That all depends on who you ask. For many years, the general rule of thumb was that as long as a stream is moving fast enough it’s safe to drink out of. This is because fast-moving water doesn’t give contaminants time to build up in one area. However, in recent years, people have become more and more concerned about the safety of drinking any water that doesn’t come directly from the tap or a plastic bottle. Some people would call them paranoid, and personally I’ve never been too concerned about drinking from a stream in the middle of the hike, but they do raise some good points. Regardless of how fast the water is moving, the truth is you don’t know where it’s coming from or what might be going on just a few hundred feet upstream. For all you know, there’s an animal carcass up there, or maybe some excrement, or any number of natural or unnatural waste materials, all of which could potentially be flowing down the stream and directly into your water bottle at any time. These aren’t necessarily likely scenarios, but they are possible, and people do sometimes get sick from drinking water in the wilderness. So it really all comes down to what kind of person you are (do you harbor a rational fear of the unknown and unseen, or are you a care-free not-going-to-waste-time-worrying type?), how thirsty you are, and whether you have any means of purifying your water available to you (if possible, boiling it or running it through a filter are always good options).
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