All About Water on a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip
by AzRA Guide Will Spaziani
“Water, water, water, I love water. Here it goes, down into my belly”
-AzRA Guest, Summer 2022
How Much Water Should I Be Drinking!?
If you’ve ever been on an AzRA river trip, you’ve heard our guides urge our guests to drink water. Lots of it. Typically we suggest at least one gallon during the day, and another full bottle overnight. Hydration is the foundation of physical, and mental well being for humans in the desert.
On average an AzRA river trip uses about 35 gallons of potable water every day. For decades guests and guides worked together at camp to ‘pump’ enough potable water solely for drinking purposes. Hand pumping of a Katadyn Expedition Filter was a camp chore that seemed to never end. Sometimes trips would be delayed from leaving camp, and even pumped while floating downstream to ensure enough drinking water available.
Water Filtration Evolves
All this hand pumping came to an end in 2009 when AzRA guide Kevin Greif created the Grand Canyon Filter. Kevin used his experience as a plumbing contractor to assemble an incredibly efficient, and SAFE water filtration system for river trips. This battery powered design uses 2 stages of filtration. The first filter is pleated polyester, and capable of removing particles as small as .35 microns. The second set of filters are ceramic, and have a rating of 0.9 microns. For more technical data I urge you to visit and explore Vital Water Products.
Potable Water in Grand Canyon
As per National Park regulations: our drinking water, once filtered, must also be treated to one part per million with bleach. This treatment helps ensure no ‘little nastys’ find their way into your body, and help prevent Norovirus.
Hand Washing in Grand Canyon
Before the Vital Water Filter, we would use water directly from the river for handwashing. The National Park allows for this; however, they require we first treat it with a heavy dose of bleach (100 parts per million).
Whenever possible we prefer to use potable water in our hand wash stations! Potable water used in the hand wash stations is much kinder to our skin. Yay AzRA!
On a side note: Frequent hand washing helps prevent norovirus… You Don’t Want It!
Water Quality in Grand Canyon: A Quick Snapshot of Current Events
- Lake Powell is where the water we raft on through the Grand Canyon comes from. As of writing this blog Lake Powell is at an all time low. (Feb 2023)
- Decreasing lake levels have created warmer water temperatures and lower overall volume on our Grand Canyon river trips.
- Check it out: Water is drawn into Glen Canyon Dam, from deep beneath the reservior’s surface. This provides a maximum head of pressure on the hydroelectric power turbines. These powerhouse intakes used to be hundreds of feet from the surface; however, as the lake draws down, the surface is now much closer to these intake structures. Thus the tailwater outflow is warmer.
- This ever decreasing amount of stored water has also been resulting in lower river flow rates (volume) through the Grand Canyon.
- Lower overall flows, and higher water temperatures, are creating an increased need for diligent water filtration, and purification.
- Check it out: this River Gauge is the real time flow of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. This link also has lots of cool historical data, like water temperature, and is based at Lee’s Ferry. Hint: change the graph to read in ‘cubic feet per second’ (cfs).
About the Author
AzRA river guide and spiritual leader Will Spaziani has been writing blogs for AzRA since 2022. Yup, he’s kinda new to it. He really likes drinking water.
If you go on a trip with him, he is likely to ask you to drink more water.