Ordinary Water Purification Methods


Written by Jim Lord

A normally active person should drink at least two quarts of water each day (four quarts on very hot days). Children, nursing mothers and the ill may require even more.

Water is also needed for food preparation and hygiene. A minimum of one gallon of water per person, per day is recommended.

Storing Water

Store water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances because residue can be retained in the surface pores of the container.

Plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, will work fine but you will need a lot of them and they are clumsy to store. You can also purchase food-grade plastic buckets or cans. Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place.

Rotate water every six months.For larger quantities, consider fifty-five gallon plastic drums made specifically for water storage.

Another, more permanent solution is an underground, fiberglass storage tank. They can hold thousands of gallons of water but are relatively expensive compared to the other solutions mentioned above. A six by sixteen-foot tank will hold three thousand gallons. For those aging hippies among you, a king-size waterbed will store approximately 175 gallons of water.

A relatively inexpensive fifteen-foot plastic swimming pool will hold over 5,000 gallons of water. To avoid problems with the various chemicals used to treat water in these containers, it is probably best to restrict their use to washing and sanitary purposes.Purifying Water:Untreated water could be unsafe because of disease carrying microbes or because of chemical contaminants such as heavy metals, salts or pesticides. Contaminated water can appear and smell OK but still might contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. You should purify all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food preparation or personal hygiene.

There are four ways to purify water.

1. Boiling

Bring water to a rolling boil for three to five minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you pour it back and forth between two clean containers to restore the oxygen content. This technique will also improve the taste of stored water. Boiling will kill microbes but will not remove chemical contaminants.

2. Disinfection

Regular household liquid bleach can be used to kill microorganisms in water. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Add sixteen drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for thirty minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another fifteen minutes.

3. Filtration

This process removes microbes but does not provide treatment for dissolved chemical impurities. There are basically two kinds of water filters available – cheap and expensive. The cheap ones are made of either paper or charcoal. They work fine but need to be replaced frequently if used to treat water in any significant volume. “Pur Explorer” and “First Need” are two good brand names.Ceramic filters are expensive ($185-or so) but can treat as much as fifteen thousand gallons of water before they need replacement.

The creme-de-la-creme of ceramic filters is the “Swiss Katadyn” brand which is used by the United Nations, the Red Cross and military forces worldwide. This gadget uses an incredibly small (0.2 microns) silver impregnated filter and a fifty-PSI hand pump to treat up to 1.2 quarts per minute.

My friend, Boston T. Party, from whose wonderful book, Boston on Surviving Y2K, I shamelessly stole this information, says, “With a Katadyn you can literally drink from a Calcutta sewer.”(Note: Boston’s book is available on amazon.com. It is the book I wish I had written on how to get ready for Y2K.)

4. Distillation

This technique involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. This is the only method that will remove both microbes and chemical impurities. For small amounts, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for twenty minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Two kinds of stills are available and they are not all that difficult to manufacture if you’re the handyman type. The first boils water over a fire. This style will process water fairly fast but does take a lot of fuel.

Solar stills, which use the heat of the sun to boil the water, are another option. They are much slower and do not produce water in great quantities but use no fuel at all.Most of the above products can be purchased at a good preparedness outlet store.

Originally posted @ Sharing Sustainable Solutions


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