8 Ways To Purify Water For Drinking In Emergency Situations
3. Utilize SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection)
The sun’s rays are strong enough to kill water pathogens, so long as you know how to utilize them. Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a broad term for filtration methods that rely on the sun. The simplest strategy is to put tainted water in clear plastic water bottles and let them sit out in the sun for at least a day. So long as the day stays sunny and hot, the sun’s UV rays will kill off the microbes within the water. While this method is cost-effective and straightforward, it’s not guaranteed to be effective, so it should only be practiced in case of emergencies if you don’t have another filtration option available. Likewise, the technique works best with smaller bottles, so stick with ones that are two liters or less.
4. Use a Bleach Treatment
Bleach earned its reputation as a potent cleaning product for a reason – it’s surprisingly effective at killing off microbes. You can add a dash of bleach to drinking water to make it safe to drink. But be careful only to use trace amounts; no more than four drops per quart for murky water and two drops for clear. Once added, shake your water container vigorously for up to a minute to ensure the compound has entirely dissipated within the water. Next, set the vessel in a dark place for at least half an hour. When you open the bottle again, it should smell vaguely of chlorine and be safe to drink.
5. Treat it with Iodine
Iodine is an effective way to disinfect water in a pinch, but be warned; this chemical can be harmful to your body at high concentrations. For this reason, it’s critically important that you only add a few drops at a time and to use only a tincture of iodine 2%. Plan to add five drops for a quart of clear water and ten for cloudy, and let the mixture sit in the shade for over thirty minutes before drinking it. As an added benefit, you can also use iodine to disinfect wounds in an emergency.
6. Try Disinfectant Tablets
Don’t want to measure out messy liquids? Water filtration can be as simple as adding disinfection tablets to your water. Using portable Aqua iodine tablets is a simple disinfectant strategy that renders water ready to drink within 35 minutes, but be warned that the pills only last a year before expiring. Some people also find that they taint the taste of the water in unpleasant ways. Another option is to use chlorine dioxide tablets, which react with water to disinfect it. After you add a tablet to a quart of water, it needs to sit for four hours to thoroughly treat it.
7. Boil the Water
Forget the high-tech equipment; one time-tested strategy for rendering water safe to drink is to boil it. While high heat conditions can’t evaporate all chemical pollutants contained within the water, five minutes of a rolling boil will kill the vast majority of dangerous pathogens, making it one of the safest ways to treat it. You can boil water over a campfire or a camp stove, and if you don’t have a heatproof container handy, you can heat rocks within a fire for half an hour before adding them to a water container to cook the bad microbes from the inside out. Just avoid using quartz, as it could explode in the heat.
8. Practice Portable Distillation
If you’re dealing with water that’s been so severely compromised by disaster conditions that it might destroy your water filter if you try to purify it, the only option might be to distill it. This removes lead, salts, heavy metals, and even radiation from the water, leaving you with a safer substance to drink. However, distillation is not 100% effective, as it won’t eliminate certain organic compounds or volatile oils. Distillation works by heating water into steam that is then captured and cooled back into cleaner water. You can keep a portable distiller on hand for emergency situations, or build one in a pinch with a pressure canner and small diameter copper tubing.
When All Else Fails, Should You Drink Untreated Water?
If you’re out of options for purifying water, is it better to sip it straight from the source or go thirsty? Drinking raw water is a gamble no matter where it comes from, as even pristine-looking wilderness water can be host to dangerous bacteria. For this reason, you always need to weigh the risk before drinking it. If your health is more immediately compromised by going without, it’s a smart idea to drink up. After all, staying alive and sick to your stomach is always better than dying from dehydration.
A better option? Avoid this situation altogether by ensuring that you’re always prepared to purify your own water if the situation calls for it. The practice might just save your life.