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"Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink" is found in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." It can depict a person's plight this summer as more people venture into more remote spots. For example, camping has the fourth highest participation rate for sporting activities, with only walking, swimming and bicycling ahead of it.

Waterborne disease is a risk for international travelers who visit underdeveloped countries that have poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation, and for wilderness users in developed countries, including the United States. Moreover, many small U.S. communities have problems in maintaining clean water. Fecal pollution with pathogens is the main reason for disinfecting drinking water. However, chemical contamination of groundwater is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States and around the world. Water safety cannot be estimated by look, smell or taste.Many a trip can be ruined if the water being drunk has pathogenic microorganisms. Microorganisms that cause disease are a primary concern for those away from civilization. Therefore, campers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts should know about the water they are using.

Three basic types of waterborne pathogenic microorganisms pose a concern:

- Protozoa - single-celled microscopic organisms that may be encountered are Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

- Bacteria - microorganisms include Camplobacter or E coli among others.

- Virus - these are submicroscopic pathogens that include Rotovirus or Enterovirus.

Those seeking protection against these waterborne pathogenic microorganisms can use three methods of protection:

- Boil. Boiling works. Campers may lug gas stoves, but fuel is needed. Boiling and cooling take a considerable amount of time.

- Carry pure water. Campers may bring fresh water with them. Water weighs over eight pounds a gallon and if backpacking, this prohibits the carrying of large amounts.

- Use a portable water treatment product. This is the obvious method for anyone who wants to leave their car behind and spend any amount of time outdoors. Such products can ensure that you can have your drinking water where you find it and within a few minutes.

- Animicrobial purifiers remove cysts, bacteria and viruses.

- Microfilters and filters typically remove only cysts and some bacteria as well as particulate matter, bad tastes and odor in the water. These filtration products do not have any recognized performance standard to which they are tested.

Portable water treatment products are one of the hottest products in outdoor stores. From backpackers to Scouts and weekend campers, portable water treatment products are being purchased. Additionally, purifiers are often used for international travel to areas with questionable drinking water. Portable water treatment products are found in specialty outdoor stores, retail catalogs and nearly any store with a sporting goods department.

Due to the great interest in outdoor activities and portable water treatment products, retailers have a strong need for consistent and accurate information on the performance of the products they sell. The role of the specialty outdoor retailer is to provide expertise to the consumer on a variety of camping products, not to be a microbiologist. Yet retailers are responsible for sifting through all the manufacturers' information and translating that information for their consumers. To compound the problem, manufacturers utilize a variety of product test methods and protocols to verify their claims.

Retailers need established performance criteria and test methods for all types of filtration and purification products so that they can directly compare products from different manufacturers. They need a system of classification to assure consumers that they are using the appropriate products for their application, and they need labeling standards to clearly communicate performance claims to consumers.

To respond to the needs of retailers and outdoors enthusiasts, the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America (ORCA) guided the American Standards, Training and Materials (ASTM) process. ASTM committee meetings have begun the process of developing standards. They are attempting to bring consensus and order to testing products to protect consumers.

Water disinfection plays an indisputable role in preventing the spread of disease. However, other measures are also important. Personal hygiene - mainly handwashing - prevents spread of infection from food contamination during meal preparation. No one with a diarrheal illness should prepare food. Dishes and utensils should be disinfected. Prevent contamination of water supplies from human waste.