This is part one of our series on water. Each of these articles are a little exhaustive and yet they are of course there is still more to be said. Water is such an immersive (snicker) subject that it seemed most logical to make it a series.
This week I wanted to Focus on Water purification and filtration, YES they are different!
At its most basic, water filtration is the process of ridding water of any impurities through a physical barrier, chemicals, or a biological process. An easy example of water filtration is boiling water or cleansing impurities with carbon filters. These systems are often small in nature and are sometimes thought to improve the taste of water. The key element to remember in terms of a water filtration system is that they focus largely on impurities. These systems can be used to remove even the tiniest of particles, often including bacteria and microbial cysts. Filtration systems can be permanent or portable, and the size you need will entirely depend upon the amount of water you want to filter. However, it is important to note that water filtration systems do not treat viruses in any way. While these systems may make water appear to be clean, they cannot be relied upon as a sole means to ensure safe drinking water for you or your family.
Similar to water filtration, the process of water purification works to remove impurities from water. However, the impurities focused on in the purification process are those that relate to the overall safety of the water: biological contaminants, viruses, chemicals, and other materials. Water purification works as a chemical process usually using either iodine or chlorine. Although iodine is the preferred chemical, chlorine is often used in its place to make sure those with an iodine allergy are still able to consume the cleansed water. There are also non- chemical methods of purification as well, such a micro membrane elements, ceramic filters, and carbon filters which have such small pores that it is impossible for these types of impurities to pass through the filter. It is important to remember though that simply purifying water cannot always remove every impurity found in the water (see chemical contaminants below).
There are 5 potential contaminants in water that you NEED to be aware of..
Protozoal infections, parasitic infections (Kingdom Animalia), bacterial infections, viral infections and chemical contaminants…
Protozoal infections, most often comes from sewage contamination, or animal manure, but can also occur with ground water contamination and even be found around campgrounds where beavers and humans may be in the same place.
There can be some pretty nasty symptoms from an infection, flu-like symptoms, watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, substantial loss of weight, bloating, increased gas, nausea.
Next up is Parasitic infections (Kingdom Animalia) – This is my own personal nightmare for some reason ever since I was a boy and Checkov got that worm thing in his ear on the the second star trek movie The Wrath of Khan, I think the scariest thing in the world is having a parasite living inside you..
If thats not scary enough, water borne parasites are extremely common, basically any time you’re around rivers, streams and ponds you’re around parasites. Most parasitic infections happen when you consume the eggs of the nasty little bugger. Things like tapeworm are high up on the list here.
Bacterial infections, are some of the most common types of infection you may hear about and most often when a city issues a boil water notice it’s the result of a test being positive for a bacterial contamination and the most common positive test result is E. coli. But wait there’s more. Other bacterium that may infect water include, Botulism, Cholera, Dysentery, Salmonellosis (Salmonella) and more!
Viral infections are less common but just because they are less common in the Pacific Northwest does not mean they cannot happen. In fact after a large scale emergency where there may be no running water and poor sanitation, it is far more likely you would encounter water borne viral infection such as Hepatitis A, Poliomyelitis (polio) and SARS.
If you are not freaked out yet, don’t worry there is MORE…
Chemical Contamination is so much more common than we would think, in fact I use a Berkey brand filter in my home every day because of my concerns over chemical contamination.
“The Willamette has undergone a lot of change over the past 200 years. It has been dredged, channelized, diked, dammed and contaminated. The City and its partners are working to improve the health of our rivers–and there have been improvements: in 2008-09, the river’s water quality was rated excellent through Portland (City of Portland Service Efforts And Accomplishments: 2008-09).” -PortlandOnline.com
Does this mean I would drink the water? Not generally, though the water has been given an excellent rating it does not mean that it does not contain a whole pool of chemicals. There is an A-Z list of chemicals found in in the river that you can read here and the reality is that after a major earthquake there may be more. If bridges fail there could be vehicles that fall into the water releasing oil, fuel, transmission fluid and more…
When collecting water I highly recommend using side streams. Although the water from the side streams still needs to be filtered and purified you are much less likely to have to deal with chemical contamination then you would if you were obtaining water from the larger rivers.
Now that you know what your facing, lets talk about cleaning it out of the water and making it safe to drink!
We offer a wide variety of water filters and water purifiers that are rated to remove almost all of the contaminates listed above. We highly recommend that you include a good filter and a back up just in case in your plan and in your emergency kits.
But what if you did not think ahead? What if your filter was damaged or became inaccessible in the earthquake?
Well the cheapest way and the most effective way to make your water safe is to boil your water. This will eliminate 4 of the 5 possible contaminants. Boiling will kill those nasty bugs, it will however not remove any chemical contaminants from the water.
To boil water:
The time it takes your water to go from 162°F to a rolling boil is the time it takes to make your water safe to drink. Approximately 1 minute of boiling is all that is required. Once your water reaches the boiling point it is not going to get hotter, it is simply going to evaporate. So once your water reaches the boil turn off the heat and conserve your fuel. (source CDC)
Your next option is Chemical Purification (note the difference from chemical contamination) using Iodine 2%, Chlorine (bleach) or Chlorine Dioxide to purify the water and make it safe to drink.
Iodine 2% tincture is not 100% effective against cryptosporidium cysts
And Chlorine regular household bleach has been known to kill giardia but NOT the cysts of cryptosporidium but Chlorine Dioxide has been known to kill cysts of cryptosporidium and giardia.
These methods take at least 30 minutes to be effective and are best paired with filtration. If you do not have a basic filter available use a teeshirt or a bandana to pass the water though before using your chemical purification process to remove as many of the large particles as possible.
Iodine 2% Tinture – 3-5 drops per US quart.
Chlorine is 2-3 drops per US quart unless your water is cloudy or turbid then you will need to double the amount.
Chlorine Dioxide comes in Tablets we carry those at our store, by Aquamira, 1 tablet for 1 quart, shake it up and leave it for 30 minutes.
This all seems like pretty scary stuff, but the reality is that water is essential to life, and having good skills when it comes to the knowledge to purify water is essential both in long term and short term survival situations.
My best recommendation would be to prevent the need for chemical filtration or even boiling by purchasing a high quality filter before you need it. And once you do purchase one, be sure to test the filter, there is nothing worse then having a filter and then finding out when you need it that it does not work due to a manufacturing flaw, or not understanding the directions in a critical time.
I wanted to bring this week’s guest post to you from Rebecca at the Organic Survivalist site where she gives some insight on 5 methods of purifying water without using toxic chemicals.
- Joshua Patterson