8 Survival Water Purification Methods

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ways to purify water

Having access to water is extremely important when the worst happens. You can only survive for so long (3-5 days) without water. If it is hot, you may have just a few hours to find water. But just as important as finding water is finding potable water. So in addition to prepping for water storage, you also need to learn how to purify water in a survival situation. This is a skill that may very well determine your survival.

Click here to learn how to generate water even in the desert.

Here are 8 survival water purification methods:

1. Portable Water Filters

If you go to an outdoor or preppers supplies store, you will find a number of portable emergency water filtration systems to choose from:

Straw filters. There are survival water filter straws for one person use. These emergency water filters will filter the water as you suck it through the survival water straw.

Pump filters. There are survival water filter pumps that will filter water as you pump them. These emergency water pumps will take the water from a water source and pump it into a container as it’s filtering the water.

Gravity feed filters. There are gravity feed water filters that use gravity to pull the water through the filter.

Water bottle filters. There are also survival water filter bottles that will filter your water as you’re drinking it, or suck it out of the bottle, kind of like the straw filters.

These survival water purifiers can remove harmful and unwanted components from water including heavy metals such as mercury, bad orders such as those of chlorine, bad tastes and most importantly harmful microorganisms such as bacteria and larvae.

Different survival water filtration systems deliver purified drinking water through various mechanisms. Some feature a ceramic filter that can remove microorganisms as small as 0.2 micrometres. Others use charcoal filters. For microorganisms that manage to pass through, chemical filters are used to get rid of them.

2. Improvised Filter

If you were not able to stock up on an emergency water filtration kit, do not panic. There is still a way you can filter unclean water into safe drinkable water. This requires an improvised filter. The first step is to make a cone. You can use the bark of a birch tree. Roll up the piece of square bark you have cut out until you have formed a cone. Tie a vine length around the cone to prevent it from opening.

At the bottom of the cone, place a few small rocks to hold the rest of the materials inside. In layers, add charcoal, grasses and sand. The charcoal gets rid of harmful chemicals while the grasses and sand trap larger impurities. Pour water in at the top and let it get out of the small hole at the bottom of the cone and into another container. Repeat this several times.

Please note that this method does not guarantee bacteria-free water, so it’s best to combine this method with one of the other water disinfection techniques to be safe.

3. Boiling

This is one of the easiest and most common ways to purify water for survival. It is also one of the most effective water purification methods for survival. For this you need to light a fire and have a fire-proof container to boil the water in. Heat the water until rolling bubbles appear at the top. To ensure the disinfection of water, let the water continue boiling for 5-20 more minutes. Let it cool down before you drink.

If you don’t have a fire-proof container, an alternative is to heat rocks in a flame and then put them into the container with water. Continue putting red hot rocks until the water boils for several minutes.

It is important to note that boiling gets rid of most pathogens but may not purify the water from other contaminants like chemicals and heavy metals.

4. Bleach

The bleach you use in your house to clean and disinfect surfaces can also be used to purify water. Simply add two drops of it for every liter of water and then wait for 30 minutes before drinking. Alternatively you can stock up on a chlorine solution sold in stores specifically for water purification.

5. Emergency Water Tablets or Tinctures

Water purification tablets can either be chlorine or iodine based. Both are good for emergency water treatment, although chlorine tablets are considered more effective. You may have to withstand unpleasant tastes in the purified water caused by these tablets, but they will at least kill bacteria and viruses in your survival drinking water. For that reason, it’s a good backup survival water treatment method to have on hand.

6. Ultra-violet Light

UV light water purification is a process in which water is exposed to varying levels of UV light depending on its purity status. The UV light acts to essentially neuter (kill the reproductive abilities) microorganisms. Such microorganisms are now harmless even when ingested. Take care not to expose the water visible light before drinking it. Visible light can trigger a DNA repair process in the pathogens allowing them to reproduce thus making them harmful.

7. Distillation

Distillation of water involves evaporating water and then collecting the water vapor to form pure water. It is the best survival water purification method of all, but it can take time to construct an emergency water distiller. So depending on your situation, if your in a hurry to get some water or on the move, it might not be the best option.

There are non-electric survival water distillers that allow you to distill your water over a fire. If you don’t have one of these with you in a survival situation, you can always make a solar emergency water distiller if you have the time. A makeshift collection and evaporation apparatus can be made out of a container in a small pit and suspended inverted plastic cone over it.

8. Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS)

The SODIS method is two-pronged in its approach to water purification; it uses radiation and heat. Water is placed in a clear plastic bottle. Before being fully filled the water is first shaken to mix it with oxygen. The bottle is then placed in an area where it receives maximum sunlight. The UVA radiation from the sun combined with the increase in water temperature kills almost all microbes in the water.

That’s 8 ways to purify your water for survival. Of course, some methods are better than others depending upon your specific situation. Distillation produces the purest water if you have the time and means to do so. If not, you can filter and boil your water, or at least boil it if you don’t have a filter or the time to make one. You really need your water to be clear first before using the ultra-violet light or SODIS methods, but those are options too if you do have fairly clear water. Bleach and disinfection tablets are good if you’re on the go and you don’t have time for the other methods.