Cedar Water Potability

Dusty

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May 31, 2010
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Not quite in the pines...
I often give informal talks on Pinelands ecology to younger campers at my summer camp, usually as we're hiking along the trail, and one comment that I get a lot is "The water here looks so dirty!" I explain that it's cedar water, looks that way from the tannins, and should be very clean. The next thing I get is usually "Can we drink it?"

I'm no expert on this subject at all, but from what I understand, the water in the Pine Barrens is remarkably clean. I've heard that sea captains would store cedar water aboard the ship because it would stay sweet and clean for a long period of time. I also know of the Kirkwood-Cohansey resevoir and the millions (trillions?) of gallons of clean water under the Pines. I understand the usual risks of outdoors water--animal droppings, pesticides, etc., but since there aren't any major factories remotely near our camp, there shouldn't be any funky chemicals running into our streams.

My question is whether or not cedar water needs the usual purifying processes people use out on the trail, be it by filtering, iodine, or boiling.
 

RednekF350

Piney
Feb 20, 2004
4,519
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Pestletown, N.J.
I wouldn't let kids in my charge drink it simply because of today's litigious society.
One kid gets the squirts and you're fired.
:(

I have drank small amounts from the Wading and the Batsto in the past without any problems but I wouldn't recommend long term imbibing and certainly wouldn't store it long term.
All those sea captains are dead now. Coincidence ? I think not.

The biggest threat in the pines surface waters in remote areas is giardiasis or beaver fever in my opinion but there are a host of other nasties that can affect potability.
Boiling will resolve the problem and the cedar flavor should still shine through.
 

46er

BANNED
Mar 24, 2004
8,838
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Coastal NJ
I often give informal talks on Pinelands ecology to younger campers at my summer camp, usually as we're hiking along the trail, and one comment that I get a lot is "The water here looks so dirty!" I explain that it's cedar water, looks that way from the tannins, and should be very clean. The next thing I get is usually "Can we drink it?"

I'm no expert on this subject at all, but from what I understand, the water in the Pine Barrens is remarkably clean. I've heard that sea captains would store cedar water aboard the ship because it would stay sweet and clean for a long period of time. I also know of the Kirkwood-Cohansey resevoir and the millions (trillions?) of gallons of clean water under the Pines. I understand the usual risks of outdoors water--animal droppings, pesticides, etc., but since there aren't any major factories remotely near our camp, there shouldn't be any funky chemicals running into our streams.

My question is whether or not cedar water needs the usual purifying processes people use out on the trail, be it by filtering, iodine, or boiling.
Its not what you see in the water that can hurt you. Any water source in NJ, and just about anywhere else, needs to be treated. There are new mthods for ensuring potability that don't involve chemicals, filtering or boiling, using UV light, takes care of a liter in about a minute and is very compact about the size of a highlight marker. There is nothing I know of that will purify water contaminated by chemicals.
 

GermanG

Piney
Apr 2, 2005
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Little Egg Harbor
I debated this topic with a friend recently who claimed that he drank from local rivers many times without incident or illness. But I imagine you could blindfold yourself and safely walk across the Garden State Parkway nine times out of ten. But that tenth time would be a bitch, as would be the nasties you might pick up from drinking tainted water.
 

Spung-Man

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Jan 5, 2009
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loki.stockton.edu
Huh, I drank it. Explains things doesn't it...

Dusty,

It wasn’t all that long ago that many of us slaked thirst simply by dipping a cup into a Pinelands stream. I spent much of my youth exploring the upper reaches of the Manumuskin River, which from Algonquin translates “to drink by swamp water.” The “boiling springs” of the Manumuskin were well touted when Bowan (1885: 39) wrote in his History of Port Elizabeth about the sparkling and hygienic flows that once profusely bubbled from its riverbanks. Today these springs are practically gone due to over-withdrawal of groundwater. Spungs too are often spring-fed, their water fill simply passing through them as shallow groundwater flowage.

