Let Me Tell You About the Violent Diarrhoea I Got From 'Raw' River Water

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum on at

Going into college, I thought I understood all of the different ways poop could look. My digestion is generally bad, and my eating habits don’t help. But after returning from a four-day-long river trip, I realised just how naive a pooper I was.

You’ve probably read every raw water take possible by now, so here’s just a quick reminder. Con artists are trying to sell unfiltered, sterilised water at a premium to rich idiots in the US. It’s become a ridiculous trend among Silicon Valley types, like the idiot who brought you Juicero. They try to find a market with people who think that fluoride in the water is a vast conspiracy—you know, the pseudoscience, anti-government, anti-vaxxer types. Perhaps they can sell some of the water to people who want to eat a lot of good bacteria. The problem is, raw water can contain parasites like Giardia and pathogenic bacteria like E. coli.

So, back to it. Almost every year since high school, I’ve taken the same three-to-four-day trip down the Delaware River. Sometimes, you have to drink the river water out of desperation—but you always put an iodine tablet into it in order to clean it. Maybe I forgot to use the tablet, or maybe I just got water into my trail mix, but the day I returned from the trip, I was overcome with the need to poop. I assumed it was from my recent poor eating habits, but rather than looking like a healthy poop, what I produced looked like congealed deli mustard.

This horrible substance poured out of my body for days—regular diarrhoea medication allowed me brief trips out of the bathroom for meals, but inevitably the horror would return. After a humiliating two weeks, I healed on my own.

Did I have the parasite Giardia, or some other river water-induced pathogen? I’ll be honest, I was too embarrassed to see a doctor, so I don’t have a diagnosis on my medical record. But Giardia is the most common harmful human parasite. And my greasy, pale poop, or steatorrhoea, combined with my recent river tip is a telltale symptom.  It sucks that there can sometimes be problems with tap water, but an insane rich person trying to flog you raw scam-water is not the answer.