Back during Week 2, we talked about the importance of storing water. Running just slightly behind this in importance is having the ability to filter and purify additional water supplies. There are, of course, many natural sources of water, such as lakes, rivers, rain, and snow melt. However, no matter how absolutely crystal clear that water may be, it should still be filtered and purified.
One of the best investments a prepper can make is to purchase a water purification system such as a Big Berkey Water Filter. Yes, they are expensive but they’ll do the job far better than you may be able to accomplish with out them.
With that said, there are many ways you can purify water without using such devices.
You can bring the water to a rolling boil. It used to be that experts recommended letting the water boil for several minutes but the latest information I’ve seen is saying the water only needs to be brought to a rolling boil. Doing so is enough to kill off any harmful organisms. Naturally, this method requires enough fuel to boil large quantities of water as well as the time to not only boil the water but allow it to cool enough to handle or consume. When at all possible though, use boiling to disinfect the water as this is the surest way to provide clean water.
Non-scented chlorine bleach will render questionable water potable. Add sixteen drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach to a gallon of water, swish it around, then let it sit for about a half hour. If the water still has a faint chlorine smell, you’re good to go. If it does not, repeat the process. If the water is very cloudy or very cold, double the amount of bleach. Bleach is fairly inexpensive but it does have a limited shelf life. Once the bottle is open, expect full potency for about six months, then it begins to degrade.
You can make your own bleach mixture using calcium hypochlorite, also known as “pool shock.” Here are the instructions for doing so as found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website:
Add and dissolve one heaping teaspoon of high-test granular calcium hypochlorite (approximately ¼ ounce) for each two gallons of water, or 5 milliliters (approximately 7 grams) per 7.5 liters of water. The mixture will produce a stock chlorine solution of approximately 500 milligrams per liter, since the calcium hypochlorite has available chlorine equal to 70 percent of its weight. To disinfect water, add the chlorine solution in the ratio of one part of chlorine solution to each 100 parts of water to be treated. This is roughly equal to adding 1 pint (16 ounces) of stock chlorine to each 12.5 gallons of water or (approximately ½ liter to 50 liters of water) to be disinfected. To remove any objectionable chlorine odor, aerate the disinfected water by pouring it back and forth from one clean container to another.
One of the reasons this method should appeal is pool shock is very stable and lasts a very long time as long as it is kept dry and cool. It can also be found very inexpensive, especially during clearance sales at the end of summer. Given that you’ll only need to use a very small amount to make your purification mixture, even one or two packages of pool shock will last you a good, long time.
Naturally, there are a wide range of water purification tablets available in any camping supply store. These do work well but you’ll only be able to purify small amounts of water at a time. You’ll go through quite a few tablets in the course of a few days if this is your primary purification method.
There are also available different types of water bottles with the filtration unit built in, such as this one. Great to have and recommended, but don’t count on using them for providing large quantities of clean water at any one time.
Of course, before purifying the water, it should be filtered to remove the larger “stuff” that may be present. One of the best ways to do this is to first let the water sit long enough for anything floating in the water to settle to the bottom of the container. Then, pour it through one or two coffee filters. I have also seen elaborate DIY setups using successive layers of small gravel, sand, and charcoal before going through coffee filters. If you have the time and the means, this is not a bad approach.
Clean water is absolutely essential to survival. While storing quantities of it is one of the first steps in a preparedness plan, you need to have the means to make found water potable as well. Few of us have the means to store all the water we’ll need during and after a major disaster.
Your assignments this week:
1) If you have the means to purchase a Big Berkey or similar water filtration unit, do so. If not, begin setting money aside for one.
2) Begin gathering together the supplies necessary for filtering and purifying water. These include coffee filters, pots for boiling, empty bottles, pool shock, bleach, and water purification tablets. Always strive to have multiple methods available to you for any given task. As they say in the military, “Two is one, one is none.”
3) How are you coming with your first aid supplies?