Today’s question: What can campers, hikers and backpackers do to treat stream water to make it safe to drink?
Plain Talk answer: In addition to or in place of purchasing a water purifier as discussed in a previous question, any water that looks good enough to drink can be made microbiologically safe by boiling. One minute of vigorous boiling at sea level or three minutes at high elevations will kill all germs, disease-producing bacteria, viruses and protozoan cysts.
Water disinfection tablets, available at drugstores and camping supply outlets, can be put into a glass of clear water. They take about five minutes to dissolve and release the disinfectant. These tablets will not protect against Giardia and Cryptosporidium (the primary concerns in most areas) or parasitic worms, however, and will not work well in cloudy or colored water. Thus, their use alone is discouraged.
For more information on this and many other water-related topics, check out Plain Talk About Drinking Water by Dr. James M. Symons.