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Waters of the North
The Northern water system is a complex web of snowcaps, glaciers, feeder streams, springs, rivers, ponds, lakes and marshes; ultimately ending in the ocean. Here is a look at natural bodies of water, and how the Northerners use them.
Most fresh snowmelt streams in the mountains are safe to drink from, but water animals and vegetative rot may cause bacteria that can cause discomfort to humans (or death in young children, at the extreme), particularly in stagnant ponds and pools. Boiling water will kill most of these organisms. A few streams that run over areas where Ancient populations lived are known to be chemically hazardous and are carefully avoided. In particular, all water sources near the Folded City are off-limits, as well as all rivers and springs in Mirthless Valley (and the fish that live there).
The Northerners have cultivated several springs that are known to be safe, clearing access to them, and marking them with piled rocks so that rangers will recognize them. Some of these springs have a heavy metallic taste, but are considered safe. A few prized ones are thermally heated, and can be accessed even in the winter.
Each village has a piping system to transport safe, fresh water from a good source to the village, whether that's a short, local system (as in Itakith) or a rather lengthy open pipe system (as in Itadesh). These cannot be used in the winter, but make spring, summer and fall tasks much easier. Each village has a water house, which is an open-sided shelter for tasks such as laundry, cleaning and butchering (carefully separate!), which allows basic sluicing and routes graywater waste to a filterpit. These primitive water systems are not used for human waste and care is taken to keep them from developing bacterial growth.
Water collection can be particularly challenging in the winter when so much of it is tied up in ice and snow. Melting water from snow is laborious, especially inland, where the snow is very dry. Some is collected through holes in ice, and some is melted from snow and ice. In general, water is conserved during the winter; you won't see Northerners taking baths! Laundry is done sparingly in the winter and water-intensive crafts will also wait for summer months. Water-bearers serve the village by carrying water to houses as needed and managing clean water supplies throughout the year.
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