Since You Asked: Be wary of drinking water from streams

I have hiked many sections of the Pacific Crest Trail and have often wondered whether the spring water running down from Mount Ashland is potable. The area I'm particularly asking about is the trail portion that leads to Grouse Gap. There are several springs on that particular portion of the trail.

Callahan's Restaurant tells me it gets its water from a spring coming from Mount Ashland.

— Louis J., Phoenix

As far as the experts can tell, Louis, drinking untreated water from any kind of stream is still a risk.

"Some people drink out of it, but it's not recommended to drink out of any stream out there in that area up there," said Steve Johnson, Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District recreation specialist for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. "But I do know people that drink out of it and have not gotten sick."

Johnson also has heard stories of those who picked up parasites such as giardia, which can cause diarrhea, after drinking from the stream. Backpackers in the area should bring plenty of water and take portable sterilization devices such as pumps and portable ultraviolet filters.

As for the water Callahan's Mountain Lodge distributes, it is spring water that comes off Ogden Hill. The lodge uses spring boxes to collect the water into a 10,000-gallon tank that sits 250 feet above the lodge. The water then goes through a filtering system and ultraviolet sanitation process, said Callahan's owner Ron Bergquist. Bergquist said he sends samples to a lab twice a year to keep watch on the quality.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com.

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