Health and Welfare Canada

Drinking Water Away From Home

Drinking water is not usually a concern when at home but in the great outdoors it can make you ill. The Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada wants to help you avoid health hazards. So if you camp, backpack, sail or if you take trips by bike, canoe or recreational vehicle or even if you use a cottage, ensure the water you drink is safe by following these precautions.

Avoid drinking water from sources with visible signs of pollution from industry, agricultural practices and other sources.

Disinfect all water taken from lakes, rivers, mountain, streams and ponds no, matter how clean it looks. Water may contain invisible but harmful organisms called pathogens. These bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoan cysts and worm eggs may cause mild nausea and fever or develop into severe diarrhea, hepatitis or typhoid fever. Another invisible pathogen is the protozoan cyst Giardia which causes "Beaver Fever". Giardia is carried in the feces of many domestic and wild animals (including beavers) and contaminates the water. Commonly found in surface water these cysts are quite resistant to chemical disinfection methods. Boiling for several minutes will kill protozoan cysts.

Periodically clean and rinse tanks and containers used to store water. Water treated with chlorine or iodine remain drinkable for several days without refrigeration, while water treated by other means is best used within two days.

Use only good drinking water for brushing teeth.

Have cottage drinking water tested by a provincial or private laboratory if it is not municipally treated. It would be wise to disinfect surface water even if it passes these laboratory tests as not not all pathogens can be detected.

When in doubt, boil the water for 5 minutes.

Ref: Minister of Supply and Services Canada 1986 Cat. No. H49-15/10-1986E

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Dispatch#60 Health and Welfare Canada

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