How To Purify Water | 5 Water Decontamination Techniques

We've come up with 5 survival techniques on how to purify water in a survival situation.

5 Survival Methods On How to Purify Water

Why Clean Water Is Essential

We all know the significance of clean water in our body. It helps our cells, organs, and tissues to regulate temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Without clean water, it would be difficult to survive or persevere especially when SHTF. But what happens if you find yourself in a survival situation with no access to clean water? You might find yourself trapped in a predicament where you have to choose between dehydration or gulp a cup of cholera-infected water.

Picture this –you’re in the wilderness and the temperature has been slowly rising since you left your campsite –a good, clear, and unmistakably hot day ahead of you. You look up and notice a few scattered clouds offering little shade, but at least you’ve got the trees. You set your survival pack down on the ground and reach into a side pocket for your water bottle. It's empty. While in reasonable conditions, you might be able to survive for 3-5 days without water but there’s seriously no earthly reason you ought to test how your body reacts to dehydration. It’s time to find some water.

Whether it’s a puddle or a swift-flowing stream you find, you should never assume the water that is tempting your parched lips is anything less than a bacterial breeding ground. A bad case of diarrhea or vomiting will only decrease your chances of survival. So, how are you going to turn that dangerous water into purified, drinkable, thirst-quenching hydration? Check out the list below and drink safely.

Method #1: Boiling

Make YOUR Survival Water Filter – Step-By-Step – Portable Emergency Water Filter DIY Photo by Ultimate Survival Tips [Youtube]

The simplest way to purify water in the wild is to boil it. To do this, you'll need (I bet you can guess) a container and fire. To actually purify the water, you'll need to let it boil steadily for 10 minutes. Some say 1 minute is fine while others recommend a minimum of 7 minutes. In my honest and very frank opinion, the longer you boil that water, the “deader” those nasty little sickness-inducing microorganisms will be. Remember, the last thing you want to happen to you in a survival situation is to get sick. Don’t forget: the higher the altitude, the longer the boiling time.

Method #2: Chemical Treatment

Another way you can make water safe for drinking is to chemically treat it, and you can bet your thirsty little gizzard that there are a number of chemicals that will do the trick. Some examples are Iodine, Hydrogen Peroxide, Sodium Chlorite, Potassium Permanganate, household bleach (yes bleach). Some of these chemicals are actually already sold as purification tablets designed specifically for campers, hikers, and survivalists. These tablets are pretty easy to use. Simply drop the correct number of tablets into your container filled with water and let the tablets work their magic. Usually, the water is safe to drink after about 30 minutes (so you’ll have to be patient). Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before you use these tablets.

Plain old household bleach – one that has no scents, cleaners, or manufactured to be color safe – is also a good water purifier if you know what you're doing, but be careful! This is how you purify water with bleach, add around 1/8 teaspoon of the bleach to a gallon of water and let the bleach do its thing for no less than 30 minutes. Similarly, mix 5-10 drops of iodine (specifically 2% tincture of iodine) for every liter of water and wait for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Method #3: Commercial Filters

Not all of us are born mountain men (although you may be one). Some of us would prefer the easy way with commercial filters created to come to the rescue. While there are literally loads of these filters to choose from, most of them operate in a very similar fashion. Basically, your unsafe water will go into a water hose at one end of the purifier, and the water will pass through a ceramic or charcoal filter which cleans the water before it goes out through another hose and into your container. Commercial filters come in all shapes and sizes. Some are pump-operated while others are simple filter straws. One point to keep in mind, however, is that not all the commercial filters will be able to remove viruses (although most of them do remove bacteria, protozoa, and other microorganisms). Most people know about the Lifestraw, but if you're looking for a slightly less expensive alternative that is just as good, check out the Aquastiq! Let’s face it. We aren't prepared all the time. If for some reason, you weren’t prepared with proper equipment to purify your water, there are a few other methods of water purification.

Method #4: Soil/Sand filter

One of the most primitive ways on how to filter water is by using soil or sand. To do this, you'll need to create a makeshift filter that will hold the sand or soil and clean your water. Follow these simple steps below:

  • Get a container (perhaps your empty water bottle?) and place your shirt over it.
  • Place sand or soil on top of the cloth. This will be your makeshift filter.
  • Pour the water over your makeshift filter to remove any sediments and particles in your water. Repeat this process several times until your water is looking clear.

Another method is to dig a hole near the location of your water source and drink the water that seeps into that hole filtered by the soil surrounding it. However, keep in mind this method does not guarantee microorganisms such as bacteria are no longer contaminating your filtered water.

Method #5: Solar Still/Distilling

DIY Solar Water Distiller! – Simple Solar Water Distilling – Easy DIY (for Survival/SHTF)

— instructables (@instructables) November 3, 2017

For microorganism-free water, a solar still is actually a great method to use when safe, drinking water is not readily available.

  • Dig a hole or pit in the ground.
  • Put your container in the center of the hole/pit to collect the condensed water from the solar still.
  • Cover the hole/pit with transparent plastic and secure it tightly by placing dirt or rocks on the plastic around the edges of the hole/pit.
  • Then, place a rock or any heavy object on the center of the clear plastic so that it points towards the container. Like a greenhouse, the water in the soil will evaporate and condense on the plastic sheet. When it condenses, the water will run down into the cup.

Tip: You can add some vegetation into your pit/hole to increase the water output. You can also pour unclean water in the pit to distill it and make it safe for drinking. The concept of a still is far from new. Follow our steps and create an emergency still of your own.

Watch this video by Ultimate Survival Tips and discover how to make a survival water filtration system:

Personally, I prefer to travel with my Berkey light. It's much easier than building your own purification system, not to mention much safer. Check it out here. Whichever method you choose to use, pay close attention to the signals your body is giving you. Staying hydrated, whether or not you are in a survival situation, is absolutely essential to your well-being. If you find yourself in a less than ideal situation, remember these tips for hydration and these wise words from Bear Grylls: “Keep your head about you, use common sense, don't panic and above all think outside the box!”

What do you think of these methods of how to purify water in the wild? Let us know in the comments section below!

Up Next: How Camping in the Rain Can Prepare You for a Disaster

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 19, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

Featured Image Via familycampingandhiking

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