With layers of multitude of hills and mountains, countless streams, varying flora and fauna, Nepal is a beautiful country with some of the world’s best trails for hiking. While its majestic mountains and peaceful views will leave a lasting impression on you, there might also be various opportunistic microorganisms looking to spread water-borne diseases to you as well.

Therefore, you should be aware of the water you drink at all times (especially when hiking in rural areas) to avoid developing cases of vomiting or diarrhea, or even contracting diseases like Giardia, Amoebic Dysentery, Diarrhea and so on.

Find out more about the various sources of water you may come across in Nepal, if they are drinkable, and if not, and ways to purify them.

Sources of water:

1. Bottled Water

While hiking through popular tourist destinations it is easy to find bottled drinking water. This source eliminates the need to purify water. However, since Nepal is a developing country, shops aren’t located everywhere and sometimes, they even run out of bottled water.

Furthermore, if these plastic bottles aren’t disposed of properly, they can pollute the hiking trails. Even if you are responsible and throw them into bins, it might not be picked up by garbage disposal, forcing locals to burn the plastic, which releases toxic fumes and pollutes the area.

It also isn’t economical for hikers to buy bottled water every time because the farther the place from the nearest town, the higher is the price of bottled water due to lack of proper transportation. Instead try to carry at least 2 reusable bottles that you can fill up.

2. Streams, Rivers, or Lakes

While hiking in Nepal, you are sure to come across many crystal clear, cold, and fast streams and rivers which seem pretty safe to drink from.  

However, it is dangerous to assume these are safe, since microorganisms invisible to the naked eye are present in the millions, even in streams with fast-running water that look clean.

Furthermore, it is impossible to be sure that there is no seepage from run-down fertilizers, or if human feces or carcass isn’t near the river source upstream.

All these factors make it very easy for the unknowing traveler to fall prey to nasty diseases mentioned above. This doesn’t mean though that you should ignore all streams you come across, as they still are one of the main sources of water up in the hills, and they are safe as long as you can purify the water.

3. Taps

Like streams, taps are in abundance around localities. The locals use this source of water for mostly cleaning purposes. It might be difficult to break the habit of drinking water straight from the taps. However, it is important to remember that tap water in Nepal is not treated and can carry various Bacteria and Protozoa.

However this free source of water can be made drinkable after purification (discussed in more detail below).

4. Households

The locals in Nepal are very warm and welcoming. They can provide you with boiled water to refill your water bottles for prices cheaper than what you would spend on plastic bottles. This way you will be contributing to the protection of the environment and helping the locals as well.

Purification Techniques:

Although there are plenty sources of water that you’d come across while hiking in Nepal, most of them have high risks of containing pathogens that spread water-borne diseases.

There are many ways to purify water and some need specific products. You should be prepared to follow one of the methods listed below while trekking.

1. Boil water

If you are resting, it is a good idea to use your fuel to boil water. By the time it takes the water to reach boiling point, most of the pathogens will be killed, even if you are at a high altitude.

2. Use Iodine or Chlorine

You can buy a bottle of liquid 2% Tincture of Iodine, or iodine tablets before going on a hike. You should follow the instructions on the bottle to purify water.

NOTE: Do not use this method if you are allergic to iodine.

3. Filter

You can buy portable water filters in the market, but the efficiency of the filters depends on the brand. If you are unsure, it will be safer to boil the water after using the filter to take out debris.

4. Use UV lights

This method can come in handy if you do not have fuel. You can carry this battery operated device and shine it on a clear water bottle and the UV light will kill the bacteria. If you do not have a UV light, you can also leave the bottle in the sun for at least 24 hours – this process is called solar still.

Experiencing discomfort after hiking? Get yourself diagnosed now

More often than not, ingesting contaminated water can lead to Diarrhea, Giardiasis, Amoebiasis, and more. If you are experiencing symptoms like dehydration, bloating, cramps, or nausea after any activities like hiking in Nepal, it is best to seek medical help immediately.

For proper diagnosis and the best treatment, visit us at Swacon International Hospital, where our expert medical staff are ready to help you. We are also especially experienced in travel and rescue medicine.

To book an appointment, please call us at +977-1-4478105 or email us at info@swaconhospital.com.

Health for All