Boil your water at a rolling boil for at least five minutes was the adage of the Peace Corps nurse in The Gambia. I’d guestimate on most occasions since day after day it was hard to remember to check when water actually started to boil, and how much time had passed after it did. For the most part, I was faithful about my drinking water and only strayed a couple of times from a clean source. When I couldn’t boil it because I was on a cargo boat heading to Timbucktu for four days, and the bottled water we took with us ran out, dumping iodine tablets into Niger River water was the only option. It worked. I guess.
Joan Peterson, author of “Eat Smart” guides says that not drinking tap water is the #1 key to keeping your stomach happy with you. She probably would cringe at the river water story.
I’ve heard before that it’s not the water at the source that’s necessarily bad, it’s that the pipes it passes through may not be in such good shape. Or, the water passes too close to sewage so the water picks up bacteria along the way. That’s what I’ve heard. I have no idea if this is actually true.
Regardless, Peterson says to drink only bottled water and avoid ice-cubes. (It was interesting to me that in the recent Academy award nominated movie, Babel, Cate Blanchett’s character looked uptight and not an easy-going traveler like Brad Pitt ‘s character because she chastised him for using ice when they were traveling through Morocco.)
Peterson also says to use bottled water for brushing teeth.
Like I said, I’m with Peterson if you can manage it, and I dump out ice. Here is a fact sheet from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, College of Human Ecology on how to treat water.