Three days. That’s how long the average person can live without water. The first day, a person feels thirsty, tired, and uncomfortable. By the second day, it becomes hard to think and the possibility of passing out increases. Muscles will cramp and normal tasks will become hard to accomplish. As day three rolls around, you will lack the energy to do anything about the demise that is just around the corner. Even worse, dirty water can cause illness that dehydrates you even faster through vomiting and diarrhea, speeding up the process and adding to the pain and discomfort.
To stay alive, having water on hand is vital. Water is life and, without it, time is short. For that reason, this article will focus on ways to make dirty water safe to drink when in a survival situation and you find yourself without water-cleaning chemicals such as bleach or purification tablets. As with any survival skill, it is smart to test these methods out in a safe and controlled environment before they are actually needed.
First, we should understand what makes water unsafe to consume. There are, of course, bacteria and viruses that can cause illness. Water can also be contaminated with chemicals, protozoa and parasites. Certain methods kill certain contaminants, so it is important to know what may be in the water you are collecting so you can choose the right form of cleaning.
Most bacteria, viruses and parasites can be killed by boiling the water. Bring the water to a rolling boil for 3 minutes and just about everything should be killed. This will also remove any chemicals that evaporate at a lower temperature than water. The problem with this method, however, is that all the water that turns to steam is lost. Other problems include the need to make a fire, having something to boil the water in, and not removing chemicals that boil at a higher temperature than water, including solids like metals.
Filtration can remove contaminants as well, including solids. A filter of sand on top of small pieces of gravel will remove some chemicals and most creepy crawlies, but pesticides will still make it through. This can be fixed by adding carbon (charcoal) to the filter. Charcoal alone will help, but activated charcoal will adsorb (not absorb) more chemicals. Activated charcoal, however, requires sodium chloride and the ability to bake so, if you want to use activated charcoal, it is best to have some made up beforehand. If not, you can still add in crushed charcoal between layers of sand. This method has the problems of making a filter and not removing all chemicals.
Evaporation is a method that removes anything that does not evaporate at the same temperature as water, or not at all. This can be done in a few ways. The easiest is to dig a small hole in the ground. Line the hole with plastic and weigh down the edges with rocks. Fill the hole with water and place a clean container in the middle of the hole that is taller than the puddle of water. Cover the hole with more plastic and weigh down those edges. Place a small stone on the plastic to make it dip down over the clean container. As the sun heats up the water, it will evaporate. As it does this, it will condense against the plastic and run down to the middle, where it will drip into the container. This method is great because direct sunlight kills a bunch of bacteria and viruses and the evaporation leaves behind the vast majority of other contaminants.
The problem with this method is that it requires plastic sheeting, a bowl-like container and the ability to dig a hole. The plastic can be fixed by having clear trash bags in your cargo pockets or bug-out-bag and a canteen cup works great for collecting the water. This method can also be achieved by using two clear bottles with a coiled tube between them. Keep the bottle with dirty water in the sun and the other in the shade or even buried and in the shade.
With these methods, you should be able to keep clean water on hand at all times. Just remember to clean more water before you get low on your current supply. It is also a good idea to combine cleaning methods. Boiling water that is then left to evaporate and condensed and then poured through a filter will be pretty clean. If your water has a bit of a stale taste, this can be fixed by pouring the water back and forth between two containers to allow aeration. This also helps to kill anaerobic bacteria.
Again, try these methods out at home. You can add food coloring and dirt to water to see how clean you can make it with various methods and have fun teaching kids and yourself.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.