You never know where life’s adventures will take you, whether you’re lost in the woods or stuck in your apartment during a power outage or hurricane. With the weather warming up we are definitely longing to get out and go for those longer hikes and camping adventures, (see our tips for bringing your dogs along HERE). One of the biggest benefits of living a self-sufficient lifestyle is the confidence and power that comes with knowing just how to handle difficult situations. Empower yourself by learning the best options for accessing clean water. Here is just what you need to know to purify your water.
How To Purify Your Water:
Heating water to a rolling boil for 1 to 10 minutes at 212°F is the best way to kill microorganisms. It won’t improve the taste or filter out debris and color, but it will make it safe to drink. To improve the taste after boiling, you can pour the water back and forth between a few containers to aerate it.
This process works especially well when you are trying to obtain fresh water from salty water. Place a cloth over a pot of boiling water and let it collect the condensation. When the cloth is soaked, remove it carefully and let it cool, then squeeze out the pure water. Repeat this and use several cloths to continue to catch all of the steam. This is very effective in removing protozoa, bacteria, and viruses. The drawback is that it takes a long time and energy to collect a significant amount of water with this process.
Use 3 drops of bleach per quart of water, unless the water is cloudy, in which case 5 drops per quart. If you don’t have a dropper estimate a spoonful per gallon. Stir the water thoroughly and let it stand for 30 minutes. Use only chlorine bleach and avoid using bleaches that contain dyes and perfumes.
Disinfection with iodine will kill most waterborne contaminants. Five drops per quart work in clear water and 10 drops for cloudy. Let it sit for 30 minutes before you can drink it. There are also plenty of water-purifying tablets on the market to purchase and have on hand for emergency situations.
A handkerchief, sock, or other fine cloth will remove coarse dirt and debris. But to remove the majority of waterborne contaminates the water needs to be purified through a pore size of 1 micron or smaller. There are select water filters that are classified as true water purifiers that will eliminate all bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. But if you are in the wilderness and need a rudimentary filter, fill a clean sock up with a combination of sand, loam, rocks, and charcoal with the most coarse material at the top. It will make your water smell and taste better and will reduce the overall bacteria count.
When you don’t have a sock or sufficient material to make a filter, you can dig a 1-foot-deep hole, 1 foot away from a water source like a stream. It will fill with water, which will be more purified than the main source since it has passed through sand and rocks. Transfer what you collect by placing a scarf or other cloth over a plastic water bottle or other container and dip it sideways in the hole to fill.
The sun’s natural UV rays can be used to your advantage when your other options are limited. First, the water should be filtered to remove debris. Then it should be poured into plastic bottles or a clear plastic bag and set in the sun at 86°F for a minimum of six hours, longer for water that is very cold. It will heat up faster if you set the water on a black, dark, or metal surface. The UV rays disrupt microbial DNA so that it can’t multiply. So while it is better than nothing, it should be used only when there are no other options because it doesn’t kill the microbes already in there. Another drawback is that it won’t remove dirt and particles or improve color. Ultraviolet lights are also available to purchase as a portable device for hikers and home use.
When Worse Comes to Worse
When there is no obvious water source at all, you can make a solar still by gathering the vegetation around you. In this process, the heat from the sun will draw the moisture from the materials underneath the tarp onto the underside of the tarp, while the weight of the rock will direct the moisture to drip toward the center, above where the container is set. Water will collect in the container. The amount you gather will vary greatly depending on your environment, the humidity, and the moisture in your vegetation.
A poncho, tarp, or some sort of plastic.
Steps to Make a Solar Still:
Step 1: Dig a cone-shaped hole 1 to 3 feet deep and as wide as your tarp.
Step 2: Place a large bowl or similar container in the center of the hole and surround it with green vegetation that you have picked, such as cacti, leaves, and any other moisture-retaining plants.
Step 3: Cover the hole with the tarp and secure the edges of the tarp with rocks so that it doesn’t fall into the hole.
Step 4: Place a rock in the center of the tarp so that it dips down slightly toward the container underneath it.
G’s Bonus Tip
Dew that collects on plants and in the grass is a great source of water in the early morning. Use a cloth and wipe it over the grass and plants until the cloth is soaked. You can even tie cloths around your ankles and walk through the grass to soak it up efficiently. Squeeze the cloth into a container or your mouth and repeat.