In this water purification guide we are going to review the testing, disinfection, and sanitation of water. Water is one of the most important resources to humans, second only to oxygen, while water that has not been cleaned can land you six feet under. We only need to look at the Flint, Michigan disaster where the city decided to get their water from Flint River instead of Lake Huron to save money; problem was Flint River has an unacceptable level of iron and the city refused to treat the water with anti-corrosive agents, which ended in tragedy.
The Flint, Michigan disaster happened in The United States, a first world country, while a lack of clean drinking water in third world countries like Chad, Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, and Ghana are continuously plagued. Children in these countries are dropping like flies from waterborne diseases, where 57 kids out of 1,000 die from unclean drinking water. While most people consider me a cold person, I have a soft spot for kids, so yes I donate to The Water Project. Conditions that the third world lives in today is incredibly demonstrative of the situation preppers will face after the shit hits the fan…
After disaster strikes America on a national level, we will be faced with third world problems like water sanitation. Many of us have a two year emergency water supply, a minimum of 183 gallons per family member, but what about those who don’t? Even better, what happens when our water storage has been depleted? Post-SHTF Water Sources within range may have been contaminated, and you will need to clean your water if you don’t want to succumb to a whole host of illnesses.
What are the effects of Dirty Water?
By now I gather you understand the importance of clean drinking water, but the only way you can understand that importance is by knowing what happens when you drink dirty water. Sure, you know drinking it can make you sick, but did you know swimming in dirty water can too? Not many do! Dirty water comes with a lot of common risks that include but are not limited to; vomiting, diarrhea, stomach irritation, skin rash, cancer, reproductive and developmental problems. The most common of which is diarrhea that causes most of the deaths in developing countries.
Less common but equally dangerous waterborne illnesses include; anaemia, arsenicosis, ascariasis, botulism, campylobacteriosis, cholera, cryptosporiodiosis, cyanobacterial toxins, dengue, dracunculiasis, fluorosis, giardiasis, hepatitis, hookworm, Japanese encephalitis, lead poisoning, legionellosis, leptospirosis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, methaemoglobinemia, onchocerciasis, polio, ring work, scabies, schistomiasis, trachoma, trichuriasis, and typhoid. All kinds of hurt lurking inside your most needed resource, scary huh?
How do I know if my water is clean?
As a rule of thumb, never assume your water is clean. Yes, I’m aware there are natural water sources like snow packs, springs, and etc. with potable water, but my water theory is identical to my sexual theory, 99% safe is not 100% safe. There is one surefire way you can be sure your water is safe for consumption, and that is the use of a Water Testing Kit by Test Assured that tests your water within ten minutes for lead, bacteria, pesticides, iron, copper, alkalinity, pH, hardness, chlorine, nitrates and nitrites. They’re pretty easy to use and each kit includes ten tests for $29.95 on Amazon.
Unfortunately, you won’t have an endless supply of these kits after doomsday, or you might not be in a situation where you don’t have one on hand, meaning you’re going to have to rely on your instincts and some educated guessing. There are a few signs that will key you in to non-potable water;
- Unclear, murky water with particulates
- White and yellow foaming
- Rotten egg smell (sulfuric)
- Discoloration (other than clear)
- Bad taste
- Dead fish, animals, and insects
Methods of Water Purification for Survival
Now it’s time we discuss several methods of water disinfection. One of the coolest things about being a seasoned prepper or survivalist is knowing things that other people just don’t know, while having the ability to apply that knowledge in real life survival scenarios. Each water disinfection method has its role in any survival situation. For instance; after a nuclear event the water will have radioactive particles and will need to be filtered through reverse osmosis and activated carbon. See what I mean? With this in mind we will list different scenarios, and how to approach them.
In many survival situations out in the wild you will need to use the resources available to you. Funny thing is, Brita and Pur water filters basically use the exact same materials such as activated carbon that you’d acquire from the coals in your fire, tiny pebbles, sand, clothing and etc. You can find detailed instructions on making a water filter by reading this article.
One of the most common ways of disinfecting water, and when using the method above, it is a surefire way of killing anything swimming around in there. No matter how you get the particulates out of your water, you should always boil it for a minimum of ten minutes (when you can) to kill any living organisms.
