How to Purify Water at Home
There really is no other way to word this but…
without clean water, we die.
In fact, according to 2018 information from the World Health Organization, 842,000 people around the world die a year from contaminated water.
The Importance of Water Purification
780 million people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. 2.5 billion don’t have access to proper sanitation. The lack of clean drinking water and improved sanitation cause serious illnesses, diseases and death. Many countries do not have any type of laws or regulations when it comes to keeping water clean. Even countries that have enacted anti-dumping laws and anti-pollution campaigns find enforcement extremely difficult.
After the recognition that cholera and dysentery outbreaks were caused by drinking contaminated public water, the United States Public Health Service set certain standards to maintain public water quality in 1914. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act regulating public drinking water. This is now overseen by the federal government agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA,) which sets lawfully enforceable national standards for clean drinking water. Individual states, though, are responsible for testing and licensing of water treatments.
There are many ways our tap water becomes contaminated—natural disasters, industrial dumping, farming, pollution and pipe deterioration. A study from 2017 found that 63 million Americans drink water that violates EPA standards.
One of the worst water disasters contaminations in history happened in the United States. To save money, the city of Flint, Michigan switched its public drinking water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014. Just a few months later, citizens began complaining of discolored and bad-tasting water. After the switch, the water quickly become contaminated with unsafe levels of lead. It has taken years to resolve the issue and while pipes in Flint are being replaced, as of this writing, work is still incomplete.
Despite this, we are fortunate in America. Our public water systems are some of the safest in the world. Our water is treated to remove contaminants like bacteria and viruses, as well as make it taste better. Fluoride is also added to strengthen teeth.
Some city water is better than others. It has been found that smaller, more rural communities’ water systems are more likely to be inferior. Many people, even in cities with excellent water quality, don’t trust the tap water or believe it tastes good. With the recommended amount of water a human should drink, buying bottled water gets expensive. Water storage can get even more expensive still. Emergency water storage doesn’t have to break the bank, though. In fact, with common household items you probably already have, you can treat your “free” tap water and store it for emergencies.
We each need, at the very least, one gallon of water a day for drinking and basic hygiene. FEMA and The American Red Cross recommend storing a three-day supply of purified water for your family for emergencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says two weeks’ worth.
Before filtering or purifying water, you need thoroughly clean water storage containers. You can reuse plastic beverage containers or buy new. If you chose to reuse old milk or soda cartons, wash them in hot, soapy water and then sanitize them by mixing one teaspoon of plain, household bleach with one gallon of water. Leave the bleach/water mix in the container for about three minutes and then rinse with tap water. After rinsed and dried, it is perfectly safe to fill them with tap water without boiling or filtering it first. *Note: Because of the sugars in milk and soda, these jugs can deteriorate over time.
If you want to, you may filter and purify the tap water before storing it. For water with sediment in it, you absolutely should filter it first through a clean towel, paper towel, cloth or coffee filter before purifying.
5 Types of Water Purification
There are quite a few affordable ways to purify your drinking water.
- Bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute—three minutes at higher elevations.
- Use normal, non-scented household bleach.
- Chemical tablets that contain iodine or chlorine.
- UV light pens.
- Filter pumps, straws and personal water bottles.
Purifying Water with Bleach
To purify water with bleach, you must have non-scented, normal household bleach. Pour ½ teaspoon of bleach into one gallon of water, stir and let stand at least 30 minutes before drinking.
Water Purification Tablets
Popular with international travelers, water purification tablets’ active ingredients are either chlorine, chlorine dioxide or iodine. These chemicals “kill” bacteria, viruses and protozoans. Water purification tablets are easy to store and transport, yet they do have an expiration date, take 30 minutes to become effective and may make your water taste bad.
There are other issues you need to consider when deciding which water purification method to go with:
- Any emergency may require evacuation, taking a bunch of bottles of bleach with you is unrealistic
- You may not have access to a camp stove or fire to boil water
- Chemical tablets run out
- UV lights are expensive, need clearer water to be most effective and won’t purify large volumes
There is a reason why water filters are the top-selling way to purify water.
Commercial water filters like the 12 Survivors hand pump and straw use ceramic and carbon filters that clean water immediately. There are many reasons why they are preferred by hikers, campers, backpackers and survivalists. Water filters are easily transportable, can provide water in larger volumes, don’t require a waiting period before making water safe to drink, are reusable and affordable.
When prepping for emergencies or in a survival situation, remember:
- Store your water in a cool, dark and dry place away from direct sunlight.
- Though doesn’t technically “go bad,” rotate your water storage at least once a year.
- Clear water doesn’t necessarily mean clean water.
- Use only food-grade containers for water storage.
- Hot climates, pregnant women and those with illnesses require more water than the recommended amount.
- If you have fair warning before a disaster, fill up your bathtub and every possible (safe) container with tap water. You can treat it afterward.
- If storing tap water, it is more important to treat it before drinking it than treating it before storing it. Since tap water is already treated, you are safe to pour it directly into a tightly-sealed, food-grade container for long-term storage.
- Heavy-duty plastic barrels and containers made specifically for water storage last longer and are more durable than soda or milk bottles.
The Survival Rule of 3
In the hierarchy of immediate needs in a survival situation, you need air to breathe, shelter from harsh elements, clean drinking water and finally food.
You can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food.
After securing shelter, a source of water is your second priority—way before you consider finding food.