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Sipping on Snow

If you melt snow for drinking water in the winter, do you need to boil it for purification?

Question:

If you melt snow for drinking water in the winter, do you need to boil it for purification?

Submitted by - Dave - Port Washington, WI

Answer:

Water from melting clean white snow is generally considered safe to drink because pathogens don’t usually survive in it. But that’s not always the only consideration. In areas with lots of traffic like outside of well-used huts or in patches of late-season snow there may be added pollutants that you’d want to filter or otherwise clean out.

For the best results, pull fresh, clean-looking snow from a designated “drinking snow” area away from traffic zones, toilets, or dish pits. Also, add a little water to the it before heating up your melting pot, which can scorch and taint the water with a bad taste. Boiling water, which is the most effective method for disinfecting it, is often part of making coffee or warming up in winter, so if you do end up heating the water to that point you’ll get some peace of mind no matter where you got it.

1 Comment

  1. Doug

    Re the red snow question (indirectly) 1. filters remove any biological pathogens larger than viruses, (and there are virtually no pathogenic viruses that survive in the wild in NA) 2. boiling kills all biological pathogens, 3. chlorine (and iodine) kills all biological pathogens smaller than protozoans etc. in 5 minutes and kills the big things in four hours. Simple as that. So a filter is virtually guaranteed to be safe, you can follow it with chlorine to be sure. Boiling is 100% safe. And chemical is 100% safe if you wait 4 hours and are careful about making sure all the water is treated, e.g., none is left untreated at the threads in the bottle etc. UV is also supposed to be 100% effective and again requires some care to make sure all water is treated. So I don’t know whether red snow algae *requires* treatment, but boiling or any of the other treatments would certainly be *effective*.

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