Can you drink the water on the Great Ocean Walk?
Is the water safe to drink or do I need to sterilise it just to be safe?
Ensuring adequate drinking water supplies when planning a hike is always a high priority. This post attempts to analyse the availability and quality of drinking water on the Great Ocean Walk in the Otway National Park.
We have been moved to post this information because on our recent camping trip to Blanket Bay we were disturbed by the number of Great Ocean Walk hikers who were scared to drink the water that is provided at each campsite.
Photo by Span
It seems to us that it is risk management ,by Parks Victoria, gone mad and that they are unnecessarily cautious in warning hikers on the GOW. This especially relates to visitors from overseas who are unfamiliar with conditions in Australia. e.g a German person would find it incredibly difficult to ignore a sign, as on each tap along the walk, stating “DO NOT DRINK THE WATER – UNTREATED” (or some such statement)
The Great Ocean Walk website, managed by Parks Victoria, has the following information regarding drinking water:
Please carry an adequate supply of drinking water with you. Drinking water is not available along the track. Tanks at campsites hold untreated rainwater. Use it wisely.
Is there water available along the walk?
Untreated rainwater is collected in tanks located in the Great Ocean Walk hike-in campsites and is available for hiker use. This water is not suitable for drinking unless treated. There are a number of different methods that hikers can use to treat rain water, such as filtering and boiling or adding sterilisation tablets. For further information, please refer to the Parks Victoria Park Note entitled ‘Water-make it safe to drink’ (see http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/).
At Blanket Bay, untreated rainwater is available for Great Ocean Walk hikers from a tap in the car-based campground. This water is not suitable to drink unless treated.Whilst the water level of each campsite tank is checked on a regular basis by Park Rangers,Parks Victoria cannot guarantee that rainwater will always be available at each campsite.
Hikers are responsible for their own water requirements. In periods of warm weather,hikers will need to carry extra water. There are a number of potential water drop sites along the walk, where water containers can be dropped off by 2WD vehicle and discretely hidden in vegetation for intended use along the hike. All containers should be recovered and removed following the completion of your walk.
Ok, all good advice then. Yes, the water is untreated, yes it comes out of tanks following collection off the roof of the shelters along the walk, and yes it does not meet World Health Organisation guidelines (as it is untreated)
So the question remains, is rainwater from tanks unsafe to drink?
The following information is sourced from the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines published by the National Health and Medical Research Council and relates to the collection of rainwater for drinking.
Rainwater systems, particularly those involving storage in above-ground tanks, generally provide a safe supply of water. The principal sources of contamination are birds, small animals and debris collected on roofs. The impact of these sources can be minimised by a few simple measures: guttering should be cleared regularly; overhanging branches should be kept to a minimum, because they can be a source of debris and can increase access to roof catchment areas by birds and small animals; and inlet pipes to tanks should include leaf litter strainers. First flush diverters, which prevent the initial roof-cleaning wash of water (20-25 L) from entering tanks, are recommended. If first flush diverters are not available,
a detachable downpipe can be used to provide the same result.
The quality of water from rainwater tanks can be affected by roofing and tank materials, paints,atmospheric contaminants, leaves, dust, and animal and bird droppings. However, providing that the system is reasonably well maintained, rainwater can generally provide a safe supply of drinking water.
Finally, enjoy the walk and look forward to a beer at the end, at least you know you will only get a headache!
- The shelters and rainwater collection systems in place at all the shelters on the Great Ocean walk meet many , if not all, of the criteria recommended by the NH&MRC.
- We have been drinking the tank water at Blanket Bay for over 10 years ago with no ill effects.
- We drank the water (without treatment) when we completed the walk in 2007 with no ill effects.
- We would drink the water next time we do the walk.
Photo by by pepewk – Boracay Relax Time