Big Bend Chat

Big Bend National Park Q&A => Boating on the Rio Grande => Topic started by: MyLifeOutdoors on August 30, 2010, 10:52:46 AM

Title: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: MyLifeOutdoors on August 30, 2010, 10:52:46 AM
I am planning a river trip in the near future and since I will be kayaking would prefer to filter water rather then carry several gallons in the boat. The only time I have been to the Rio Grande it was very muddy at low water levels. The water is up right now and I'm not sure what that will do to the water quality. I have a Katadyn Water Filter that I have used on many other rivers and lakes with great results. But none have been as muddy as the Rio Grande.

Has anyone filtered to drink the water in the Rio Grande. Was it alright?

My filter  "physically removes particles, protozoa, and bacteria down to 0.3 microns in size, including giardia, salmonella, cryptosporidium and others."

It should be okay...what do you think?
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: TexasAggieHiker on August 30, 2010, 11:43:39 AM
I've filtered out of it without any problems.  I did add the MSR SweetWater Solution that's supposed to take out viruses, also.  The park says not to, but their job is to be overly cautious.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: badknees on August 30, 2010, 12:16:29 PM
See below. Be aware that it has been a while since this study was done and the population has increased around Presidio and along the Conchos.

===========


In May 1993, the University of Texas at El Paso conducted a water quality study of the river between Lajitas and La Linda. Ten sampling sites along the river and other backcountry water sources provided a snapshot view of the water?s quality.

The study showed that most pollution in the Rio Grande within the park occurred from general runoff that picks up pollutants from upstream areas as it travels. No iron or mercury were found, and the levels of cadmium, lead, and arsenic were below this study?s detection limits.

Researchers did, however, detect high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in this snapshot view. These originate from humans, cattle, or other warm-blooded mammals that live near the river. These organisms are not usually harmful but may indicate the possible presence of pathogens.

In 1992 and 1993, Mexico and the United States conducted a study through IBWC of toxic contaminants in the Rio Grande from El Paso to Brownsville through the IBWC. The study involved a one-time sampling of 19 mainstream and 26 tributaries sites. Each country sampled and analyzed the water according to their respective capabilities.

In Big Bend National Park, researchers sampled two sites: the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon and Terlingua Creek before it flows into the Rio Grande. The study found no specific readings at the park stations that should raise concern.

Outside the park, the study found few potential toxic chemical-related problems in the mainstream of the Rio Grande. If toxic impacts occurred at the mainstream sites, the effects were relatively slight. Researchers observed no instances of severe impairment to the aquatic plants and animals. Potential problems were more prevalent in tributaries because some tributaries transport wastewater in relatively undiluted form.

No short-term risks were indicated for the 24 sites for which edible fish tissue analysis was conducted, including the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon and Terlingua Creek. Data from fish fillet samples were evaluated for potential human health risks using U.S. Food and Drug Administration tolerance levels; none were exceeded.

Outside the park, the study revealed that at 17 of 22 sites, slight human health risks could result from regular, long-term consumption of untreated water and/or fish. For risks to occur, however, fish would have to be consumed on a daily basis over a period of many years. Significant risks were observed for the other five sites, but all five were sewage effluent-dominated tributaries.

A second phase of this study is underway to better define the degree of impact, assess temporal variation, and further identify sources of toxic chemicals. The park sites are included in this second phase.

Although several state and Federal agencies, including park staff, periodically monitor the quality of the river?s water, the monitoring is not done frequently enough to give managers a clear understanding of the Rio Grande?s water quality. Most studies provide only a ?snapshot? view of the river. The Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) fosters the Texas Watch Program, organized groups of volunteers who collect and analyze water samples for five basic quality parameters on a quarterly basis. The Big Bend River Watchers group was formed in August 1994 to conduct this sampling and analysis from Presidio through Boquillas Canyon.

Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: MyLifeOutdoors on August 30, 2010, 12:46:43 PM
Badknees...where did you find this info?

