The Responsible Survivialist

Bad Water to Good Water
April 6, 2010, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Survival Skills, Water

You don’t have to be an unemployed fisherman in a village around the Aral Sea to face a situation where the water available is not drinkable. Every year communities across the US are faced with having to issue “boil notices” to their residents when their drinking water is contaminated, due to flooding, water main break or any of the other things that can foul the water supply. These instances will only increase as governments lack the funds to keep up need infrastructure. Expect to see it in your own area some day.

Do you know what to do in that case? A Responsible Survivialist knows to have a supply of water stored for emergencies, but suppose you’re visiting old Uncle Bob and Aunt Bernice for the weekend. Other than a trip to the local supermarket and a shopping cart full of bottled water, I mean, where most of the rest of the town will be headed as well.

Can you turn bad water into something you and your family can drink? If you don’t, let’s review the basics of water purification…


Clean the Containers:
First, what you want to do in an emergency, where you need to turn bad water into something you can drink is to get something to hold your purified water in.

If it is something as mundane as a water main break where the water coming from the tap is questionable, then you’ll have large pots or pitchers in your cabinets you can use. These will be clean and may only require a wipe to remove dust.

Used soda bottles are ok if rinsed well. Don’t though pour out the soda just to store water in it. Drink it first. An average adult loses 2-3 quarts of water a day from sweat or urination and much of the replacement comes from sources you might not think of as water. Food accounts for almost half of our water intake, the rest being from what we drink.

Don’t use milk jugs or containers that have had fruit juice in them. Trace amounts of both remain in the containers and will cause bacterial growth which will re-contaminate the water making it unfit to drink.

Use dish soap and water, rinse the containers inside and out, then dip them in a solution of one teaspoon of unscented household beach per quart or liter of water. Be sure to keep the container submerged for at least 15 second to kill any germs present. You can then rinse again with a weaker solution to remove traces of the stronger solution to cut down on any lingering taste or you can just let it air dry and get a bit more protection.

But how much water is in say the kitchen sink where most of us will be rinsing the containers? Here is a quick way to figure it up.

My sink is 20×15 by 6″ deep. To find the volume, multiply those three numbers together to come up with the total cubic inches that the sink would contain (20x15x6 = 1800 cubic inches), then multiply this by 0.0173. In my case, my sink holds about 31 quarts or 7.8 gallons. I would then add 8 teaspoons of bleach to a full sink.

Of course that’s a lot of water, that has to have been pure to start, right?

Short answer, No.

If the water coming out of the facet is bad, you can fill up the sink with the water and then use the bleach to purify it first, then use that water to clean the containers. Normally you would use just 2 drops of bleach per quart or liter (a teaspoon holds 64 drops), so the larger amount will purify it. It won’t be very nice to drink though with all that bleach.

One thing you can do, is use a large cooler for your dip tank and use the water later if needed.

Filter the Water First:
No matter which method you chose to use to remove viruses and bacteria from bad water, it will not remove sediment. If the water is murky you must filter those out first.

One simple method is to cut the bottom off a two liter soda bottle, and then put fabric or cloth in the large end to act as a filter. I have read of using a clean sock or two to do the same. Most tighter weave fabrics will work, the secret is to be sure you don’t have any folds which allow the water to by pass the fabric.

You can also use the filter cup in your coffee maker and several filters. The tight paper will catch most particles. Its slow but effective and most people have a supply of coffee filters on hand.

While you can use one of the filter pitchers that many people have but I prefer to use them on the back end of the purification process, since their filters usually run several dollars a piece. Charcoal filter can remove a large portion of bleach from water and make it much more drinkable. Buy one and several filters and put it with your prep supplies.

Add to that a box of those flavor packets for bottled water you find at stores today. They can help to mask further the bleach smell and taste.

Boiling Water:
One of the easiest of methods, if you have a heat source, is to simply heat the water until it begins to boil, then wait one minute and remove from the heat. Boiling will remove some of the oxygen in the water though and make it taste flat. Once the water has cooled, pour it back and forth between two containers will put oxygen back into it and improve the taste.

(more being added)

How to drain your water heater:

How to wiki:

ZS thread bleach vs chlorine