When a hurricane hits, or an earthquake shakes things up, water is one of the first things to go. Since it’s also the most important part of staying alive, you need to make sure you have multiple ways to purify water for drinking. Today, we’ll be looking at several methods of getting water suitable to drink.
Where will you get water after a disaster? If you’ve prepared your home and family, you’ll have ready access to water. Keep some pure water on hand for emergencies, in five gallon jugs or similar containers. Having a tank that can hold a few hundred gallons of water is also a good idea.
If you aren’t prepared, or if you run out of water that you’ve already stored, there are a few other options. First, look around your home for sources of water. Toilet tanks and hot water tanks hold extra water if you haven’t used it up.
Wells may be compromised in a disaster, but with the right purifying process, you can render it usable again. Other options include fire hydrants, ponds, pools, and rivers. Obviously, some of these are more likely to be contaminated than others, so use your discretion.
While you can probably drink “dirty” purified water, it’s usually best to strain out the bits and grits before you get to actually purifying it. This will give your filter a longer life and can help mentally, as well. This is especially important if you have children who might object to drinking cloudy or odd-colored water.
You can use any sort of filter to separate debris, including:
- Coffee filters
- T-shirt or other clothing/fabric
- Layered sand and gravel
- Dried grass matted together
Another method of separating the debris is to simply let the water sit for a couple of hours until the silt and dirt has sunk to the bottom of the container. Pour the water off into a new container and it’s ready for purification.
Ways to Purify Water for Drinking
Ideally, you’ll prep ahead of time for situations like this. I like to recommend that everyone have a minimum of two ways to purify water.
1. Use a Filter
If you’ve prepared for this day, you’ll have a filter on hand. There are a huge number of options out there, so pick one that suits your needs. The LifeStraw filter is a good option to keep on hand. It’s portable and lets you purify water for the entire family. Of course, you might opt for an individual filter, as well, which can go in your bugout bags.
When choosing a filter, be sure it can filter out viruses and bacteria. These will be rife in a disaster situation and you don’t want to end up with cholera because you picked the cheapest filter.
2. Use a UV Light
UV rays will kill off most pathogens in water, rendering it safe to drink. You can use the sun (see below), or a more efficient method like a UV pen. The SteriPen is a good, portable option for treating smaller amounts of water for drinking, but there are a number of similar purifiers on the market. They’re quite effective, so you might want to keep one of these on hand, as well.
3. Boil the Water
Boiling may be old-school, but it’s almost always available to you. If for some reason you didn’t keep a filter on hand or if you lost it, you can always boil your water to make it safe for drinking. Bring any amount of water to a rolling boil over a fire or on the stove and keep it boiling for at least five minutes. Let the water cool and you have purified drinking water.
Unfortunately, boiling water can make it taste pretty bland and flat. To help with that, try pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers to help aerate it.
4. Use Chlorine/Bleach
Another well-known method of purifying water is to use bleach or chlorine in it. If your water is clear, you can use two drops of bleach per quart of water. If the water is cloudy or dirty looking, add four drops per quart. You will need to stir or shake the water, to ensure the bleach is well distributed. Then let the treated water sit for at least 30 minutes in a dark space.
You can keep chlorinated water for longer periods of time, but make sure it smells lightly of bleach when you open it.
5. Solar Clean It
Did you know the sun can purify water? It works like a UV purifier, but since it’s not as concentrated, you will need to plan ahead. It only works on sunny days and is something that should be a backup method, as it may not be entirely effective if the sun isn’t strong enough or doesn’t shine as much as expected.
In order to do this, you’ll need clear plastic bottles or glass jars. Fill them with the strained water and leave in the sunlight for two to three days. Don’t use bottles over one liter, since the smaller the bottle, the better this works. Lying the bottles on their sides will allow for maximum exposure, and of course, you should remove any labels and ensure the actual bottles or jars are clean.
6. Add Iodine
For a short term solution, iodine can be used to clean your water and your wounds. It’s a dual purpose liquid to keep on hand. You should use five drops per quart of water if it’s clear, and 10 if the water is murky. Once you’ve done this, stir or shake the water thoroughly to ensure the iodine is spread throughout. It needs to sit in a cooler place for an hour before drinking.
Keep in mind that iodine may cause issues with your health if you ingest too much of it, so this method should only be used for short periods of time and you’ll need to use 2% iodine, which can be found here.
7. Distill Your Water
The safest way to purify your water is to use a water distiller. You can either purchase one or you can make your own. This uses condensation to separate pure water from the pollutants. A very basic method of distillation is shown below:
There are more complicated distillation methods, but you can use a solar still to get basic pure water. What’s your favorite way to purify water?