Eventually, when your clean water supply runs dry, you are going to need to go in search of water for drinking and cooking. No matter where you get your water from, it is always good to filter and purity water for survival.
Dirty drinking water can cause death in a worst case scenario, so it is best to take a read through this post and learn how to filter and purify your water. Being a prepper, this is something that I felt I needed to learn, and you should learn how to also. It is also a very easy way to start prepping!
There are many different ways to filter and purify water for survival, so I am going to try and keep it simple here, and cover the most effective methods of water filtration and purification. The main thing when filtering water is getting rid of water borne particles, then purifying it to kill any germs, making it safe for drinking.
How to Filter Water for Survival
Filtering water, like I said above, is the removal of particles from the water, such as dirt, insects, animal poop and anything else that might be present, you will want to remove all these contaminates before beginning to purify the water.
You can filter water many different ways, it can be done by running water through a towel, tightly woven cloth, paper towels layered on each other, through a coffee filter, or anything with tightly woven fibres. All you are trying to do is remove any sediment from the water. You can also let the water sit in a bucket for an hour until all the sediment has sank to the bottom of the bucket, then carefully scoop out the clean water.
These methods simply filter out any particles, they do not remove any nasty tastes, smells or colourations from the water. I will discuss below how you can go about removing these impurities.
After you have filtered your water, you are then going to need to purify it to kill any germs present.
DIY Water Filtration for Survival
There are many different homemade water filtration setups you can make for basically nothing, with materials you may have around the house, I am going to cover a few ways to filter water for survival in this article. Being a prepper, I already have a few of these things needed lying around the house.
Activated Carbon Water Filtration
Activated carbon water filters are most effective at removing chlorine, sediment, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), taste and odor from water. They are not effective at removing minerals, salts, and dissolved inorganic compounds, it does not remove bacteria, viruses, soften water, remove metals or other microscopic particles, to remove bacteria, you must purity the water. You can make your own activated carbon water filter at home pretty easily.
Being a prepper myself, I have a few jars of Activated Carbon in my prep stash, and I strongly advise you to get some, if you don’t already have any! Coffee filters also come in very handy, they are cheap, and last forever!
The things you will need:
Activated Carbon Using Buckets
This is another way to filter water, and remove bad tastes, smells, sediment and colours. I advise boiling the water after filtration to be sure all bacteria present are killed off.
What you will need:
You can filter and purify water using 2 buckets, some sand, a ceramic cup and activated carbon. The sand acts as a catch to filter out small particles in the water, and things like insects, the ceramic cup removes heavy metals and chemicals, while the activated carbon removes bad tastes, colours and smells.
To do this, you need to get 2 buckets, make a lid for one, drill a small hole in the centre of the lid, then take bucket 2, drill a hole the same size in the bottom of it. Now you want to get your ceramic cup and activated carbon, fill the ceramic cup about 3/4 full with activated carbon, then place the coffee filter over the hole in the bottom of the bucket, and place the ceramic cup with activated carbon over the hole, the coffee filter will stop the carbon falling into your clean water, then fill sand around it until the bucket is about 1/2 full with sand.
Now, setup your buckets like the diagram below, and you have your water filter. Oh, remember to drill a hole in the top of the bottom bucket, this allows air to vent, and the water to flow freely.
Charcoal to Filter Water
Charcoal is very efficient at filtering water, it can remove any nasty tastes and smells from the water, which is why it is used in survival filtration systems such as the LifeStraw.
What you need:
This is basically a bio-filter, minus the gravel. Instead of using activated carbon, you will be using crushed charcoal. This is a great option if you are out in the woods, and have a barbecue with you, but no activated carbon.
Just like using the activated carbon filter, you still need to place some sand, or gravel over the top of the crushed charcoal. This will act as a filter to remove sediment from the water. After this process is complete, you must boil the water to purify.
How to Purify Water for Survival
When prepping for any event, water is an essential commodity, we cannot live without it. Knowing how to properly purify your water to make it safe for drinking is a must when you are faced with any kind of survival situation.
Purifying water is the removal of all invisible bacteria, germs and other harmful elements present, in order to make it safe for drinking.
One of the most common ways to purify water is by boiling. There are many arguments about how long your should boil water for to kill off any bacteria living in it. A general rule is let the water sit at a rolling boil for 1 minute, this will kill any bacteria present in it, and will make it totally safe to drink.
You should put the water you want to purify in a sauce pan, with the lid on, and let it boil for 1 minute as described above.
Once you have boiled the water, let it cool, then drink up.
Have you ever noticed, boiled water tastes different? This is because the air particles have been removed when boiling. Simply give the water in the sauce pan a good stir, reintroducing the air back into it, and it should taste normal again.
To pasteurize water, you must heat it to a temperature of 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65C) for 5 minutes. This method, just like boiling, will not remove any heavy metals, salts or chemicals. To test if water has been properly pasteurised, you can use a WAPI (Water Pasteurization Indicator). These are small plastic tubes, with industrial grade wax inside, which melts when water is heated to 150 F for more than 15 seconds.
There are a number of different ways you can distill water, and most of them, you can do yourself, at home. This method is particularly good if you are in a SHTF situation, where you don’t have water available for drinking, or only have sea water (salt water). You can also distill urine to make it drinkable!
Building a DIY Solar Still
To purify water for survival, you can use a solar still. Simply put, a solar still is a hole in the ground, with a cup in the centre. Over the hole plastic is draped and a small rock is placed on the plastic in the centre, over the cup. The plastic is secured at the edges to stop it from falling into the hole, or touching the ground, or cup.
