One of the most critical aspects of survival is finding and maintaining a source of potable water. Without water, your chances of survival become significantly limited. Even a healthy adult will survive for only 3 days without water. However, survival is not guaranteed even with a constant supply of water if the source is not clean.
Many harmful microorganisms and pathogens find their way into a water source. Once ingested, unclean water could cause a number of health problems, ranging from diarrhea and vomiting to dehydration and poisoning. Our planet is no longer as clean as it used to be, and very few water sources can provide clean, potable water. The best (and usually only) solution during an emergency is finding an effective method of purifying drinking water using water filter systems that remove pollutants and other harmful substances.
Choosing the Right Water Filter Systems
Fortunately, there is a wide range of technologies available specifically designed to treat water and make it safe to use. Some of the most common types of water filtration systems include:
Filtration systems that use activated carbon are effective for removing organic contaminants, including harmful toxins. When water passes through the activated carbon filters, molecules of contaminants adhere to the carbon granules, producing clean drinking water. Charcoal adsorption systems are excellent for removing odor, eliminating microorganisms and chlorine, and improving taste. Although effective, these systems are often used as a secondary purification method.
Distillation is a process that uses condensation to collect clean drinking water and eliminate contaminants. Although there are commercial water distilling systems available, simple, DIY versions are easy to build. A distilling system simply needs a container to boil water, a pot cover to trap condensation and a cup or container to collect the clean water. It does require fuel or a source of heat energy but a solar-powered distiller can help solve this issue.
There are portable filtration systems that use the process of reverse osmosis or RO for purifying drinking water. The process involves pushing the water through a semi-permeable membrane to filter the contaminants. Portable RO systems use hand-operated pumps to create pressure, thus eliminating the need to use electricity or heat energy. An advantage to this type of system is that it not only removes pathogens and other contaminants, but also it can even turn seawater into drinking water.
UV (ultraviolet) light prevents the growth and reproduction of microbes, rendering them less harmful. Short-wavelength UV light ranging from 100 to 280 nm is often the most effective for this purpose. While effective, UV water purification works best with clear water, so pre-filtering is often recommended when using this system.
Solar disinfection or SODIS is a simple, inexpensive option that eliminates microorganisms in the water by killing them. The system is simple – a transparent PET bottle is partially filled with water and shaken to oxygenate it. The container is then filled with water, capped and exposed to the sun for a minimum of six hours. The heat combined with UV rays can disinfect the water and make it safe to use. Ideally, the container should be placed on a metal sheet that will catch the sun’s rays and maximize the effects of disinfection. Solar disinfection works well with readily available PET bottles in locations where there is enough sunlight. Although it does not require a lot of resources, it does require enough time and exposure to sunlight to be effective.
Ceramic filters are excellent for survival situations because they do not require power to run and are quite inexpensive. All they need is solid ground and water. Ceramic filters have tiny pores that physically filter contaminants, leaving only clean water to use. Simply fill the top portion with water and let gravity do the work.
Some ceramic filters are treated with non-leaching silver, which works to kill bacteria and prevent algae and mold growth. Some models may also contain activated carbon to help reduce the amount of metallic and organic pollutants. The filter can often treat several thousand gallons of water before requiring a replacement. Filter systems of this type are usually made of stainless steel or plastic, so they can be carried around in a backpack in case there is a need to go mobile.
Adding bleach to drinking water is also a feasible option. Plain, scent-free bleach can kill most microorganisms and make water safe to drink. For effective treatment, add about 1/8 tsp. of bleach to 1 gallon of water. The water will have a very slight taste and smell of chlorine but it will be potable.
If All Else Fails…
Do not be afraid to go back to the basics. In case of problems with water filter systems, you can always rely on boiling water to make it potable. This safe and effective water treatment method kills microorganisms and gets rid of common pathogens. If the water contains large debris such as leaves and twigs, use a filter to keep the water as clear as possible before boiling. Let the water boil for about one minute, then allow it to cool before drinking. Oxygenate water to improve the taste by pouring and re-pouring it using two containers.
Life Straw Water Filter Another option that every member of the family should have during emergencies when everyone has to be ready to pack up and go is the LifeStraw. A LifeStraw is a portable water filter that resembles a straw or tube. It is designed for individual use and can be packed in one’s pocket. One tube can filter as much as 1,000 liters of water, enough to allow one person to enjoy safe drinking water for about a year.