Where to find water whilst bicycle touring

WATER

 

Water is, as every person knows, vital to us all. It hydrates and cleans us as well as to help cook our food. It’s about as vital to our health and as the air we breathe in and yet, on a day to day basis we really don’t give it much thought at all. We turn on a tap and blindingly expect it to magically gush out. We’re even so used to the many flavours it can be mixed with for it to become apparent that many of us might not even drink it in its most stable and uniform state.

 

It really is only when your body becomes deprived of it for whatever reason that you begin to understand it’s special, almost mystical hold it can throw over you and when you do indeed take a lovingly long mouthful of the stuff, well it’s an unbelievable feeling.

 

But get it wrong and it can be the stuff of nightmares and this is why so important to understand what constitutes a great source of water and secondly, how to treat it effectively before letting it work its magic.

 

I often find that one of the questions I get asked is simply, “where do I get my water”.

 

It’s a simple question and the short answer is equally simple; everywhere. There have been very, very few places which I have travelled through where safe water, be it for cooking or drinking has been especially hard to come by. There is always somewhere where water is available, even in seemingly isolated places and, as long as you don’t have a problem asking someone, you’ll never have a problem and won’t suffer a state of thirst quenching madness

 

In places in the developed world, it’s usually no problem in simply finding a public tap, be it in a public square or a cemetery and drinking straight from there whereas in developing nations, some kind of treatment is often necessary and never something to second guess.

 

There are of course a great deal of other ways to obtain your daily intake of water when not in the vicinity of  town or village and this is where developing an eye for what might hydrate you and what might make you resoundingly ill comes in.

WHERE TO GET IT

Above the tree line

As long as you’re high up enough and above anywhere where the source of the water could run through any type of farming activity, it’s usually safe to drink and in fact I myself have never had any problems doing so.

National parks

When in a national park and although surrounded by a vast emptiness, I think it’s usually wise to veer onto the side of caution and treat the water appropriately. If it’s a fast flowing river, stream or large lake you still have no idea what’s actually gone into the water beforehand or indeed if it’s flowed through any farms further away.

The world is crammed full of people and animals and its getting metaphorically smaller all the time and so outside of the aforementioned places its only right that you should treat the water beforehand as you simple can never be sure and it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Cemeteries

I've found that a cemetery really is a great place to get water from, be that water for drinking or eating. This is true for the Western world. I've yet to find a cemetery on my travels in Europe where the communal tap wasn't connected to the main water network.

Use your imagination

Use your imagination

You can find water almost everywhere if you just know where to look and aren't afraid of asking. Sometimes there isn't anyone to ask so just go ahead and fill up.

Cycling along, you can see that a lot of homes have water taps outside for the garden and a quick knock on the door ask if it's okay to fill up is all that is needed.

On the other hand, almost every garage of any description has a water tap outside. At these places, and as they see you walking across the forecourt with your bike, they understandably already know what you need thus a wave of the hand in acknowledgment is all that is needed usually. 

Water fountains

This is true of most countries but there are some standouts here. Every village and town in Switzerland has a communal fountain and these are true lifesavers when on a bike. Not only can you fill up with the freshest and coldest water there is, you can also freshen up your face, hair and body. 

How to treat it

Depending on where you are in the world, where you actually got your water from and indeed how you intend to use it, there are a few methods you can use to treat it. These can range from simple chloride dioxide tablets or solution’s to hand pumped water filters right the way through to simply boiling the water. They all have their respective pros and cons and thus using all of them at some point will usually compensate for whatever area you’re in, what you have available in order to treat said water and what you’re using it for.

Chloride dioxide tablets and solutions

These are readily available in most western countries, small, lightweight and simple to use thus I always have a couple of packets handy just in case. These can leave a nasty aftertaste in the water and so I use them as a last resort but, if you are ever caught out, they can be invaluable. Obviously you need to use your eye when gathering the water as what you manage to gather may still contain large particles and debris. I always find that filtering it through a paper coffee filter does the trick however.

Water filters operated by a hand pump.

This is what I always carry with me. It’s very small, lightweight and can filter thousands of litres of water with minimal effort. Even though they don’t stop all viruses they do filter most out with te added benefit of removing most particles from the water

Boiling the water

This is such a fail safe method that, if you are ever caught out with no clean water, water filter or tablets, boiling the water is always available to you. It does kill most harmful bacteria but on the other hand, uses your precious fuel in order to do so although this is, I must admit, only relevant when you actually need drinking water. If you have enough drinking water but need extra to cook with then simply cook using the untreated water and in the process the water will become treated. Easy eh and thus you’ll kill two birds with one stone as it were.

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