Don’t drink from that stream, until you treat it!

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Here’s some good advice for hikers and backpackers alike. If you’re heading into the wilderness treat your water. Bay Area hikers heading to the Sierra Nevada this summer should be extra careful about where they find their drinking water, particularly if cows are nearby.

That’s the upshot of a new study that found cattle-grazing in national forests between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney is the leading source of E. coli contamination in Sierra streams and lakes.

In fact, nearly every stream and lake frequented by cattle or pack animals contained unsafe levels of E. coli — a bacterium found in livestock waste that can produce severe stomach illness and even kidney failure in humans. Areas without livestock — even those regularly visited by backpackers — almost never had E. coli in streams and lakes, according to the research.

The article suggests that this is even a good idea in Yosemite where cattle grazed for many years until the park received national park status.

I know that a study released several years ago suggested contrary but I’ve always found it “good sense” to treat all water. “Better safe than spending a week camping in the bathroom,” I always say.

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