Water Purification Matters, Here’s Why
The CDC claims; 2,200 children are dying every day as a result of diarrheal diseases, and 88% of these diarrheal deaths are due to unsanitary water conditions.
That’s 1,936 children deaths PER DAY related to lack of water purification.
Now most of these deaths are outside the US but these statistics are still staggering.
Water Purification is the process of removing undesirable chemicals, biological contaminants, suspended solids and gasses from contaminated water.
Why is this so important to survival? Because all living things need clean water to survive.
We are no different, and it’s been true throughout human history. In fact, if you look at the places where all human societies have grown, developed and prospered, you will see that they all have one thing in common: a permanent and abundant source of clean water.
The search for abundant, clean, reliable, drinking water has been THE driving need for human society since the very beginning of time.
And once such a water source has been found; tribes, towns, and cities have been established. A large group of people living in a single location is not possible without a large natural body of water nearby.
- Phoenix, Arizona is built on the Salt River.
- Denver, Colorado is built in the shadow of the Rocky Mountain snow melts.
- Las Vegas was only possible thanks to the damming of the Colorado River to create Lake Mead.
- Egypt’s history is inextricably linked to the Nile; its annual cycle of flooding was used to irrigate crops and provide clean drinking water for its large population.
- Every long lasting, city or town, must procure and deliver clean water to its citizens. If the water is not abundant or it’s contaminated, people will be forced to leave.
However, lots of people located in the same small space creates a massive clean water challenge: sanitation.
Groups of humans are dirty. We create lots of gross wastes. Wastes that can easily contaminate the very water we drink. And drinking polluted water is hazardous to your health.
Even since ancient times, people understood the difference between good and bad water. Dirty water tasted bad; clean water tasted good, it was a straight-forward proposition.
It was also fairly common knowledge that dirty water not only tasted bad but was somehow related to illness. And this was way before the microscope was invented.
People have required clean water, always. And always will. But it wasn’t until the middle 19th century that the spread of diseases, cholera specifically, was scientifically linked to public water sources.
The man who linked cholera to a public water source in London was named John Snow.
However, I’ve made my point, drinking contaminated water is not a good survival option. So for our purposes, I am going to jump into the present time.
Present Day Water Purification Concerns
With the invention of modern technologies most of us take it for granted that when we turn on the tap, water will flow. This convenience is everywhere in our lives, used for everything from cooking and cleaning in our homes, to thousands of industrial uses.
According to WaterSense, “The average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day. On average, approximately 70 percent of that water is used indoors, with the bathroom being the largest consumer.”
Also interesting, but hardly surprising, the EPA also estimates that 90 percent of the world’s water is contaminated in some way.
My point here is that we use an awful lot of water in our daily lives and in a SHTF situation, it is very likely that you won’t have easy access to clean drinking water.
If the power grid goes down, the water pumps won’t run and there won’t be any water coming out of your taps.
You need to understand that.
Water taps need water pressure to operate. Water pressure is the force that shoves the water through the pipes and out of your taps.
However, water pressure rarely occurs naturally. In 99% of situations, your water pressure is created by a mechanical system. Mechanical pumps lift the water into a large storage container located above the homes it services. This large water storage container is often called a water tower.
Once this water is pumped and stored in this higher location, gravity is then allowed to do its job and create the necessary water pressure in our homes.
The bottom line is this: It requires water pumps to make this magic happen.
- No electricity, no water pumps.
- No water pumps no water pressure.
- No water pressure, no water coming out your water taps.
- No tap water to your sinks, showers, toilets, sprinklers, hoses, etc.
So if SHTF, the unprepared masses will be forced to venture to the nearest abundant water source and collect it in buckets or containers.
That’s challenge #1. But let’s assume you are able to safely procure water in such a scenario.
Are you confident this water source won’t make you severely sick? The answer is no you’re not certain, and that’s why you need water purification.
Types of Water Contaminations
Before going into the various methods used to purify water, it is useful to understand that are different types of unhealthy water.
There is biological contamination, which means microorganisms, Giardia for example. This common little bug will cause intestinal disorders if you ingest it.
The other type of polluted water is referred to as toxic. Which means chemical contamination. This could be leaking gas or fuel tanks seeping into waterways, or even the water table or corroded lead pipes (think Flint, Michigan).
I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but water is so necessary, so essential to our very lives, that we need to know how to safeguard our water supply.
Equally important, we need to know how to purify water if local sources are cut off or limited.
4 Main Water Purification Methods
Without reviewing individual brands of water purification and filtering systems, I will say that there are numerous types available. I will list a number of them below.
From the pitcher type, which you fill with tap water, and then let the water gravity flow through a replaceable filter cartridge; to the portable type, which can be carried in a bug-out bag or backpack, and uses a syringe type of mechanism to force water through an integral filter, both are useful in many situations.
Depending on your own particular circumstances, you will have to choose what type of system to use.
At a minimum, any water purification system must be able to stop pathogenic organisms.
Common bugs that are waiting to infect you in untreated water include, but are not limited to, E.coli, cholera, hepatitis, giardia, polio, plus all kinds of exotic protozoans and metazoans, which can infect your blood, brain, and internal organs.
