It sounds like a silly question to ask but we've heard it several times before, "Where do you get your water in the Boundary Waters?" What people mean is where do you get your drinking water. Some folks envision themselves carrying bottles of water out into the canoe country but luckily you don't have to do that.
When you're in the BWCA you can use the water right from the lakes. Most places you would probably be safe to drink the water without any treatment but to be on the safe side you should probably treat the water before drinking.
One option to treat the water in the Boundary Waters is to bring it to a boil. This is the most effective for getting rid of both bacteria and viruses but there are a couple of drawbacks. Bringing water to a boil can be time consuming and use alot of fuel. It also takes a while for the water to cool off before drinking it. I don't mind room temperature water but hot water on a hot day isn't what I crave.
There are tablets and filters to treat water before drinking it. Iodine tablets and Potable Agua will get rid of most bacteria but will leave a weird taste in the water. Filters will filter out most bacteria but it can be a time consuming task as well.
My favorite method for treating my water when I'm out in the BWCA is to use a SteriPen. These use ultraviolet rays to treat the water and work in a flash. The ultraviolet rays kill both bacteria and viruses and leave no after taste.
The next time you're out in the BWCA consider using a SteriPen. It's a fast and effective way to treat your drinking water.
From the STeriPEN website
SteriPEN products use ultraviolet (UV) light technology to purify water, destroying more than 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses and protozoan cysts such as giardia and cryptosporidia.
The method has now been used for over one hundred years, and is currently used to purify drinking water by some of the largest cities in the world, including Seattle, New York (scheduled soon), Tempe, AZ and many others in North America, Europe and Asia. Ultra Violet light is also used by leading bottled water manufacturers to purify their source water.
The EPA officially recognized the use of ultra-violet as a proven, viable technology in 1996: "Ultraviolet (UV) radiation has been found to be an effective disinfectant…. a useful small systems disinfection technology option." UV purification works as the ultraviolet energy emitted by the light is absorbed by the cells of the microbe, preventing cell enzymes from 'reading' its DNA. Without intact DNA, microbes can’t reproduce to make you sick. The process is simple but effective, destroying over 99.9 percent of harmful microorganisms.
Purifying water with UV light offers many advantages. In addition to being safe and effective, UV light does not alter the taste, pH, or other properties of the water, and works without the introduction of chemicals to the water.