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Drinking the Rio Grande

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Offline MyLifeOutdoors

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Drinking the Rio Grande
« 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?
My Life Outdoors: bloging outdoor adventures in Texas and surrounding states.

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Offline TexasAggieHiker

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #1 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.

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Offline badknees

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #2 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.

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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.

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Offline MyLifeOutdoors

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #3 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"?
My Life Outdoors: bloging outdoor adventures in Texas and surrounding states.

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2010, 01:08:54 PM »

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Offline Terlingua50337

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #5 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.

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Offline Al

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #6 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

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Offline MyLifeOutdoors

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2010, 05:30:55 PM »
What about using the water for cooking? Filtered, boiled and then cooked into food? Thoughts?
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Offline badknees

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #8 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.
Not all those who wander are lost.
J.R.R. Tolkien

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Offline Al

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #9 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

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Offline Al

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #10 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

Water good. Very Good! Especially in the desert.

Al

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Offline TheWildWestGuy

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #11 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

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #12 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.



 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 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 , 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).


 
 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
Stay thirsty, my friends.

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #13 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

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: Drinking the Rio Grande
« Reply #14 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.
Stay thirsty, my friends.

 


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