Purifying Water in a Survival Situation
5 Ways to Purify Water
Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations we can’t control, and that’s okay. We may be out in the wilderness or be thrust into a society where the rule of government has broken down. The most important thing to keep on hand in a survival situation is water. No matter how extensive your stores of water are, eventually you’re going to run out. This is why it’s important to know how to purify water yourself.
The most obvious method for water purification is a water filter, such as those sold by Katadyn. These are often hand-powered through pump action, and utilize a ceramic filter capable of eliminating dangerous microorganisms and noxious chemicals. This is the easiest method for water purification because it’s as easy as pumping the water into a bottle and water can immediately be consumed upon filtration. Assuming you don’t have access to one, though, there are plenty of other options for fulfilling your daily intake needs.
Another obvious method, boiling water has been a time-tested way to get potable water for as long as anyone can remember. It’s important to use the cleanest water available so straining the debris through a coffee filter or piece of cloth is always a good idea as it will ensure the boiled water is as clean as it can be. The high temperatures of boiling water will destroy any bacteria and other harmful microorganisms, as they can only withstand temperatures within a certain range. While traditionally it’s been taught that you should have a rolling boil for 15-20 minutes in order to ensure that all the little critters are dead, current developments are finding that this is serious overkill. It is a waste of time and, more importantly, a waste of fuel. In reality simply getting the water to a boil is more than enough to make the water safe to drink. Keep in mind, though, that this method will not remove chemicals or heavy metals, so keep that in mind when you’re sourcing your water (I’m looking at you Flint, Michigan).
Another popular method, iodine or chlorine purification tablets can be found in any sports or adventure store, and most camp supply sections of major retailers (like Walmart and Target). They may not be the best-tasting method, but they’ll get the job done. Again, strain the water through a coffee filter or piece of cloth beforehand to ensure the cleanest water possible. After this is done, simply add the tablets according to the instructions and wait for a half an hour the microorganisms to be destroyed. Like boiling, this won’t remove chemicals or heavy metals, and the colder the water is, the longer the tablets take for full effect; they work best at room temperature. A trick to mask the flavor of the chlorine and iodine is to add flavored drink mix to the water.
A lesser-known yet effective method of water purification is the application of household bleach. The active ingredient that makes this an effective method is the chlorine. Just like chlorine tablets, a couple of drops of bleach can do the trick in a pinch, and it’s a very cost-effective method as well. There is a stigma to the thought of adding bleach to drinking water, and rightly so; adding too much can be deadly, so if you do need to employ this method, remember: “You must be 21 to drink.” That’s 2 drops of chlorine to 1 quart of water. And DON’T ballpark it. You’ll want to pre-filter the debris out of your water beforehand, and if you don’t have a choice but to use cloudy water, then double the dose of bleach, as well as the wait time. It may go without saying, but don’t use a scented bleach. You don’t know what kinds of chemicals are added for those fragrances, and this article is about prolonging your life, not ending it.
When we go out in the sun, we are incredibly susceptible to its rays. The UV radiation can cause burns and eventually cancer. Microorganisms are like us in that sense. They can’t handle the UV radiation; it breaks down their DNA and destroys them on a molecular level. We can use these harmful rays to our advantage to save our skin and live to drink another day. This method should only be done in certain circumstances in order for it to be effective. The water should not be cloudy, as the UV rays will not fully penetrate to destroy all of the creepy crawlies. Also be sure to use a clear plastic bottle, as colored plastic or even glass will not allow all of the rays to penetrate into the water. This is a time-consuming method, requiring at least six hours of direct sunlight, so if you need water immediately it shouldn’t be counted on as a viable method.
These are all viable methods of making water potable, and most can be achieved with little difficulty to those who know what they’re doing. It’s important to remember to avoid water with high heavy metals, so steer clear of factories, areas with known pesticide runoff and areas where mining takes place. Keeping that in mind, these tips should enable you to live to drink another day.