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Ways to purify water while travelling

Ways to purify water while travelling
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How do I make sure I drink safe water when abroad?

Did you know that contaminated drinking water causes more than 485,000 diarrheal deaths a year? This is according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Poor quality water can also transmit diseases like cholera, typhoid and polio, too. You can’t avoid drinking water while you travel, but you can take steps to make the water you consume safe, which will reduce the chance of exposure to water-borne pathogens.

Boost your immune system by getting vaccinated against water-borne diseases

With the best will in the world it is impossible to completely avoid exposure to organisms that cause water-borne diseases. But you can help your body protect itself by getting vaccinated against some illnesses. Your travel health nurse can tell you whether you should get vaccinated against:

These vaccines are all available at Canadian Travel Clinics.

Can you trust the tap water?

Tap water in Canada is safe to drink, but this isn’t the case worldwide. WHO also tells us that at least 2 billion people worldwide use a drinking water source that is contaminated with feces, and in some places water that comes out of the taps is intended for washing only. The locals will drink bottled or treated water at home. There are several online resources that will tell you if the water is safe to drink at your destination – for example, Is the tap water safe to drink in... But the situation on the ground may change at short notice, particularly in places with a weak infrastructure. So it’s important to ask at your destination whether the water is safe to drink during your visit.

Come prepared for safer drinking water

You may need to process water to make it safe to drink, so consider the practicalities of this. We recommend you buy your water cleaning equipment in Canada before you travel, as the devices and chemicals will be of a trustworthy standard, and the instructions will be in a language you can read. Most outdoors shops will sell water purifying equipment.

Check that your water purifying plan is suitable for you. For example, do you have facilities in your accommodation to boil water?

Once you know you have safe water, you will want to carry it with you. So bring a water bottle that you are comfortable with and that is easy to clean. Two smaller bottles are often more practical than one large.

Boiling makes water safe

Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute to kill off pathogens and render it safe to drink. Boiling is a very effective method of purifying water – but you cannot drink boiled water immediately as it needs to cool first. Drinks like tea are often a safe bet when visiting someone’s home because the water has been boiled.

Treating water with chlorine and iodine

Note that a chemical disinfectant such as chlorine, iodine or puritabs is not effective against all parasites, so you may need to filter or boil the water if that is a concern. Always read the instructions carefully to ensure you use the right amount of chemicals. Too little and they will not be effective; too much and you end up with a drink that is bad-tasting or even toxic. You may find it more practical to purify a litre of water at a time, so think about how large a container you need for an efficient process.

Water filters

Filters for cleaning water are available in outdoor shops, too. Examples include: ceramic filters, carbon filters and membrane filters. They may not remove viruses from water, so you should use another method alongside a water filter.

Can UV light make water safe?

UV light devices for cleaning water are effective for small quantities of clear water. If the water has a cloudy appearance, it will need filtering first.

Bottled water is a last resort

Bottled water places a burden on the place you are visiting because the plastic bottles will need to be processed. Many districts do recycle successfully – but in other places the plastic ends up in landfill. Check that the bottle you are drinking from has been factory sealed, as some unscrupulous people try to make a quick buck with fake bottled water.

In some regions you’ll find filtered water for sale in plastic bags, or on a bring your own container basis. Ask locally how reliable this is.

How do I make an appointment for travel vaccinations in Vancouver?

Canadian Travel Clinics can offer same-day vaccinations at our travel clinics in Vancouver. Make an appointment online right now.