Do you know where I can get more info on "The Big Bend River Watchers group"?
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: RichardM on August 30, 2010, 01:08:54 PM
See http://www.nps.gov/bibe/naturescience/waterquality.htm (http://www.nps.gov/bibe/naturescience/waterquality.htm)
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Terlingua50337 on August 30, 2010, 02:16:05 PM
Never having drank it I really can't comment but...... the last time I was at Santa Elena you wouldn't so much drink it as you would slice it up and eat it.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Al on August 30, 2010, 03:13:27 PM
I wouldn't plan on drinking it but if need be I wouldn't hesitate to drink it after the same purification processes one uses for any naturally occurring surface water.  Even if there are some chemical contaminants they will be in such low concentrations there is virtually no potential for acute effects.  Just remember you would only be drinking it on this very rare occasion so chronic toxicity is not even an issue. Far better than no water at all.

Al
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: MyLifeOutdoors on August 30, 2010, 05:30:55 PM
What about using the water for cooking? Filtered, boiled and then cooked into food? Thoughts?
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: badknees on August 30, 2010, 06:28:39 PM
What about using the water for cooking? Filtered, boiled and then cooked into food? Thoughts?

Filtering and boiling does not remove dissolved toxins, dissolved solids, or heavy metals. It would be fine for an additional precautions against pathogens.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Al on August 30, 2010, 06:52:45 PM
What about using the water for cooking? Filtered, boiled and then cooked into food? Thoughts?

Filtering and boiling does not remove dissolved toxins, dissolved solids, or heavy metals. It would be fine for an additional precautions against pathogens.

Personally I would not plan to use it but would not hesitate to use it if necessary.  I have seen no data that suggests high levels of contamination with toxic chemicals.  I probably get more exposure to toxins filling up my car, gassing my power equipment, handling and sawing treated lumber (such as I have been doing the last couple of days) and using pesticides/herbicides and other toxic chemicals around the house and yard, which I do routinely.  A one time exposure to the water in the Rio Grande by ingestion (which I have done more than once), based on what I've read, isn't that big a deal to me.

Al
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Al on August 30, 2010, 11:31:15 PM
I can't help but think about this "trip report".

"He had filtration tablets and a stove to boil the river water, which park officials advise against drinking except in emergencies.

If I can make it, I can drink enough water to restore my energy, he thought. I can get out of here alive."

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/trapped-in-big-bend-canyon-austinite-fights-to-690738.html?srcTrk=RTR_554183&viewAsSinglePage=true (http://www.statesman.com/news/local/trapped-in-big-bend-canyon-austinite-fights-to-690738.html?srcTrk=RTR_554183&viewAsSinglePage=true)

Water good. Very Good! Especially in the desert.

Al
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: TheWildWestGuy on August 31, 2010, 07:30:51 AM
I have filtered and drank it on the Vega Trail with no ill effects.  Make a cloth pre-filter for your water filter and try to find quiet side-pools cut off from the river to reduce the mud which can be thick at times.  You can also dig a hole in a sand bar and filter out of it instead of the river.  Depending upon where you are planning to go their may also be some springs near the river.   Have fun and please post a trip report when you get back.   TWWG
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: homerboy2u on August 31, 2010, 11:17:31 AM
Follow your common sense, I say. Let us try and separate Facts from Urban legends, and by all means put it in perspective.

 For starters, Fact. all the water that is coming from the Rio Conchos is being fed DIRECTLY from the Ca?on del Cobre (Copper Canyon) no contact there with any contaminants what so ever....Urban Legend otherwise.

  The river waters come together at Presidio (The Rio Grande coming directly from Las Cruces,NM crossing by Juarez-El Paso and merging with the Conchos). I Believe here is where the waters turn murky (my point of view) and you see the water quality described by Terlingua50337.

(http://inlinethumb11.webshots.com/30282/2422951250103347488S600x600Q85.jpg)

 By in the early 90's when there was little or no control of what you threw in to the waters, there were MANY U.S. maquiladoras (twin-plants) that was very easy for them to dump their contaminants in to the Rio Grande waters,  look the other way...push money under the table and whistle your way out of a tight spot. :eusa_whistle: It was never proved, but from these practices there were many babies that were born with  Anencephaly Disorder  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anencephaly) along the border by woman who used to work in those Maquiladoras. There babies were born brainless with little to no chance of surviving 12 hours after birth, it was an international tragedy. I WILL NOT POST ANY IMAGES of the disfigured pictures you can see  HERE  (http://www.google.com.mx/images?hl=es&safe=off&q=anenecefalia&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1259&bih=861), out of respect to all those families who lost their children because of these mal practices. You choose to click it, you look at the reality.   I can add that many of the twin plants cleaned their acts others, just moved to Asia and continue their practices there. Fair enough, that was back then.

