Having safe water is critical for survival. Finding water can be the difference between life and death, and so can identifying if it’s safe to drink and knowing how to purify it. This book is a complete guide to water safety.
How do you know if water is safe to drink? Simple. It’s only safe to drink if it’s from a tap, if it’s bottled, or you purified it. There are times when tap water isn’t potable either if the water treatment facility has been tainted, often by floodwater.
Along with having effective ways to filter water, it’s also important to know how to treat common water borne diseases without modern medicine and stock up on those supplies.
Filtering vs. purifying
It’s important to understand that filtering and purifying are different. Filtering removes bits of things, like sand or bugs. It removes big particles, not small ones like bacteria. Purifying removes or kills germs and bacteria, although some methods are more effective than others. Filtering first and then purifying is the best practice for drinking water, in part because it extends the life of your purifier and in part because some purification methods (such as boiling) do absolutely nothing to filter out debris.
There are many ways to purify water. Some are faster, some are cheaper, and some are easier. Your best bet is to know how to use more than one method in case you can’t use your favorite method for some reason. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind how many people you need water for. Some systems are designed for groups and others are clearly for individuals.
The LifeStraw Mission
For those curious about my personal preference: If I had to buy one, and only one, water purifier, it would be the new LifeStraw Mission. The Mission is designed for long-term use by a small group of 4-6 people. As a mom, I appreciate that this would be sufficient for the whole family, and that I wouldn’t need to worry about the kids losing their water purifier. It’s small enough to carry easily, and easy enough to use for even small kids to operate it.
I recently had the chance to use one on a Scout outing and it was extremely simple, light-weight, and easy to use. Even Cub Scouts carried and operated it. It’s gravity-fed so it isn’t fast, but it is designed so you can put a water bottle or pot under it to fill while you do other things. In addition, it has a carry case that makes it roughly the size (but nowhere near the weight!) of a rolled-up Sunday newspaper.
There are other excellent systems available at very reasonable prices today. Many cost less than $20, and even the largest are less than $300. The price of water bottles with integrated filters is $30-$40 for each brand mentioned below. Each of these brands simply requires the water to be poured in and the filter does all the work as the water passes through.
Berkey purifiers use a long-life filter to remove submicron viruses and heavy metals. They are available from the 1.5 gallon Travel Berkey (for 1 – 3 people) up to the 6 gallon Crown Berkey (for 6-12+ people). Berkeys are more expensive for the simple reason that they are generally larger capacity and very solid, which is the main reason they are selected primarily for “indoor” use. They aren’t light-weight.
The LifeStraw personal water filter is amazingly simple to use and a very affordable choice. It removes bacteria and pathogens, but not viruses, so water that may have viruses should also be treated with tablets if human or animal waste products are suspected in the water. There is a larger family version that filters out viruses, but the individual use version is far more common.
Per their website, Sawyer water filters and purifiers “are certified for ABSOLUTE microns making it impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholera and Salmonella typhi (which cause Cholera and Typhoid) to pass through.”
Sawyer has products for groups as well as micro filters for individuals. Their flagship filter is a simple, light-weight pouch designed to be rolled or squeezed to create a faster flow rate for drinking. Fill, squeeze, and drink.
CamelBak systems have become increasingly popular and the filtration / purification market has not neglected them. (Camelbaks have a bladder filled with water the user carries on their back; a straw attached to the bag allows the user to drink from it while they are walking.) Sawyer, in particular, has an option that works with Camelbaks. Simply fill it with unclean water and attach the filter. The water will be purified before it is drunk.
A Back-Up to your Back-Up
More than anything, you must have at least 3 different ways to purify water. If one of these recommended filters malfunctions or a filter is no longer functioning, you’ll need other ways to make sure the water you drink is safe. Boiling water is an excellent method but requires plenty of time and fuel. The use of calcium hypchlorite is popular in survival circles but may not be the safest method to use. There are always water purification tablets, but those can become expensive if you’re stocking up for the long haul.
Bottom line: Since water is absolutely vital for survival, don’t overlook adding multiple ways to filter and purify it.