Safety Series – Tips for Safe Water Collection in the Bush

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that we believe long weekends are best spent out in the bush, and I can confirm that this weekend was no different, except for the fact that I traded four-wheel driving for hiking boots and set off on a 3-day bushwalk in the Dharug National Park.

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In this Safety Series issue, I will be sharing my tips and tricks for safe water collection out in the bush as well as sharing my thoughts on the Lifesaver Filtration Bottle which I used during my walk over the weekend to produce safe drinking water. 

Now if you are anything like me, part of the appeal of escaping out bush is being able to break away from any signs of civilisation. Of course, this activity does not come without its risks though. One of your top priorities, if not the top priority, when planning for a trip out in the bush should be your water sources.

Fortunately, as four-wheel drivers, we have the luxury of being able to carry a fair amount of drinking water in our vehicles during our travels, but what would you do if you were to run out of clean drinking water in the middle of nowhere, 2 days drive away from the closest town with a tap. This is a real possibility when touring around our beautiful country so we need to be prepared with the knowledge and tools to collect drinking water in the bush.

Some tips for finding water in the bush:

Water can be collected in the bush from natural sources like creeks, rivers, lakes, and soaks. These supplies change with season and rainfall, and some are more reliable than others. 

By looking at a topographic map you can usually identify water sources. Dotted blue lines represent season creeks, whereas solid blue lines are more permanent waterways. Small catchments are more likely to be a clean source of water, whereas larger creeks with more sources of input are more likely to be running. If there has been recent rainfall you can usually collect safe drinking water from puddles on rocky outcrops.

Where possible you should always collect water from clean sources that flow from natural areas. If you are in doubt or if you have no other options available then you should treat the water. Treatment for water sources includes boiling, filtration or UV treatments. For the purpose of this article, I will talk specifically about filtration.

How to collect water: 

Compared to finding a water source, collecting water is usually the easy part. It is best to avoid stagnant water by aiming to collect from flowing sections. Still water sources like soaks or lakes are also great collection sources, however, if at all possible, avoid using water that’s flowing very slowly or is stagnant. Stagnant water is a collection point for toxic runoff and laden with decaying plant and animal matter and associated microorganisms. That said, if the group is out of options, then stagnant water may be better than nothing. It’s important to weigh up the risks of dehydration and illness carefully. In these cases, fill water container deep underneath the surface of the water to avoid the nasties on top and treat the water.

My Experiences:

A few years back I drunk from a scummy pond seasoned with several dead animals out of pure desperation and despite boiling my water, I suffered for my drinking choices for a couple of days after.  Since then, one of the first steps I take in planning for my trips in the bush is to identify safe drinking water sources along with my planned route and as a backup, I also like to carry water purification tablets and a filtration device.

With this article in mind, I decided to put the Lifesaver Bottle to the test over the long weekend.

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The Lifesaver Bottle is one of the most popular portable water filters/purifiers on the market. They claim that the bottle can remove all bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi and all other microbacterium and waterborne pathogens to 0.015 microns – without the use of any foul tasting chemicals like iodine.

During the planning stages of my walk, I had high hopes for the Lifesaver Bottle, especially since I had not been walking in this particular area and I was not convinced on the quality of the drinking water around. And, let’s not forget that I was not particularly keen on carrying 8+ litres of water over the weekend along with all my camping gear and food. Oh, Lifesaver Bottle, my back thanks you. Go on, call me soft!  My mates asked if this meant that l could classify the weekend as a work trip? Ha! It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it right?

Since a big portion of the walk was on a fire trail, and with rainfall the week before, there were a few muddy puddles of water around where I could use the Lifesaver Bottle; and despite making a promise a few years back to never drink from a scummy looking pond again, I found myself drinking from one once more, this time armed with the Lifesaver Bottle though.

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Overall I was rather impressed with the product and I even did a blind taste test to compare the filtered muddy water to Sydney water. I would like to say that the Sydney water tasted better, but to be honest, I could not tell the difference between the two, so I can vouch for the bottle removing the muddy taste from water found on the ground.