 Now a days, there are very stringent international water controls, coordinated by the International water commission (IWC) and the Comision Internacional de Aguas (CILA) that practically have put a stop to these environmental destructive practices. I am not saying there is no contaminants or pathogens, just that we do not see them any more, and FYI all the cities along the Rio Bravo-Rio Grande (The same) use the river as their water source. No reports of any kind, that i am aware of.

  The waters turn exactly in to turquoise blue at Amistad Reservoir, they change amazingly in color. ( No influence by TJAvery's Photoshop advises  here.... :icon_lol:, just a natural shot taken at Amistad Lake).

(http://i65.photobucket.com/albums/h228/homerboy2u/Amistad%20Lake%202008/PresaAmistad2008113.jpg)
 
 And flow down the river all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, at some point they change back to green as they follow their natural course down river.

 Now i have lived all my life in this neck of the woods and have been lucky enough to go on many trips to small villages up river , all the way to Boquillas and in between and i have yet to see people, cattle or wildlife glow in the dark like fire flies because of the water they consume from the river. Just does not happen,OK?.

 If you want to go for it and taste it, i will say to you: I drink it daily and at times when i have gone camping i boil it, never filtered it. We just follow common sense and worry of all the fecal material the water could carry from livestock or wild fauna that use the river for water supply. Just follow your common sense.

 If there is more information that has not been exposed, by all means do share it and let's check it out.

Homero
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: dkerr24 on August 31, 2010, 01:46:41 PM
A tip which I used might help.  For muddy water, add a bit of alum to the water.  You can find alum in the spice section of any grocery store.  This will speed the settling process so you can filter it.  I usually bring a collapsible plastic bucket, fill, add alum and let settle for an hour or so, then carefully filter the water off the top of the water level, making sure my intake hose stays near the top. 

Worked pretty good for me on muddy Colorado River water at Tanner Rapids.  The water still had a slightly muddy aftertaste, but appeared clear in my water bottles.  Sure beat dying of dehydration! :)

Darin
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: homerboy2u on August 31, 2010, 07:02:23 PM
Homero, before I drop out of this "drink the water, or not" business I want to add one comment, you are a "downstream" person, the ""upstream" water from Elephant Butte Reservoir and Las Cruces  in NM only reaches El Paso; below El Paso the Rio Bravo never reaches the Rio Concho , not in many years. Whatever water does flow into the Rio Concho is "new water" from occasional rainstorms, recharged springs, etc. The "Rio Grande" unfortunately has long disappeared into the sands between El Paso Del Norte and Ojinaga. I love your Rio Concho and have camped near it's headwaters in Tarahumara country. I have also camped near it's source on the Continental Divide in Colorado.
Amigo,
Quicksilver

 So your saying that Rio Conchos is the only source of water for the Rio Grande, now  days?...this is news to me.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Al on August 31, 2010, 09:02:22 PM
Homero, before I drop out of this "drink the water, or not" business I want to add one comment, you are a "downstream" person, the ""upstream" water from Elephant Butte Reservoir and Las Cruces  in NM only reaches El Paso; below El Paso the Rio Bravo never reaches the Rio Concho , not in many years. Whatever water does flow into the Rio Concho is "new water" from occasional rainstorms, recharged springs, etc. The "Rio Grande" unfortunately has long disappeared into the sands between El Paso Del Norte and Ojinaga. I love your Rio Concho and have camped near it's headwaters in Tarahumara country. I have also camped near it's source on the Continental Divide in Colorado.
Amigo,
Quicksilver

 So your saying that Rio Conchos is the only source of water for the Rio Grande, now  days?...this is news to me.
Yes, and I read and hear about it often; please do your own research, and I will forward to you any new data that I find.
Amigo,
QS

http://www.nps.gov/bibe/naturescience/riogrand.htm (http://www.nps.gov/bibe/naturescience/riogrand.htm)

QS, I think you may be simplifying the Rio Grande river water sources a bit.  These sources include ALL the rivers that drain into the Rio but not necessarily under low flow conditions.  Where and when water flows into the Rio depends on where and how much it rains in the various contributing river watersheds not to mention the Rio Grande watershed from which rainfall runoff drains directly into the river.