Cedar water tasted silky, and was almost sweet in flavor – better than the stuff that sloshed all day long in the canteen. The tea-colored hue is an artifact of biological activity. Chemotrophic bacteria (those that obtain energy through chemical oxidation) catalyze iron and organic material turning waters dark. The hotter the weather, the darker the streams become. In the winter, when biological activity is at ebb, branches run crystal clear. I suspect that this “biological” activity uses up most of what can go stale, sort of like preservation through fermentation. This may be why sea captains were so keen to collect Pine Barrens cedar water at locations like Sweetwater before a long voyage. I guess my biggest concern today is Giardia.

Spung-Man
 

Boyd

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Jul 31, 2004
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Ben's Branch, Stephen Creek
Was out on a walk near Oswego Lake on a really hot day many years ago (maybe 1994) and the dog was slurping up large quantities of water from a stream by the road. It looked pretty good to me, and I was curious, so I took a sip. It tasted terrible!

Then afterwards, I started worrying that I would get sick. I didn't... but that was the last time I tried drinking cedar water. :)
 

lakesgirl

Explorer
Jan 3, 2010
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collings lakes
as a kid I probably swallowed more cedar water than I'd like to admit swimming and clowning around in the lake. don't ever remember getting sick...at that time i think cedar water was part of my chemical make up.:D....now, I'm not so sure...so when I unintentially go swimming while kayaking I keep my mouth shut.
 

Piney Boy

Explorer
Sep 19, 2005
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Williamstown, NJ
As a seasoned hiker I've watched two schools of hikers over the years. The first treat most any stream like something they'd find in a gutter in calcutta, and the second is more the free wheeling type that think if its not steaming they'll have at it. Guess a third exist that try and find a medium between these two. I pretty much treat all water out of fear of giardia, because if your out for an extended trip, or even a long weekend, and come down with it you can be in some serious trouble.
 

kayak karl

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Sep 18, 2008
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As a seasoned hiker I've watched two schools of hikers over the years. The first treat most any stream like something they'd find in a gutter in calcutta, and the second is more the free wheeling type that think if its not steaming they'll have at it. Guess a third exist that try and find a medium between these two. I pretty much treat all water out of fear of giardia, because if your out for an extended trip, or even a long weekend, and come down with it you can be in some serious trouble.
i treat all my water unless its coming out of a mountain spring (thats not NJ :)) Giardia can be caught many ways. 90% of cases are not from water. its from bad sanitary conditions. it will not ruin your weekend. it takes 3-4 weeks to set in. starts off with gas and progresses to dehydration. the parasites eat all your food. weight loss is obvious and the antibiotics take weeks to work. it took me 6 weeks to get over all symptoms. (ps. got it in Maine)
that being said. i treat water in the pines with Polar Pure. i have no problem with moving water in the pines. cleaning cooking gear and using hand-sanitizer should be on the top of your lists. I learned the hard way. :rolleyes:
 

manumuskin

Piney
Jul 20, 2003
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millville nj
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I have drank out of a lot of streams and have never had any bad effects but I know where the streams come from.I never drink from a stream that passes any cultivated fields are road or houses upstream ,in other words i drink from small streams that have just came up out of the aquifer recnetly and haven't passed man sign yet.Also i don't drink downstream from known beaver presence.This isn't to say that i can't get sick from it,theirs always dead critters which I have found instreams numerous times.wounded deer seem to love to find a cold stream to lay in and bleed out,found em floating in canoeable streams several times,theirs also animal poop but I think it leads back to kids that eat dirt seem to be healthier.If all you drink is distilled water and eat sterilized food the first time you encounter a nasty little bacteria or virus it's going to kill you."whjat doesn't kill you makes you stronger" I guess would explain the concept.I take calculated risks but don't guzzle from the neighbors septic sysytem.I hate the taste of chlorine and iodine,there are lightweight water pump/filters available.most are expensive but backpackers find the indispensable.They say the better ones make pure water out of mud puddles.Speaking of the squirts Redneck when I first got to Saudi Arabia to a man we all came down with the squirts from drinking bottled desalinated water made right there in country.Nothing wrong with the water just that our bodies weren't used to it.
woulkd explain the risks and not tell anyone to drink from the water due to legal repercussions but if I personally knew the stream was untainted by the aforementioned factors I'd help myself.
Al