As stated above, after a nuclear event you will need to filter out all of the radiated particles from your water. One way of achieving this is by filtering your water through reverse osmosis and activated charcoal. The assumption is that you have already bought a reverse osmosis filter for a couple hundred bucks, but if you haven’t you can make one by watching the video below.
Another ‘ditch method’ of treating water with radiated particles that has been getting kicked around in various survival forums is adding potassium iodide to your water. The theory is potassium iodide protects you from radiation poisoning, so if you add it to radiated water ‘you’re good’. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a myth, but it’s definitely a form of misinformation. Potassium iodide added to radiated water, after a nuclear event where your body is already being subjected to the fallout will do absolutely nothing at all. You have to take potassium iodide tablets before the eminent fallout to keep the radioactive nuclides from binding to your thyroid. Every other organ, including your skin is fucked. Stick with the method above or you’ll only get sicker.
This is specifically targeted towards water that has been tainted by a chemical attack or accident. The standard belief is holding a rolling boil for one minute will inactivate waterborne pathogens, including encysted protozoa, while biohazards such as Anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) is far more resistant to this method. According to the National Library of Medicine, you will need to boil the water for ten minutes, and then filter through activated charcoal to remove all biohazards from your drinking water.
Treating Water with Chemicals
I don’t like chemically treated water at all… That being said, if you’re in a pinch and the only thing you got in your bag is iodine, well enjoy your shitty (but drinkable) water. There are quite a few chemicals you can use that will either kill all the things in your water that’ll turn you into a rear facing faucet, and/or inactivate anything else that’ll put you out of commission. The reality is when the shit hits the fan we don’t know what kind of conditions we’ll be living in, for all we know we can be living in a lifeless wasteland where resources are incredibly rare, meaning you’ll have to work with what you got. Below is a list of common agents used to treat water, and instead of listing all kinds of chemicals you’ll have no idea how (or where) to find, I’m going to list chemicals you actually know about.
- Unscented Bleach — two drops per liter of water (does not remove other chemicals)
- Iodine — two drops per liter (nasty taste)
- Hydrogen Peroxide — two drops per liter (prolonged use will lead to esophageal burning)
- Water Purification Tablets and Tinctures — use as directed
Please note all chemical treatments take up to thirty minutes. Now, you may have noticed I didn’t list chemical agents like ozone, bromine, fenols, or kaliumpermanganate. Tell you what Survival Steve, go out right now without using your phone and go find any of these chemicals and I’ll be impressed. Keep it simple people, we’re not all chemists! The four items listed above are the most easily identified, and recognizable agents you’ll be able to find after doomsday. You’ll also notice I didn’t list alcohol on here, simply because it is not a truly effective disinfecting agent.
When boiling is not an option available to you, you can use UV disinfection. If all you have is a clear water bottle and some sunlight you can leave that water in the sun for six hours, killing various bacteria, parasites, and rotavirus. Ideally you would have filtered this water already, because if it’s seriously cloudy it’s going to be hard for the UV-a to penetrate the water. See what I mean, it’s all perspective… If you can’t filter your water and your only option is to try sanitizing with UV, do you risk it? I’m not that guy; I’ll find a way to filter before boiling or using UV to further disinfect it.
A variation of UV Disinfection that can be used in conjunction with the method listed above. To be honest, I’ve seen this method used with dirty water, and piss, so I know it works. To make a long story short, all you need is two containers and something clear to seal those two containers together. For example; put your dirty water into a large pot, then put a heavy bowl or container that doesn’t float in the center, then take clear saran plastic wrap and seal the two containers with one layer, next you leave the two out in the sun for 4 hours and you should have clear drinking water in the center bowl. Genius, right?
Surviving a post-apocalyptic wasteland, regardless of the type of disaster that strikes your country will not be a pretty affair. You will be faced with a lot of situations where you have to seriously weigh the pros and cons of each decision you make. The idea is to stay alive as long as you can so if you have to find a way to filter your piss, extract potable water from insect ridden swamp lands, or drinking from a questionable puddle, then do it! You have to find a way to survive, and water has always been, and will always be the crucible of which your survival balances on. Do you guys have any input to offer, like other filtration and sanitization methods? Feel free to add them in the comments below.
This article has been read  times.