If you’re looking for some advice and tips for emergency water purification , then you’re certainly in the right place. Keep on reading for the top 10 water purification methods to consider using in case of natural disaster or societal breakdown.
Water Purification: Top 10 Methods for a Survival or Emergency Situation
Let’s get into the best emergency water purification methods to consider including boiling, filtering, chemicals, distillation and more.
#1: Boiling Water
The most efficient, effective and reliable way to purify water is to use boiling. This will effectively kill all parasites, bacteria and any other type of pathogen in any water source. Be sure to bring your water to a full roiling boil for at least 5 minutes but 10 minutes is preferable if you can spare the fuel.
There are a number of ways to boil water, including on the stove in your house or microwave if power is available. Besides that, a BBQ, camp stove, or campfire will work too. You could consider using a metal, ceramic or glass container or pot to do this.
#2: Survival Straw
The simplest, quickest and one of the most effective ways to ensure enough drinking water in case of an emergency situation is a drinking straw. These things are a favourite of backpackers, hikers and urban preppers.
This popular device is basically like a drinking straw that’s fitted with a filter that can remove most pathogens. However, it’s unable to remove 100% of contaminants like boiling would. However, if you’re forced to leave your house for some reason during a natural disaster, this is certainly a nice tool to have in your backpack to ensure at least enough drinking water for a small family to survive indefinitely.
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There are some cases where water contaminants like radiation, lead or other heavy metals may taint water supplies. In this case, if you try to filter them out with a filter or some kind, you’ll probably wreck it!
Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of options in this situation but among them, water distillation is the best. It basically works by heating water into steam and then capturing it by some method, leaving the harmful toxins behind. This method also works for removing salt from sea water.
#4: Water Filters for Emergency Water Purification
If you’re into hiking or backpacking, you’re probably already familiar with using water filters. The two main types are pump filters which force water through a filter and drip or suction filters which rely on gravity or are used in a hydration bladder hose.
In general, the higher quality ones remove most large pathogens while the silver disables smaller ones like viruses. There are certainly varying rates for water processing so what you’d choose for one person will look very different from what you’d choose for 10 people or a hundred.
If you’re serious about purifying large amounts of emergency water in case of a natural disaster, then consider this option which is often the top pick of expeditions or relief organizations around the world.
#5: Water Desalination Options
If you live near the ocean and in an area prone to hurricanes or other natural disasters, then it’s not so uncommon for the water supplies to become contaminated with salt. There are two methods for this: distillation and reverse osmosis. Which one is best really depends on your situation.
However, you can check out some great advice for how to do both of these things here: How to Desalinate Water.
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#6: UV Light
If you’re looking for information on how to purify water in an emergency, you’ll certainly see UV light mentioned as an option. It’s quite effective but may not remove large particles that may have pathogens hiding in them. However, if you’re using water that looks clear but may have a questionable source, then this one should do the trick.
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#7: Sun/Solar Power
Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is the simplest method of all of them on this list as it requires nothing except time and plastic water bottles. Fill up small (2L max) plastic, clear bottles with water and expose them to the sun for a minimum of one day. The UV light will kill most harmful organisms in the water.
However, there are some problems with this method, particularly if it’s cloudy in which case it’ll take 2-3 days. If it’s raining, then there is no disinfection happening. However, if you’re organized and take advantage of sunny days as well as have enough bottles, you can stockpile lots of clean drinking water easily with almost no equipment.
#8: Micropur Tablets
If you’re into backpacking, you may already know about tablets that you just drop into water to purify it. There are a couple of main options, including something like Micropur Tablets from Katadyn or various kinds of iodine tablets (mentioned in the next section).
These Micropur tablets are good for two years or even longer. And they’re very effective at removing harmful organisms to make clean drinking water. However, it does take time (up to 4 hours) to purify water with this method and these things are also quite expensive compared to other methods mentioned on this list. Because it’s chlorine based, the water tastes very similar to tap water which means that children will easily tolerate it.
- Effective against microorganisms
- Each tablet treats 1 liter
- Lightweight and portable
- Easy to use tablets
- Makes water safe for drinking
#9: Iodine Tablets for Emergency Water Purification
Iodine tablets are a cheap but effective options for ensuring safe emergency drinking water and it’s certainly good to have a pack of these on hand in case of a natural disaster.
While they’re effective at killing harmful organisms and also work quickly, they do have a shelf life of only around a year so be sure to rotate your stocks regularly. However, the main reason why you might want to consider other options than iodine is the flavour. Picky kids may not drink the water and it should also be avoided by pregnant women or those with thyroid issues.
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Everyone should have a big bottle of bleach on hand in their emergency supply kit. It’s useful for a million and one things, including as as water purification method. It’s very cheap and can disinfect large quantities or water very easily.
The ratio depends on the water quality and temperature. In general, if water is cold or murky, then you’ll need to use more bleach. A good rule of thumb is two drops per quart for warm/clean water and four drops per quart for cold/murky water. Add the drops to your water container, put the lid on and then shake it well. Turn the cap slightly and let some water flow out to clean the cap. Clean the outside with a mix of bleach and water. Let the water sit for at least 30 minutes. When you open it, it should smell like chlorine. If it doesn’t, add another drop or two.
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How Can I Find a Water Source?
Finding a source of water is obviously the first step before purifying or cleaning water can happen. This strongly depends on where you live and the purification methods available to you. Some places to consider looking:
- Ocean water (if you have a method of desalination)
- Springs (usually considered to be safe to drink straight from the ground)
- Collecting precipitation (rain, hail, sleet, etc.)
- Melting snow (doesn’t require purification in most cases)
What about Water Storage Options?
Once you’ve filtered, purified or desalinated your emergency drinking water supply, you’re going to need some things to store it in. It’s far more efficient to process water in large batches instead of every single time you’re thirsty!
There are certainly some better options that others in terms of storage. And, the good news is that you can fill these containers with fresh water before an emergency ever happens which means that you can start off a natural disaster or societal breakdown situation way ahead on the game when it comes to water supplies.
Find out the best options here: Water Storage Container Ideas.
Have your Say about Emergency Water Purification
Do you have a preferred method of water purification, filtering, desalination or storage in case of emergency? Is it one of the methods from this list or do you have something else that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2021-09-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API