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Old 28-03-2016, 16:09   #1
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Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

We are planning an extensive cruise of the Great Lakes, and preparing
our (presently ocean going) trawler accordingly.

What steps (and equipment) are recommended for utilizing lake water for
ordinary purposes other than drinking and cooking. i.e. showers, washing up, etc. ?

Does anyone have experience with low pressure RO water purification systems for bringing lake water up to potable standards?

Are gray water holding tanks required on cruising boats on the Lakes?
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Old 28-03-2016, 17:21   #2
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

Great Lakes water is easy on all your systems. No grey water tank is required, hold tanks sewage must be pumped out at approved stations. Never heard of any one using a ro system on the lakes. Be causes water starts becoming hard in November.😊😏


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Old 28-03-2016, 17:53   #3
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

Showering, washing up, and so on - use it straight out of the lake. You might want to use your RO system for drinking water, or just fill up when you have access at a dock.

Even if hamburking pees overboard on occasion - see Do you pee over the side? - this is pretty clean water.
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Old 28-03-2016, 18:20   #4
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

Well, all i can say is, you are in for a treat. Just use straight out of the water for everything but drinking. If you want to drink it, you should be fine. Depends on the lake though, Erie not so much...Superior hell ya.
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Old 28-03-2016, 18:49   #5
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

It strikes me that if you want to drink out of it, just install a good filter system. I'm not certain what the contaminants of concern are, but the cities draw from the lake and perform only very minor treatment.

Obviously some areas are worse than others. But once away from the cities, I would be surprised if a 0.5 micron carbon block filter and chlorination wouldn't put you in good safe country.
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Old 28-03-2016, 19:36   #6
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

Hi Guy, I've sailed four of the five great lakes over the last 15 years or so. Never made it to Michigan (unfortunately). Water quality is generally quite good. I've never had a problem using raw water for basic use (washing, showering/cleaning), and have drank directly from Lake Superior using zero filtration. I did it when away from the few urban areas, not in a stagnant anchorage, and outside the outflow areas of rivers. Although I've not done it, I'd thing Huron would be nearly as safe as Superior.

I would not drink directly from Lake St. Clair, Erie or Ontario, but I've had no problem using the water for cleaning.

No need for grey water tanks. But black water tank are an absolute must. Pump out facilities can be scarce on some parts of the upper Great Lakes, particularly Lake Superior. This is the main reason we installed a composting head.
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Old 28-03-2016, 19:48   #7
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

And for half of the years you can have ice in your drinks without refrigeration. By the way, in the spring you can be one of the few who will know the beautiful sound of the ice going out.


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Old 29-03-2016, 00:06   #8
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

If you're thinking of a home ro filtering system, get one with a UV light to kill bacteria. I think they run at 50-100psi with a booster pump. Higher pressure=more water. I know people that use them on boats for producing drinking water from unknown quality FW sources. The ro membranes are rated at somewhere around 75 F. In colder water they would produce less. Most people I have talked to feel the membranes are overrated in the volume of water they produce by about half. That could be from cold water.
On my system I have a heat exchanger to preheat the water. I'm usually in 55 or colder water and mostly doing salt water. W/o heat, production is much less.
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Old 29-03-2016, 00:22   #9
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

I am sure the water is fine, its not like the Flint river dumps into Lake Huron or anything. Not that there is anything wrong with Flint water.
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Old 29-03-2016, 04:54   #10
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

For a different take, I won't even let my dogs swim in Lk Ontario. Most of the beaches on the north side end up closed due to fecal coliform levels part way through the summer. In plain terms the water is full of s**t! Factory farming manure runoff.....Plus evertime it rains the town I live in the sewage treatment plant overflows and dumps raw sewage into the trent canal to end up in Lk Ontaro LOL our water drinking plant is downstream of the sewage plant of course!
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Old 29-03-2016, 06:05   #11
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

There is chemically safe, and biologically safe. Chemically most places are OK. Biologically one must exert caution in bays and nearshore, particularly in high summer.

Anyone who has spent life on the fresh waters has ingested copious amounts of water as incidences of horseplay, watersports, etc. I'll drink the water and have never been ill from it. That said, it is not unlikely my system is accustomed to it.

Assuming that you fill your tanks (somehow) you should treat it anyway with chlorine which will kill the bugs.

But why? If you're nearshore enough you'll be filling fuel, etc, just fill up with water at the dock. I can't think you'll be sitting offshore for two weeks.
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Old 29-03-2016, 06:13   #12
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

We get our drinking water from the tap but wouldn't worry about drinking it in a pinch.


Swimming, washing, etc...no problem.
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Old 29-03-2016, 12:34   #13
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

I live in Northeastern Ohio.
Most of our drinking water comes out of Erie...it is cleaned up a bit.
Not sure what the complete process is...filter...some chlorination..fluridation? and?
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Old 29-03-2016, 12:44   #14
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

Superior, Michigan, and Huron should be quite clear, cold, and clean. St.Clair and Erie are shallow, muddy, and once they get warm in the summer can support much bacteria and microcystin-producing Cyanobacteria. I feel the media is very alarmist about the toxicity of microcystin, and I would still bathe or wash with it if it appeared clean enough. The western basin of Lake Erie is especially prone to these problems, but good tap water is available at most marinas for darn near free. The recent tap water scare in Toledo has led to bottled water being available most everywhere.
You will notice a green color in Lake Erie June-September that won't inspire you to drink it.
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Old 29-03-2016, 12:53   #15
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Re: Great Lakes as fresh water supply?

If you just want to grab some drinking water out of one of the cleaner lakes, I recommend one of those in line Sawyer water filters. They screw on top of a plastic 2 liter bottle, and you can dispense right from that. That is how we met our water needs when we were in the North Channel of Lake Huron. Although as others have said, the water up there is quite clean to begin with.
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