As for bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi and all other microbacterium and waterborne pathogens, I can confirm that I have not been sick since drinking the water (phew), and I am almost certain that I would have been without the filtration pump.

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Some negatives, the bottle seems a bit fragile and based on my track record for clumsiness, I would hate to accidentally drop it and see it break during a remote trip.

Secondly, the Lifesaver Bottle is on the more expensive side of portable filter pumps, but hey, you get what you pay for; and I don’t know about you, but I am certainly willing to pay extra for peace of mind of the water quality.

Thirdly, call me a weight snob if you wish, but coming in at 635 grams I found the filtration bottle to be a bit on the heavy side for a bushwalk. That said if I take into account the fact that I didn’t have to carry as much water as I would have otherwise, it’s really not that bad. For comparison, in the past, I have used the Lifestraw (57 grams), but compared to the Lifesaver Bottle the Lifestraw looks like a fun toy. The pores in the Lifesaver Bottle are 13 times smaller than in the Lifestraw, small enough that viruses can’t get in.

As a side note, if you are out four-wheel driving you are probably less concerned by a couple of grams in weight and I would recommend checking out the Lifesaver Cube (5-litre capacity), or the Lifesaver Jerrycan (18.5-litre capacity), which uses the same technology but has more water capacity. If you are looking at getting your hands on one of these Lifesaver systems, they can be purchased from Tough Toys. 

Overall the Lifesaver Bottle does what it claims, and it is a pretty handy device for peace of mind. Yes, it’s true that the Lifesaver Bottle is bigger, heavier, and more fragile than other filtration systems on the market, but if you want portable virus filtration, the Lifesaver wins. 

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Conclusion:

Remember, where possible always collect drinking water from clean sources, that flow from natural areas. If you have no other options available then you should treat the water. Always plan your trips with water sources in mind.

Do you have any tips and tricks for collecting water in the bush? Let us know!

Until next time…. Happy touring!

Chantal

PS Not sure who I am? I am the newly appointed Marketing Manager at Club 4X4 and I love everything about the outdoors. You will be hard-pressed to find a weekend where I am not out in the bush. My staff profile will be going up soon.

 

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Comments 7

  1. Ken Martin

    To lengthen the life of your filter, use a coffee filter paper to filter the dirty water as it goes into the filter. It takes out a lot of bigger particles. Better still, I use a 2 micron plastic screen which can be used for years (just make sure you pour the dirty water through the same side each time).

  2. Russ Schneider

    I read a recent article written by Steven Gibbs (Director of Bushtracker Caravans) on this very subject recently on the Bushtracker Forum. His company has come up with a filtration system which requirers power that cleans the creek water with a washable ceramic filter and the use of UV light to kill the micro-organisms which for a fee can be fitted to your Bushtracker Caravan. The system with the use of a pump filters water to a safe drinking standard and apparently very clean, at about 2 litres/minute.
    The point he made which I wish to convey is regardless of your filtration size nothing will keep out the micro-organisms, which are the dangerous ones like Hepatitis. These have to be killed with the UV light. The reason he was pro-active in getting the system operational for his Bushtracker customers, was he himself contracted Hepatitis from water he consumed, which he was sure was safe from a running mountain stream in Tasmania back in the 70’s. I imagine that water would of been considered safe for sure in a very clean place like Tassie 40 years ago?
    It doesn’t look to me like the Life Saver Bottle has any kind of UV filtration? Be careful out there in the bush planning to drink water from suspect sources, as opposed to being in a ‘real’ survival situation due to circumstances beyond your control. If this occurs carrying a few large plastic bags, some rope and some rubber or plastic tubing will produce safe water to keep you alive. I have used these during military survival training and they do work. Check this link:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2EBiA0Csts
    I will try and dig up the link on Gibb’s report and post it.

  3. Peter Murphy

    One of the difficulties in the Victorian high country is the existence of Nematode parasites infecting even clean appearing water sources. These are a product of the cattle brought into the high country for summer grazing, and the waters have been infected. As well, the cattlement planted / sowed Blackberry bushes to serve as fences for their herds, and these plants have spread widely into creeks, holes, streams etc.
    Peter M

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