safe water?

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safe water?

Postby captcaveman » Oct 20, 2012 9:47 pm

You always hear that water from a spring is safe to drink. I know of a spring coming from a cave near me that is tested regularly and has very pure water. If spring water is safe and comes from a cave does that mean its safe to drink water in a cave if it is moving?
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Re: safe water?

Postby gindling » Oct 21, 2012 7:41 am

There are a lot of factors that would come into that. Number one is what is the insurgence for the cave? An artesian spring coming from a cave could be safe but seeing how caves and karst and groundwater are all related you would have to know what is above the cave. Cows, cow pies, sinkholes with tractors or old fridges and tires. But I have also drank from many a cave stream and never gotten sick though someone else on the trip has. Have you drank bottled and tap water all your life or have you tested the wild waters a bit more?
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Re: safe water?

Postby Cheryl Jones » Oct 21, 2012 7:58 am

Don't believe the folklore that "water from a spring is safe to drink"! Just because water comes from the ground via a spring (or well) doesn't mean it is clean nor safe to drink, particularly in karst (limestone) areas, where water reaches the aquifers and springs with little filtration (think of how quickly water can move down through a cave from the surface to the aquifer or spring.) The quality of water in a cave is dependent on what is upstream on the surface. Farms? Cattle? High mountain peaks with no habitation or farms? Mines? Housing developments and roads? Outhouses? Would you drink the water in the stream on the surface before it enters the cave?

Clean water emerging from the spring may have the benefit of soil and rock filtering after the cave stream sinks, whereas the water in the stream in the cave has likely had little if any filtration.

It's always best to err on the side of caution and treat and/or filter cave stream water before drinking. Even in remote areas giardia could be a present, just as in surface streams.

A couple of good publications that include a discussion of the particular issues with karst water and its quality:
"Living with Karst" by the American Geological Institute: ... /karst.pdf
"Living on Karst" by the Cave Consesrvancies of the Virginias: ... /karst.pdf

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Re: safe water?

Postby Chads93GT » Oct 21, 2012 7:34 pm

large fish live in the caves where I live. I wo uldnt drink that water if you paid me.
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Re: safe water?

Postby captcaveman » Oct 21, 2012 10:35 pm

does anyone carry a filter?
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Re: safe water?

Postby Phil Winkler » Oct 22, 2012 8:30 am

When you take the tour at the Jack Daniel's Distillery in TN the guide usually points out the cave with water flowing out of it as the source of the pure spring water originally used in the whiskey. There is nothing pure about that water as cow pastures are up above. However, at the cave entrance is a statue of Jack Daniels and that is where the expression, Jack Daniels on the Rocks, comes from. :tonguecheek:
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Re: safe water?

Postby trogman » Oct 22, 2012 2:12 pm

captcaveman wrote:does anyone carry a filter?

I nearly always carry a filter bottle for both ridgewalking and caving. It really helps cut down the weight and allows me to stay hydrated. I've been using it for about 7 or 8 years now and have never gotten sick from any water I have used it on. I do try to only obtain water from relatively clean sources, though.

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Re: safe water?

Postby KENTO » Oct 23, 2012 12:40 pm

I am reminded of the time I was hiking without a filter or other purification measures on a day hike in Indiana's sole Wilderness area with a city slicker friend of mine. He and I had about one sip of H2O left with about a mile left to the car on a hot day. He kept lobbying me for approval in drinking what looked to be clear water flowing over a clean shale bedded swift stream. I explained to him there were old residences abandoned on top of ridges with old outhouses and abandoned septic tanks not too far away. The piece de resistance in my argument not to drink the water was just around the bend, laying in the water was a large raccoon decomposing not 100 feet above where he was about to drink.
Nowadays I keep a Bandanna and treatment tabs handy, weighs nothing , costs a little, worth more than gold if you are thirsty.
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Re: safe water?

Postby rebelfirefighter » Oct 24, 2012 3:08 pm

can anyone recommend a good cave worthy filter bottle
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Re: safe water?

Postby BrianFrank » Oct 24, 2012 3:35 pm

rebelfirefighter wrote:can anyone recommend a good cave worthy filter bottle

The original top of the line...but one of the most expensive models: ... ver-bottle
All TAG cavers join A small price for a GREAT resource.
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