Approximately 5.5 million Americans receive their tap water from systems exceeding the federal lead action level. That’s according to a recent, multi-year study.
Of course, lead is only one of many water contaminants that come out of some faucets in America. The Natural Resources Defense Council says unsafe water kills more people every year than war and all other forms of violence combined.
Those statistics are mainly based on what happens during “normal” times. They don’t account for additional contaminations that occur due to extreme weather. Or following natural and manmade disasters.
With all the upheaval that occurred in 2020 and with the chaos that has continued, it’s crucial we learn how to purify water. This knowledge could end up saving our lives and our families’ lives.
Today I want to look at a variety of ways to make water safer for drinking. These disinfection methods could come in handy regardless of whether a crisis results in you hunkering down or bugging out.
The first and easiest way to get rid of bacteria, parasites and other pathogens is by boiling your water for at least five minutes. Ten minutes is safer. You might want to run your water through a coffee filter first to get rid of larger pieces of debris or dirt.
We’re all familiar with boil orders. They are usually issued by city officials after the main water supply has been compromised in some way.
Something to keep in mind is that boiling water does not get rid of all contaminants. Including heavier metals such as lead, mercury, chromium, etc.
Some folks like to keep a supply of water purification tablets handy. They’re convenient and easy to carry.
They can kill viruses and bacteria. But it usually requires about 30 minutes for them to take effect. After you drop the iodine tablet in, shake your container for about a minute.
Now hold the container upside down and unscrew the lid very slightly to allow the iodine to flow into the threads of the bottle cap.
Sometimes the aftertaste is not so pleasant. And these pills are not recommended for pregnant women or those with thyroid issues or shellfish allergies.
Bleach is another way to remove some unwanted chemicals from your drinking water.
Use four drops per quart of water if the water you’re treating is cold or murky. You should only need two drops per quart if the water is warm or clear.
Shake the container for a minute after the drops go in. Then turn it upside down and loosen the cap slightly to allow the water flow to clean the bottle threads and cap.
Let the bottle sit in a shaded area for a half-hour until the water looks clear. If you can’t smell any chlorine when you open the bottle, add another drop or two and repeat.
UV lighting and solar water disinfection
UV light has also proven effective in ridding water of small organisms. Some UV light devices are battery-free and work with a hand crank.
They are not as reliable when the contaminants are large, floating particles. And pathogens can hide behind or inside those particles.
A simpler method is filling a plastic bottle with water and allowing it to sit out in the sun for a full day. The sun’s UV light will kill most biological hazards in the water.
This solar water disinfection method is easy but does not help with chemical contaminations.
Distillation is another method for purifying water. This strategy involves heating potentially dangerous water into steam, which can be used to capture basically clean water.
If you’re home, you can make your own steam distiller. Use a pressure canner and some small-diameter copper tubing. But it can be challenging to fit the copper line to the canner’s lid.
Outdoors, this process can get rather complicated. Google this topic for all the details and then decide if it’s something you’d be willing to tackle.
Distillation is not a foolproof method. It won’t remove every contaminant, including certain organic compounds. But it should work against most heavy particles.
One of the best ways to purify water is with a reliable water filter. That’s regardless of whether the water is coming from your home taps or a body of water. Such as a stream, river, creek, pond or lake. Or from rain or snow.
The better filters can remove up to 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses. Plus toxic chemicals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and more.
They are available as tabletop water filtration systems for your kitchen. As well as pitchers and personal water filters (often called straws) you can use on the go.
You will need to clean and eventually replace your filters. But the peace of mind they bring more than makes up for that.
The solar cooker you use for food can also be employed to remove pathogens and other harmful microorganisms from water.
The solar ultraviolet light rays are converted into infrared light rays inside the cooker for purification.
No batteries, electricity or fire is needed. These solar cookers can be very compact and easy to carry.
Depending on weather conditions, water can be heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit in about 45 minutes.
It’s possible you’ll only need one way to purify your water in an emergency. But it’s better to become well versed in a variety of methods because you never know which supplies you’ll have with you during a crisis.
Knowing you can have safe drinking water when you need it most provides peace of mind you can’t put a price tag on.