Water Purification Tips Everyone Needs to Know
Water purification is important whether you’re planning a family camping trip or your municipal water supply to your house has been tainted. Understanding how to properly and safely purify drinking water is an essential life skill. Tainted drinking water can carry bacteria and microorganisms that can make you suffer terribly. Some of these contaminants cause diarrhea and vomiting, which will only serve to dehydrate you. Here are some tips to keep in mind when purifying water.
Boiling Water for Drinking
It’s important to note that boiling water does not purify it, it sterilizes it. If there is silt, sand or other particulates in the water, they will remain after boiling. However, sterilizing the water will kill microorganisms and bacteria, making the water safe if not tasty and clear. For elevations under 2000 meters, bring the water to a high, rolling boil for one full minute. At higher elevations, three minutes is recommended. The method of boiling, whether via home stove or campfire, has no effect on boiling time.
Household Bleach as a Sterilizer
From the time we’re babies, we are conditioned to think that household bleach is deadly poison that should never pass our lips. As a general rule, this is true. Drinking undiluted bleach can be deadly or, at the very least, leave you with nasty chemical burns. However, household bleach can be used to make tainted water safe for drinking. The difference lies in the quantity used. Just eight drops of unscented household bleach in a gallon of water is all you need. Shake it up, wait ten minutes and you can drink it without concern. Never use bleaches scented for laundry use, such as lemon scent or lavender, as this can make you quite sick. Store a small bottle of unscented household bleach with your emergency supplies so you can make drinking water and cook emergency food with confidence.
Store-Bought Purification Filters
If you are planning to go camping or hiking, a store-bought purification filter is an excellent choice. They are available in small and large varieties for different purposes. Some are tiny enough to be snapped onto a water bottle while others are large enough to purify gallons upon gallons of water for a large campfire meal for the whole family. Filters do what boiling and bleach can’t; they remove particulates as well as bacteria and microorganisms. You will need to be comfortable with using the filter, back-flushing it and changing out the filter components before leaving for your trip. Once you have the skill to use it, a water purification filter is quick and easy. Make sure you carry a backup method of purifying water, in case your filter breaks or is lost. You don’t want to rely on just one method for a long trip.
One of the worst mistakes people make when purifying water is re-contamination. As you’re processing your water, keep in mind what containers are contaminated and which are not. For example, don’t collect water from a stream with a bottle, boil the water and then pour it back into the dirty bottle. Don’t dump purified water into a contaminated vessel, it will completely negate all your work. Before you pour purified water, ask yourself if the receiving vessel is clean. This will soon become second nature to you, but it’s an important habit to form.
Learning to purify drinking water is a skill you may be called on to use at some point in your life, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared. By keeping these tips in mind, you will be able to sterilize or purify drinking water for yourself and your family in an emergency or out in the wilderness.