Complete Water Purification Guide for Preppers

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Complete Water Purification for Preppers

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.

Natural Resources

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.

Radiation Treatment

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.

Removing Biohazards

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.

UV Disinfection

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.

Solar Still

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?

In closing…

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.

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About Administrator Ryan

Administrator Ryan has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Emergency Administration and Management from the University of Kentucky, and has been the primary handler for since it's founding. Professional background includes over a decade's experience in survival and preparedness, graphic design, computer programming, website coding, and asset management. Personal background in mountaineering, climbing, rappelling, combat training, and big game hunting.

5 thoughts on “Complete Water Purification Guide for Preppers

  1. I guess I should throw in my two cents here. One of my MOS Skills in the US Army was 77W-40 I am currently a Water Chemistry Engineer. I design and build water purification systems for commercial and residential needs. I have designed and built systems for WFI systems which are the most difficult and manufacture the purest water on the planet. If you’re reading this then I suggest you waltz on over to Costco, Walmart, K-Mart or whatever Mart you spend your hard earned coin at and buy yourself an under the sink RO unit. While your there buy yourself a handful of the Pre filters that are made for that unit. Now go and get yourself a nice hand pump that can create at least 45 psi and MacGyver that thing to your new RO. Now you can filter your neighbors piss and have drinking water. You can filter purple pipe that you see on the sides of highways (Treated sewage for irrigation). Please keep in mind water sources will also include irrigation systems, Fire systems inside buildings and so on. Those extra Pre Filters you purchased…they are the most important part of your system. They are there to protect the membrane from Chlorine and a few other chemicals we have in water. 10-12 years ago I wouldn’t make a big deal about it because we used simple chlorine. We now sanitize our water with Chloramine which is Chlorine and ammonia mixture. The chloramine has a much longer shelf life than just plain chorine so you will need those extra pre filters. If chlorine finds it’s way to the membrane than your hosed. Listen people…I know my shit when it comes to water and purifying it. If you ever have any questions regarding water I love to talk water feel free to reach out. I love to share this knowledge within our TOE
    Please drink responsibly.

    • Nick, good advice, yes, but, my concern is what happens when it breaks down? “What is planned by man is ruined by man.” Rube Goldberg was a genius, and KISS should be standard. At one time, water was considered toxic, even spring water. Yet, people have to drink and boiling water is not always an option. When Babbitt was gov of Arizona, he authorized replacing water taken from reservations with treated sewage water. Yep, to be dropped in the wells. People built barrel filters (sand, charcoal and so on), but wound up buying water for a while. A bunch of men from the Big Rez (Tohono) got in their trucks and went to the state capitol, then shot out the windows, ran to the Maricopa rez to hide out. Babbitt invaded the rez (federal property) and got his eggs busted for it. The Salt River Project was forced to release water from the dams to recharge Native American wells, but they still use home-made filters. Then, no one had spare cash because no one had jobs–Carter Depression. Right now, the Obama Depression, most folks do not have spare cash. There’s too much that needs doing and homegrown will be the future. Best to you and to you, a good future.

  2. Copper and brass bowls, utensils, and so on in 3rd world nations are more than just something that looks nice. Copper kills bacteria and many fungal infections, and zinc, in brass, kills viral infections. We it just utilitarian, cast iron lasts for decades. The two metals, copper and zinc, were so valued as healing agents, they were considered gifts from the gods, and still are common in religious items as well as cooking. Warning, unless copper items are cleaned properly, copper can built to toxic levels in the body.

    Urine is usually very low in problems, other than a variety of salts. Be warned that, like drinking sea water, you would have to consume it from the beginning to keep the body from rejecting it and making you sick from the salts. Also, it cannot be stored because the bacteria proliferate, consuming proteins and produce ammonia, which is very toxic. Best bet with urine, save it till you have enough to cook down for saltpeter–and that’s a major ingredient in black powder.

    Boring trivia side note: the Louis of France acquired the recipe for powder, he ordered every stable in France to be scraped of the top few inches of dirt. The dirt was boiled, the water strained and cooked down for the saltpeter. When his enemies heard of it, they started a sort of arms race to make their own black powder. More so, they confiscated all urinals (barrels in towns where dyers collected urine to make ammonia to set colors). That caused an uproar, and Louis graciously (for a dictator 🙂 allowed them to keep the urine, but he taxed them for the salts. sounds like modern times, where liberal politicians want to tax the piss out of all of us…

  3. I liked this article. It had some things I didn’t know. Why didn’t you include some of the filters you can buy like Berkly good for 5000 to 10000 gallons, Sawyer good for 1000000, Kayden not sure on how much. I have been thinking on one of these for long time.

    • We have other articles listing standard purification filters, this article was intended as a manual for after the SHTF, if you don’t have any store bought filters, and you need water. We try our hardest not to release repetitive articles. Thanks for reading!

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