Emergency water purification should be high on your list of emergency preparations. The day’s of bending down and getting a refreshing drink from a stream, or any natural water source are pretty much history. Even the water that comes from our taps has been treated with enough chemicals to pickle a moose, and taste like it was dipped from a swimming pool. Thirty years ago who would have believed that bottled water would one day be a billion dollar a year industry, or that a city the size of Flint Michigan would suddenly have a water crisis on it’s hands?
Even though water quality today is not what it was in years past, It is in most cases still readily available, unless you are lost in some area’s of the south west United States. The trick is to take this potentially hazardous water and make it safe to drink for you and your family.
Six methods of emergency water purification.
- Heat: One of the oldest and still most effective methods of removing harmful bacteria, and viruses, from drinking water is to boil it. It’s been done for centuries, and it is still done today around the world. This method is at the top of my list of recommendations for any emergency water purification. Water brought to a full rolling boil for fifteen minutes or more will kill any harmful organism that calls water home. Viruses, Toxic Bacteria, and Protozoan Parasites are no match for the disinfecting capabilities of heat. I suggest all water from questionable sources be boiled first before moving on to any other method. Now, if you trust that the water you have acquired is free of dangerous chemicals, and heavy metals, like lead, or mercury, then you are done. In many case Boiling is all that is required to make water safe, but not in all cases. Boiling will “NOT” remove heavy metals, and some potentially harmful chemicals, so in this article we will show you how to fix that further on. If you have lost your ability to boil water because of power loss, Check out 6 ways to cook without power.
- Chemical treat: This is how most municipalities disinfect your water before they deliver it to your kitchen sink. The two main chemicals for emergency water purification are Chlorine, and Iodine. Both have been used to great effect, but both present some negatives that should be considered. Both iodine, and chlorine are poisonous in high dosages, and must be used with caution. Chlorine the most used of the two is effective and safe at eight drops per gallon of water. If the water is cloudy, eighteen drops per gallon is recommended. After treating with chlorine it is recommended that you wait thirty to sixty minutes before consuming, as chlorine concentrations will dissipate over time in the form of chlorine gas. Stirring the water every ten minutes or so may help speed this up. Iodine can also be use for emergency water purification, and is considered a more convenient chemical, because it comes in a tablet as well as liquid form. Generally it takes less iodine to disinfect water, and is easier to carry in a pack or bug out bag. The down side to iodine is that there are certain types of microbial organism, particularly coccidian that it has a limited ability to kill completely, and like chlorine, iodine in a too large amount can kill a human. Use it with caution, and always according to it’s label. There are some other chemical treatments for cleaning water, like “Stabilized oxygen” that I know little about. I have read that this method is quite effective at disinfecting water and also dissipating other additives present in water. One article I read said that it had been used for centuries, and that it was still used extensively in Mexico, and India for treating water, but up until just recently, I had never heard of this method, and therefore I don’t recommend it to anyone that doesn’t already know what they are doing. I do know that with Chlorine and Iodine, how ever effective they are, they both leave your water with a very objectionable taste and smell. This is why I only recommend them in case’s where boiling is not an option.
- Ceramic Drip Filter: This method of emergency water purification is the one that I highly recommend even after using either of the above methods. These filters can filter several gallons of water at a time, and are priced from under forty dollars a kit to Hundreds of dollars for stainless steal units. They also work on gravity alone, and require no source of power to function properly. We use a forty dollar French gravity filter kit and two five gallon food grade plastic buckets to filter all of our drinking water at home. Even the water from our kitchen sink. As I mentioned above, the water from our facet smells like it has been dipped straight from a swimming pool, and this filter removes both the smell and taste of chemicals. This is why I recommend using these filters even after using method #1, or method #2 to remove harmful bacteria, and viruses. These filters consist of a sealed, baked ceramic, cup, filled with silver impregnated, activated carbon, and remove chemicals, and heavy metals that methods #1, and 2 will not. The only real negative to these filters is the amount of time it takes to pass five gallons of water through them, especially if they are new. With that said though, it is the amount of time that the water spends passing through the filter that makes them so effective for removing everything from viruses, and bacterial toxins, to heavy metals and dangerous chemicals. Running your drinking water through one of these filters after boiling or chemically treating it, will insure that your water is safe to drink.
- Mineral filters: These filters operate much like the ceramic gravity filters and usually rely on gravity to pass untreated water through a medium of ionic exchange resin, far infrared ceramic balls, silica sand, mineral stones, and carbon to remove contaminates. Some, more expensive, mineral filters, even use the ceramic and carbon filter as a first stage, before several more stages of mineral filtration. This is said to have many health benefits, because it adds back important minerals that the ceramic filter alone may remove from the water.
- Ultra violet light filter: I hesitated to include UV light water filters to this list, because most require electric power to operate, and during most emergency situations electricity will be un-available. Ultra violet light does however posses a powerful ability to purify water, and air. They are deployed in everything from Aquariums, and Fish ponds, to home water filters, and air purifiers. Some UV water filters are battery operated, and compact enough to carry in a back pack, making them great for situations where you might not be able to use fire to kill harmful organisms in drinking water. These battery operated UV filters will fall into the emergency category, and as long as you have batteries to operate them, they will allow you to avoid using chlorine, or iodine, to purify drinking water.
- Personal/Portable water Filters: Personal water filters have become so numerous over the past few years that it is almost impossible to keep up with them all. It seems like a new name brand comes on the market every week now, and it also seems as though every one of the new products claims to be better, or at least just as good as a certain brand that has been around for many years. Until I see some official testing of the new guy’s compared to the brand that I have used personally for many years, I’m sticking with the one I know. These have won awards for their effectiveness purifying water on the go. What ever brand you decide to go with, make sure that it filters down to no less than 0.02 microns. This will effectively filter out most harmful bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and heavy metals, but once again, there are some viruses, that filters will not remove completely. Boiling, Ultra violet light, and chlorine, will take care of these viruses, and they should be used first if you have reason to believe that the water source maybe infected with it. I recommend that a personal water filter be in every vehicle, back pack, day bag, and bug out bag. I keep a couple in my shoulder bag that I carry when relic hunting (metal detecting)along with a canteen on my belt just in case.
Emergency water purification should never become a problem for anybody with all of the ways available to make water safe to drink. It’s like most everything else in the world of emergency preparedness, Take care of it while there is no emergency, and it won’t be a problem when there is.