7 Ways to Purify Water when it really counts!
In the developed world, water is taken for granted. Just open the tap and you will have as much water as you can drink.
However, drinkable water does not come easy in the wilderness or in a survival scenario. An average human being can only go without water for up to 2 or 3 days.
After that, it is a slow, painful death! Not fun…..
Even if you do have access to rivers, ponds, reservoirs etc. you have to make sure that the water is suitable for drinking. In many underdeveloped countries, millions of people die every year due to drinking contaminated water (cholera, poisoning etc.)
According to the CDC and water.org, an estimated 842,000 people die every year due to diarrhea alone (yes, you read that right)!
That’s 2300 people a day! The purpose of these stats is not to depress you, but to impress upon you the importance of drinking PURE water.
Here are 7 ways to purify water. Practice the different techniques mentioned below.
Just reading theoretical information is not good enough – put this stuff into PRACTICE!
1) Boiling water:
This is the easiest way to kill harmful bacteria and viruses.
You will need some kind of fire-proof pot or vessel and a fire. Let the water come to a rolling boil – not just a simmer. Boil for at least one to three minutes – preferably longer. Note that the boiling point of water decreases as the altitude increases. Thus, water boils at a lower temperature on top of a mountain than on the sea coast.
If you are located at a high altitude, use a pressure cooker or just boil for a longer time. Be careful in handling the pot/vessel – third degree burns is the last thing you want in a SHTF situation! Let the water stand for a few minutes – this cools the water and any debris/particles present in the water will settle to the bottom of the vessel.
You can then drink the clean water from the top.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember that boiling is only effective against bacteria and viruses – it does not get rid of the chemicals and minerals that may be present in the water.
2) Purification tablets (or drops):
These can be easily bought online or in stores that stock camping and adventure equipment.
They lend a bitter taste to the water but that is a small price to pay considering that these tablets can save your life. Iodine tablets are the most common type of purification tablets. Chlorine tablets are popular as well.
Such tablets work best if the water that you wish to purify is at a temperate of 21 degrees Celsius (68 F) or higher.
Strain the water through a cloth (bandanna, T-shirt etc.) to filter out debris and then add the purification tablets to it. Most purification tablets and drops come with instructions – follow these.
In general, one tablet is effective for purifying 1 litre of water. Make sure that the tablets/drops are well within the expiration date. Allow the tablets to dissolve completely in the water and wait for 30 minutes before drinking it. Pregnant women, older people and people who have thyroid problems should refrain from using purification tablets.
3) Commercially available filters:
Several types of filters are available in the market. Our favorite is the Lifestraw. It is durable, inexpensive, easy to use, has a long life and weighs almost nothing. The best part is that it runs without electricity or batteries. A single filter is good for an incredible 1000 litres of water! We recommend getting one today!
4) Build your own filter:
Do not have a filter on you? No problem – create a makeshift water filter by using naturally available materials.
You will need:
1) An empty plastic water bottle, plastic bag or inner tube (etc). If you do not have this, cut up some tree bark.
2) Some sand
4) Charcoal. You can use the burnt pieces of wood from your campfire.
6) Pieces of cloth.
Cut the lower end of the plastic bottle and invert it. If you do not have a plastic bottle, cut up some tree bark and roll it into a cone (funnel). Tie it up with a rope or a thin branch so that it holds its conical shape. Now begin to layer the bottle or bark in the following order – pebbles, cloth, sand, cloth, charcoal, cloth, sand, pebbles.
Pass water through a piece of cloth to remove large particles and then pass it through your self-built filter. The charcoal absorbs many harmful chemicals and makes the water safer for drinking. Note that charcoal does not kill bacteria and viruses. Hence, you will have to boil the water after filtering it. Practice making such a filter on camping trips so that you get the hang of it.
Note: Charcoal is activated carbon, a chief constituent of many commercially available filters. A single pound of this substance has a surface area of 100 acres! Charcoal is effective in trapping sediment, volatile organic compounds and chlorine. It also removes foul taste and odor from water. Charcoal does not remove salts and minerals that are dissolved in the water.
5) Make a solar sill:
If you are in a sunny region, this technique might work out well for you.
You will need a large bowl or pan of water.
- Place the dirty water in this bowl.
- Place another, smaller pan or bowl in water – ensure that the dirty water does not enter the smaller vessel.
- Now seal the entire apparatus with a plastic sheet or cling film and place it in bright sunlight – seal it tightly.
- Place a small rock on the plastic so that it is located on top of the smaller bowl.
The Sun’s heat will cause water to evaporate – the vapor will condense on the plastic sheet and drip into the smaller bowl. This can take hours or even days – depending upon the intensity of the Sun.
However, you can have a continuous supply of fresh water if you create several solar sills. You can even produce fresh water from sea water.
Here is a video that illustrates this:
6) Atmospheric water generator:
This is a device that makes water from thin air! Even the driest parts of the earth have at least some atmospheric humidity.
An AWG draws out moisture from air by cooling it below its dew point – the principle is somewhat similar to that of a dehumidifier. Most AWGs require some source of power (electricity or gas) and they are a tad expensive.
Despite these constraints, an AWG is very prized possession in charitable organizations and the military as it produces water in large quantities. You can learn more about AWGs here – http://www.skywater.com/home2014.php
Most ways of water purification are aimed at removing the contaminants from the water.
However, distillation is far more effective as it removes the water from the contaminants!
Yes, the water is slightly acidic – but it is 100% pure and the very slight acidity is not a problem as your body counters it by producing more stomach acid.