Unless you are totally obsessed with microbiology, you just need to know that unfiltered water is dangerous. Below is a list of the main types of filtration and water purification systems, as well as chemicals that you can use to make your water safe to drink.
1 – Boiling: Kill Them With Heat
Boiling water kills lots of different bugs, but not all. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends bringing water to a rolling boil, then let it cool down naturally. This will inactivate disease-causing pathogens, viruses, and bacteria.
Some bugs can only be killed by superheating water in a pressure cooker. But regular old boiling will kill the majority of harmful bugs.
The biggest downside of boiling for water purification is how time-consuming it is. First, you need a heat source. And in SHTF, forget about using a stove top. So you have to build a fire.
Then you have to put water into a fire-safe pot and wait until it gets to a rolling boil. Next, you have to let it cool before drinking it.
So while boiling is effective, it’s not very efficient for purifying lots of water often.
Here’s a short video on how to boil water in the wilderness with hot rocks.
2 – Filter Out The Impurities
There are a lot of water filtration options, and most use a ceramic filter. Many are of a pump type design, easy to use, and small enough to carry with you wherever you’re headed. Or wherever you happen to be.
Most of these filters trap things down to a size of 0.2- 0.3 micrometers, but they don’t trap tiny viruses, so chemical treatment is necessary if you want to be really safe!
Activated charcoal absorbs many toxins, and also improves the taste of water, so it is frequently used in conjunction with hand-held pump-type filters. Combination ceramic/carbon core filters are the best all-around type of filters to use.
The biggest downside of using a water pitcher for filtration is the expense of buying and maintaining them. You have to purchase the pitcher, but you also have to periodically replace the filter which is an ongoing expense. Plus if you’re preparing for SHTF you need to stock up on these replacement filters ahead of time.
And the largest downside to the portable personal filters is the limited life of these filters. Similar to the replacement issue with the water pitchers, most these personal filters don’t have replacements filters and you just throw away the device once it’s used up its life. So to prepare with these you need to stock up on them as well.
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You should also learn how to make a natural homemade water filter. This knowledge is useful in the wilderness and if you run out of replacement filters. Here’s a short video that covers the basics.
3 – Kill Them With Chemicals
Halogens, mainly chlorine and iodine, are used to chemically disinfect water and are easy to use. Chlorine bleach is available almost everywhere and when used in conjunction with iodine, will kill most common pathogens found in natural water. Chlorine tablets, which are a slightly different chemical formulation than liquid bleach, are easily carried in a bug-out bag and can found online at a number of websites.
Hydrogen peroxide and silver ion tablets can also be used to purify water. They take longer to work than chlorine but are pretty effective.
Ultimately you’ll have to decide what chemical method to use, but its hard to go wrong with good old Clorox.
One concern with using chemicals to treat your water is messing up the ratios. Consuming water over treated can be a health hazard especially for kids and elderly.
Also, chemical treatments can’t protect water from hazardous particulates such as lead. Lead is a metal and chemical treatment won’t remove it, filtration is your best bet for removing harmful particulates.
4 – Kill Them With UV Light
UV light works to purify water by inducing the formation of covalent linkages on DNA. This prevents microbes from reproducing. Well, actually it doesn’t kill microbes, it “turns off” their ability to reproduce.
The UV treated water needs to be stored in light-resistant containers because exposure to light can re-activate the microbes.
Again, this method will prevent you from getting sick from biological viruses but not particulates or chemicals.
Here’s a quick video of how a portable UV pen works.
My Personal Recommendation
It’s often suggested that you should have at least 3 methods of fire starting if you plan to go into the wilderness. We’ll I believe the same methodology should also be applied to water purification.
You should plan and prepare for multiple ways to purify your water for a post SHTF world. And if you stock up a heat source appropriately with firewood, then you can always fall back on boiling.
You should also stockpile some chemical treatments. You can either buy tablets online or buy bleach in buckets.
I also really like the UV option. But if you buy a Steri Pen then you’ll also need to stock up on plenty of batteries to operate it.
However, with each of these water purification methods, you cannot “kill” particulate contaminations, you must filter those out. So in conjunction with boiling, chemical treatment, and UV light; you should have a water filtration plan as well for both at home and on the go.
Having each of these options available will help provide redundancy to most biological hazards and also remove harmful particulates as well.
Other Water Purification Things to Consider
Besides filtering water, you should think about storing water, and identifying sources of clean water if you live in a rural area. If you are in an urban area, you’ll be dependent on the local municipal water supply. That makes storing water a priority.
If things get out of control in society, the supply of abundant clean water could just as suddenly evaporate, and that in turn could lead to all sorts of chaotic, dangerous situations.
You don’t want to gamble by consuming filthy, polluted water. If the worst ever happens, it’ll be a real problem unless you are prepared for it.
Here’s a simple action plan:
- Learn How To Make Your Own Natural Water Filters
- Practice Boiling Large Quantities of Water Over Fire
- Purchase A Good Water Pitcher and Stock Up On Filters
- Buy Several Portable Water Filters
- Purchase A Good UV Light Pen (and figure out your battery plan)
- Stock Up On Some Bulk Chlorine Bleach or Purification Tablets
Do these 5 action steps and you’ll have all your water purification bases covered for today, tomorrow and the future.