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Water contamination has been a huge global problem for many years. And now it’s a big problem here in the U.S. as well.

A recent report from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa declared this. “Our aging water infrastructure, particularly lead pipes, solder and faucets, represents a community health hazard of enduring significance.”

According to the American Water Works Association, there are currently 6 million lead lines in American water systems. Approximately 7 percent of the homes connected to community water systems have a lead service line.

And lead is just one of countless contaminants that can make you sick or worse. The time may come – sooner rather than later – when you will need to filter and purify drinking water. Both at home and outdoors.

Find it first

When it comes to finding water to filter and purify, the first step is to locate the cleanest water you can. In order to do that, here are a few tips.

  •           Avoid water with a strange hue or film on it. And avoid water that is not clear.
  •           Try to find moving water as opposed to still water.
  •           Avoid water where there is active growth in it. Such as algae or scum.
  •           Avoid water near roadways or pavement. It likely has oil and pollutants in it.
  •           Stay upstream of industrial facilities, mines and construction.
  •           Avoid water from farmland. It might have large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides in it.

Make it clean

Here are five ways to filter and purify water:

  •           Boil it. This age-old method can be accomplished in a clean pot. But run the water through a coffee filter or piece of cloth first to get rid of any larger pieces of debris or dirt. Boiling will kill pathogens and bacteria. Boil it for at least five minutes. If possible, cover the pot to avoid losing some of the water through evaporation. This is why every bug-out bag should include a way to heat and boil water.
  •           Solar cooker. This is another way to boil your water in order to remove pathogens and other harmful microorganisms that can make you sick. The solar ultraviolet light rays are converted into infrared light rays inside the cooker for purification. Water is contained in the “thermos” during the process. So you lose very little to evaporation.
  •           Portable water filter. Often called straws, these lightweight, portable devices are highly effective at filtering out a vast majority of the contaminants present in water. See more on filtering below.
  •           Bleach. After filtering the water to remove sediments and debris, a gallon of water can be disinfected with only eight to 16 drops of chlorine bleach. Use less for clear water, more for murky water. Shake the container well, then let it sit for about 30 minutes before drinking. If you keep bleach in your emergency supplies, rotate it every three to six months. Its potency will diminish over time.
  •           Purification tablets. Filter the water first, then add iodine tablets per the instructions. One small tablet can purify approximately one quart of water. As with bleach, shake the container and let it sit for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that water treated with iodine is not safe for everyone. Particularly the elderly and pregnant women.

DIY filtering methods

If you want to attempt a primitive DIY way to filter water, try the birch cone method. Cut a one-foot by one-foot square of birch, aspen or other paper-like bark from a tree. Roll it into a cone. 

Place some small stones in the bottom to keep your material from falling out. Tie a couple of pieces of string around the outside to keep it in the cone shape. Now alternate placing layers of charcoal, grass and sand in it.

The sand and grass will filter the suspended solids in the water, and charcoal can filter bacteria. Run your water through the filter at least three times and keep changing the materials inside it for best results.

You can also use the earth to filter your water. Dig a hole next to a stream and let water filter through the sand and silt into your hole. This water will be reasonably clean, but may not be free of all bacteria.

Distilling with the sun

Our old friend, the sun, has a great solution for us. A solar still works by causing water to first evaporate, then condense on a surface where you can collect it. Because 99 percent of solids and bacteria won’t evaporate with the water, the condensed water will be pure.

As far as purifying rainwater is concerned, follow these steps after conducting a “how-to” Internet search. 

  •           Install a downspout filter on your home’s roof drainage system. This will divert grime, insects and bird waste from your water supply.
  •           Install a rain barrel below the downspout filter. Make sure you have a spigot and smaller water vessels so you can transfer your water inside.
  •           Set up a simple gravity filtration system to clean the water.

Capturing rainwater is just one off-grid way of getting water. Three others are:

  •           Use a solar pump with well water. Acquire a pump and plug it into a solar-powered generator. Consider having a backup storage tank of at least 500 gallons. This is not the cheapest option, but it’s worth every penny.
  •           Use local spring water. Local springs are more prevalent than you might think. You can use local geology maps to find some. Tap through a drill-hole or find where it daylights. Use easy-to-fill containers such as a siphon and five-gallon drum.
  •           Generate water from the air. There are atmosphere water generators that take humid air and convert it to water. They can automatically filter and produce three to 10 gallons per day in the right climate. They do use a lot of power, however.

Nothing will ruin your day like drinking contaminated water. With plenty of ways to filter and purify it, we should never put ourselves in that position.

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