Tips for tipping back your bottle

In the Yukon, we are spoiled with our abundance of water. Sadly, here and throughout most of North America, we use it (read “waste it”) as if the supply is infinite. How many of us still leave the tap running while brushing our teeth, doing dishes, or washing the vehicle? Numerous areas in southern North America are on continuous water rationing due to agricultural, industrial and personal use shortages as the reservoirs, aquifers and other water-bodies are depleted.

On at least three recent occasions, the Rio Grande River (fourth longest river in the U.S.) has had no water left where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In Canada, numerous communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, have lived with a boil water rule for wells, rivers and lakes due to both human-caused and natural pollution. If you follow the daily news, you will have noted beach closures right across Canada due to excessive fecal material in the water.

Here in the Yukon we don’t usually have any problem finding suitable water to meet our needs, but that isn’t always the case, so some precautions are necessary. Hiking on north-facing slopes (minimal vegetation due to the absence of water) will have you searching for drinking water. In the alpine, various ponds of trapped, crystal-clear water are available. These look inviting, but think of all the animal bodily functions left in the water and on the ice during the frozen periods of the year. Look for clumps, or lines of vegetation to find moving water. It’s less likely to contain harmful bacteria.

Many of the smaller pothole lakes have no current to move bacteria along a system. Beaver Fever is the common name for a digestive tract infection caused by drinking bacteria-laden water such as that found in these lakes. Bear in mind that moving water in mountain creeks or white water rivers is more likely to be free of bacteria.

There are a number of simple ways to ensure that water from the wild is drinkable. The simplest is to boil it for three to five minutes, or run it through a water-purifying filter designed for that purpose. My thoughts are that boiling can give you more water, more quickly. There are dissolving tablets for purifying water and also a ratio of bleach-to-water. In my experience though, both of these methods leave an unwanted taste in the water.

In any situation, top up your water bottle at every opportunity because who knows where the next water is located? Drink lots and carry your water bottle on your belt, or other accessible place, or you will end up not drinking enough water and you could dehydrate.

Are beaver ponds wetlands?