A solar still works using the properties of evaporation and condensation. The water in the air, and on the ground evaporates and forms a mist on the plastic sheet, and runs to the centre of the sheet (this is why you have a rock in the centre) and drips into the cup. You can place freshly cut vegetation, dirty water, urine, sea water, anything containing water into the still, and the result will be clean water in the cup.
This system does take quite some time to work, so if you are in a hurry, or on route to your bug out location, there is no point setting up a solar still. You are best filtering water through a coffee filter and boiling it. Note, a solar still will not kill any bacteria in the water as it has not been boiled.
DIY Stove Still
This concept is the same as the solar still, you put dirty water into the tea pot, boil it, and the steam will rise up the pipe, condensate at the top and on the plastic container, and run down into the pan. This water is safe to drink right away, as it will have been boiled.
Many preppers use chemicals to preserve, or to purify water for survival. Myself, I don’t like using any chemicals in my water, but in a worst case scenario, I would if I had to. When using chemicals to purify water, you need to be very careful, and make sure to use them correctly, and not for long periods of time. Below, I will explain how you can treat water using chemicals.
Bleach – When using bleach to purify water for survival, you need to be sure that it has no additives, such as scents, soap or phosphates. These can taint the water and make it unsafe for drinking. Typical liquid bleach has a short shelf life, about 6 months, after that, it will loose it’s potency and become less effective. To purify water using bleach, add 1/8 of a tablespoon per gallon (4.5L) of water if the water is clear, or an easier way, 2 drops per 1 quart of water (1 litre) and let it sit for 1 hour before drinking. If the water is cloudy, double the dose and time.
Calcium Hypochlorite – This is basically powered bleach, and has a shelf life of up to 10 years, if stored in a cool, dry place. Calcium Hypochlorite is a chemical that can be used to purity water in order to make it safe for drinking. It is more commonly known as pool shock, and a single pound (0.45Kg) will purify about 10,000 gallons (45,000L) of water. When buying, be sure to purchase shock that has at least 68% calcium hypochlorite present.
Using Calcium Hypochlorite is a 2 step process.
- Add one heaped tea spoon of Calcium Hypochlorite to 2 gallons of water (9L), stir in and allow to fully dissolve. This will make a chlorine solution, aka, home made bleach.
- Add this solution to the water you want to make safe for drinking at a ratio of 1 part solution, 100 parts water. (1L of solution to 100L of water) Stir in thoroughly and let sit for 1 hour before drinking.
The water will now slightly smell like swimming pool water, to partially remove this smell, you must aerate the water, as described above (after boiling) or you can pour the water back and fourth from container to container to reintroduce air and release some of the smell.
Iodine – When you need to purify water for survival, iodine is a great way to do it. Iodine is available in crystalline, liquid and tablet form. You should use 5-6 drops of 2% iodine to each quart of water, or 10 drops if the water is cloudy, then stir in. Let the water stand for 1 hour before drinking. Note: Not suitable for pregnant woman, or anyone with a thyroid problem, not suitable for long term use either.
Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets – These tablets require about 4 hours to work, and they have an approximate shelf life of 4 years when stored properly. They can improve the taste of water, and make it safe for drinking by killing any bacteria present. One tablet will treat 1 litre of water, but always read the instructions on the packet before use, as some may differ.
Solar Water Disinfection
The SODIS method to purity water for survival is done by letting ultraviolet rays from the sun kill bacteria over time. Fill a clear plastic bottle with water, then place the bottle on a matt black, or dark surface, and leave them in the sunlight for 6-7 hours, or if it is cloudy, leave for 2 days. This method will kill any bacteria present in the water.
Portable Water Filters
Last, but not least, we have portable water filters. If you don’t want to make your own water filtration and purification system, you can buy a portable water filter. These will make water safe to drink, immediately. This is a great option for a bug out bag, as they are portable, small, and light weight.
The LifeStraw filters and purifies up to 1000 litres of contaminated water, without the use of any chemicals. It only weights 2oz, so it is very light weight. It has a shelf life of 5 years, features a high flow rate, and is ideal for your bug out bag, go bag, or get home bag. This is an essential item for every person in my household, as it is the easiest way to filter and purify water for survival!
The PurifiCup water filter removes more than 600 types of bacteria from water, providing you with clean, safe water to drink. It uses a silver membrane which utilises silvers natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to filter and purity water. Each filter will provide you with around 100-150 cups of clean drinking water.
Designed for expedition use, this UV water purifier can treat up to 8000 16 ounce treatments. It does not alter the taste of the water, pH, and is totally chemical free, again, a good addition to your bug out bag. It can also be used as a flashlight… Bonus!
This has got to be my favourite system, along with the LifeStraw. The Katadyn Water Filtration Unit makes use of a ceramic plate and carbon. It features an ultra fast flow rate of 2 litres per minute. The carbon filter is replaceable, you could even carry a spare in your bug out bag. It reduces chemicals, pesticides and bad tastes in water. You can filter roughly 1800 litres of water with this system.
This system purifies and filters water from places like lakes, stagnant ponds, streams, or anywhere else you find dirty water. It is idea for outdoor activities, such as bushcraft or camping, where access to clean water is limited or unavailable.
Iodine tablets are an easy way to purify water in an emergency situation, but, you will need to filter it first to remove any sediment of debris. These are designed to kill any bacteria present in water making it safe for drinking. They are intended for emergency use only, and are not to be used everyday. An ideal item for your bug out bag.
Do you know how you will get clean drinking water if SHTF?
Seriously, it is advisable to have at least one method of obtaining clean drinking water in case of an emergency. If you are tight for cash, I suggest you buy some coffee filters, have a few old plastic bottles and make yourself a DIY Water filter, like the diagram below. I suggest using a coffee filter instead of cloth, as it has tighter woven fibres, so will remove more sediment than a cloth.
Total Cost: Around £10