour before you drink. Some filtering devices now on the market may also be effective.

For short trips, take a supply of water from home or other domestic source.

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