Imagine living a day, a week or even longer without safe drinking water. Knowing how to clean water so it won’t make you sick is a survival skill that should be at the top of your list.
One trick to scoring clean water is not to drink down stream from others. But the problem is that everyone is downstream from something (human waste, dead moose carcass… you get the idea). Water is essential to human survival. In any emergency planning scenario, the securing of clean, fresh drinking water should be a primary concern. The typical person should prepare to consume three to four quarts of water daily. When preparing for an emergency, it is a good idea to store at least one to two gallons of water for each day, up to two weeks' worth.
Note: Lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and other heavy metals cannot be removed from water without sophisticated equipment. The same goes for salt. These elements can cause serious bodily harm if consumed. If you don't work in a water plant, and if you suspect that your water is contaminated with salt or a heavy metal (and we don't mean Mötley Crüe), find another water source to purify.
By following these three simple steps to water purification, the average person can remove pathogens - bacteria, cysts, amoebae, and other microbes that can lead to a seriously bad afternoon.
Follow these three steps to keep you in the clear:
1. Choose a water source. Choose one that’s least likely to contain something bad for you. For example, if you have to get water from a creek or river, choose a spot where the water is moving swiftly. If you can, stay away from warm, shallow or stagnant bodies of water, locations close to the bank, or any places that smell bad.
2. Remove sediment. This is an essential step of pretreatment. It removes hiding places for pathogens when you’re further along in the treatment process. This is called FILTRATION.
Here’s how: Filtration can be as simple as running water through a sock or bandana (if that’s all you have). If you use cloth, also use a chemical like chlorine or iodine: simply read the package and add the correct amount of chemical, shake the water container, and watch the junk settle to the bottom. Pour the clean water into a separate container.
The most efficient way to filter water is with a gravity or pump filter. If you buy one of these, read the instructions. It's as simple as pouring or pumping water at one end and getting clearer water out of the other end. No extra chemicals are typically needed.
3. Boil the water. This step is called DISINFECTING. Water must be at a boil for at least one minute at sea level to be safe. Boiling time increases by one minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level. For example, if you are at the top of Pike's Peak at just over 14,000 feet, expect to boil your water for a minimum of 15 minutes.
Tip: Know your elevation. Kansas City residents can expect to boil water for a minimum of 2 minutes.
If these steps sound like too much work, consider investing in a filtration bottle. These are readily available everywhere. But before you buy, check to see that the filter covers the things you want to remove. The CDC says that, for a filter to be effective against bad stuff like giardia and cryptosporidium, the filter should be certified to reduce or remove cysts. This means that the filter size is down to at most around 0.2 microns.
If you experience stomach pain, severe headache, fatigue, anemia, or numbness, these could be signs of heavy metal toxicity. Call 911 immediately. If you suspect lead poisoning, call your local poison control center. In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center.
For more information on water safety, visit www.cdc.gov.