Al
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Al on August 31, 2010, 09:43:04 PM
You might be correct. Obviously these conclusions are not from my own observations; for years I read that the "Rio Grande" ceases to exist about 100 miles downstream from  El Paso. Haven't you seen these reports? Regional storms, i.e. the recent flooding in Presidio, are just about the only source of replenishment, or so I have been told, or from contributing water  sheds. My contention is that very little, if any of the water that Las Cruces NM gets to Presidio, TX
QS

QS, I ain't lying.  Yes, I know that New Mexico harvests as much of the Rio Grande, before it enters Texas, as possible and that the River loses water along long stretches through the desert and can have zero flow during significant times of the year. 

I am not debating that NM collects as much of the river water as possible before it enters Texas.  Water is gold in the Western states and it is getting more precious.  But there are large areas including portions of Colorado and NM that drain to the Rio Grande but not through El Paso.  The total contributing watersheds to the Rio is huge even excluding the water that no longer flows through El Paso.

http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=a872ba72-a742-47db-9cdb-905fc539a520 (http://www.geocaching.com/seek/cache_details.aspx?guid=a872ba72-a742-47db-9cdb-905fc539a520)

http://tx.usgs.gov/infodata/basins.html (http://tx.usgs.gov/infodata/basins.html)

Al
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: rgibson on September 01, 2010, 06:03:25 AM


1.  Question was asked about the volunteer Big Bend River Watchers.   Formed for  the project mentioned in early 90's.  A one day school was given to qualify folks, most were with the BBNP.   Each site had a kit and the kits were turned in after the project.  The project was for a year or so.   I took the samples at Lajitas along with the Weather and the Rio depths for the NWS during the 90's.

Seems like one of the results was an advisory not to eat more than one meal a month from a fish caught in the Rio.  My personal thought was if only one is okay, none is better.

2.    Most years, the Rio will turn clear with no silt in the flow.  Usually last a week or two.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Quatro on September 02, 2010, 12:59:03 PM
Badknees...where did you find this info?

Do you know where I can get more info on "The Big Bend River Watchers group"?

The Volunteer Environmental Monitoring Program at Texas State University can probably put you in touch with the right folks.  (877)-506-1401.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: fullmetaljacket6793 on January 06, 2013, 02:36:27 AM
I drank out of the river on my last hike. I used a filter then a purification tablet. I didnt get sick so i guess it worked.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Juan Cuatro Lados on January 08, 2013, 09:13:32 AM
Have done hundreds of bacteria samples from points along the river.  I would not drink it unless necessity dictates.  But I have had to a couple of times, the water had a really strong metallic taste.  Some of the samples I took had fecal coliform counts in the tens of thousands per 100 ml., it's much worse right after a rain.

Having said that, I was once lecturing some folks about water quality in the Rio and told them not to drink it.  After the talk, an elderly gent came up to me, introduced himself as Andy Currie, who owns the take out at La Linda.  Mr. Currie told me he had no qualms about drinking the river water, and had done so for many years.

Ya pays your money and ya takes your chances ....




Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: randell on January 08, 2013, 02:58:44 PM
I drank it after filtering it back in 2008.  I just found a rocky area where the water was flowing quickly and looked clear.  The water tasted just as good or better than the water I had brought with me from home.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: RichardM on January 08, 2013, 03:23:08 PM
I drank it after filtering it back in 2008.  I just found a rocky area where the water was flowing quickly and looked clear.  The water tasted just as good or better than the water I had brought with me from home.
Yeah, but considering the proximity of your house to H-town, that's not saying much.
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: mule ears on January 08, 2013, 03:49:07 PM
We drank from it the last trip, just let the water purification drops work their full time and I think I maybe gave it some extra drops too.  Didn't taste too bad but not the best.

(http://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/big-bend-2011-182.jpg?w=640&h=480)
Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: fullmetaljacket6793 on January 07, 2017, 11:35:11 PM
I drank about 2 gallon when i hiked the Marfu Vega. I used a filter and put in a few drops of bleach. Im still alive today


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Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: Jimbow on January 08, 2017, 08:10:40 AM
If it's the best option at the moment I figure this will battle test my filter.


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Title: Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
Post by: fullmetaljacket6793 on June 23, 2017, 10:42:49 PM
I did the same thing on the Marfu Vega trail. I used a katadyne filter and then some water purification tablets and didnt get sick at all. I was with a party of three and all drank the water


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