Water Treatment Survival

One of the top priorities for surviving a crisis situation is finding and treating drinking water. In sufficient quantity to cover your own needs. It doesn't matter if you're lost in the desert or at home during a natural disaster. The human body can only go about 3 days without water.

Fortunately, water sources are plentiful in most parts of the world. And different ways to make the liquid drinkable. But which option is the best to get the water sterile and clean? Here is a small overview of the most common options for water collection and treatment in an emergency situation.

Find a source

First of all you have to find the water before you think about how to purify it. Depending on the location and situation, the liquid is in abundance. Or not. Above-ground sources of fresh water such as rivers, streams, ponds and lakes exist in many regions. If you are able to distill the water, even brackish or salt water can be used.

Don't forget the rain. Rain, snow, sleet, hail, ice and dew can be used as a source. Fresh rain that hasn't fallen through a jungle or leafy canopy should be safe enough to drink. You can also melt and eat fresh snow without processing it.

Water from springs or wells is also often safe in most areas. edible. You can drink the liquid from tapped trees such as maple and birch just as safely and there is plenty of it, especially in late winter. You should classify the other water reservoirs as unsafe and treat them sufficiently before enjoying them.

Here are some things to consider:

Water sources at the surface are most likely to be contaminated and undrinkable without first being cleaned. This is because dirt and other contaminants, such as animal feces, can collect here.

Underground springs are often cleaner and you could drink them without preparation. But they can also be contaminated with pollutants. Normally, however, the water is sufficiently filtered through rocks and soil. However, the groundwater is difficult to reach. You'd have to find a spot where it resurfaces. Such as in the form of a source.

The water in the air is generally safe to drink. Because when it evaporates, all potential contaminants are left behind. Atmospheric water can be found in the form of trapped precipitation or as dew on plant leaves.

Possible sources of water outside your home

  • puddles: Standing water is a breeding ground for organisms and insects. Puddles on the road can be contaminated with chemicals from vehicles. Even in times of crisis, you should only collect water from standing waters in an absolute emergency.
  • Slow flowing rivers: A flowing body of water is no guarantee for drinking water quality. The risk of pollution is particularly high in the vicinity of urban developments. The water often appears cloudy, which indicates a high number of particles.
  • pond or lake: The same applies here: If the water is standing and not flowing, this favors insects and organisms. Once open and easily accessible to the public, this poses a greater risk of contamination. Higher-elevation bodies of water are generally cleaner because they do not receive runoff from farmland or industrial plants.
  • Fast flowing mountain river: The current is strong which helps keep the water fresh. There is often snow on the banks, which is an indication that the water was probably formed by snowmelt. The high altitude contributes to a minimum of contamination. The more remote the body of water, the less likely it has been polluted by humans.

contaminants and risks

Why shouldn't you drink all the water? The waters are often polluted by human and animal faeces. In this case, many kinds of harmful bacteria and parasites can be contained using the water as a transmission route.

Protozoal parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia are microscopic creatures that other animals use to complete their reproductive cycle. They are found in many bodies of water around the world and are most commonly transmitted by humans. But also beavers, domestic cattle and deer (among other animals) can transmit the disease. The parasites live in the gut and cause severe stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhea that can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Symptoms usually appear within two days of drinking contaminated water. But illness is still possible within a period of 14 days.

Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, is another common fecal dweller. It cannot survive long outside of a host animal and is therefore only found in recently contaminated water. E. Coli is a normal part of our gut flora and helps us digest food. However, some strains can cause food poisoning if they enter the upper digestive tract through consumption of contaminated water.

Other forms of pollution are agricultural runoff, heavy metals and radiation. These are less common in the wild. They are mostly found in urban waters or near industrial plants. Most on-site survivor water purification techniques cannot remove these forms of contamination from drinking water. However, there are a variety of ways they can still be eliminated.

ways to cleanse

1. decoction

Most survival specialists are familiar with the fact that they need to boil water before drinking it. This is also probably the best-known method of processing. Because the heat kills bacteria and other organisms that may be in it. However, it is not possible to remove chemical impurities. But at least you can be sure that in the event of a crisis you will not be infected with Giardia and many other unpleasant things.

By the way, it is also relevant to filter out the coarsest impurities before cooking. A wet t-shirt, through which you let the water run, is enough. Repeat the process if necessary.

Here's how we do it:

  • Filter or sieve the coarse particles out of the water
  • Bring the liquid to a boil for 5 minutes (for altitudes up to 2000 meters) or 15 minutes (for higher altitudes).
  • Let the water cool down
  • Now it's edible

If you want to take additional precautions to make the liquid drinkable, you can also use chemical means.

2. distillation

Your water supply is at risk of becoming contaminated with radiation, lead, salt, heavy metals, and many other contaminants. Trying to filter them out would only ruin your expensive filter, but ultimately do no good.

In a scenario where the only water available is unhealthy, there aren't many options. The safest solution is treatment by distillation. Water is brought to the boil and the steam is collected. The previous impurities remain in the cooking vessel, including radioactive fallout. However, not everything is removed, volatile oils and certain organic compounds remain.

In a pinch, a steam still can be quickly made using a pressure vessel and some small-diameter copper tubing. The best thing about this process (apart from the safe water) is that the canister remains intact. This is how you can easily go from distillation to food preservation. The only difficulty is connecting the copper tubing to the steam vent on the canister lid.

If you find yourself outdoors, try your luck with a solar still. This is a simple invention where water collects in a hole in the ground and distills. To do this, place a 50 x 50 cm, transparent or milky plastic tarpaulin over a hole that is almost 90 cm deep. There should be a clean container in the center. If available, place a thin, clean hose in the jar. So you don't have to tear the whole construction apart to drink. You can seal the plastic wrap with rocks or soil around the edges. Finally, place a stone in the center, creating a cone of about 45 degrees.

3. Straw water filter

Unfortunately, these small and transportable water filters are difficult to find in specialist shops. They can be used like a straw, with application limited to non-saline water only. Viruses and bacteria are not completely filtered out. Many models include an activated carbon filter element, which can be used to remove larger segments and pathogens. The flow rate is limited to around 200 liters, after which you should replace the product. In the best case, each member has their own drinking straw.

4. Portable water filters

Small portable water filters were originally designed for backpackers who spend days out in the wilderness. Because far from the comforts of civilization, you must find other ways to purify found water.

Water filters are a long-established solution to this problem and are great for preppers and survivalists alike. Inside these models, a ceramic filter element filters out bacteria and other unwanted particles. In addition, carbon is included, which removes many chemical contaminants. Overall, the filter models are light and mobile. They can usually process many hundreds of liters of water. The expensive versions have the option of replacing the filter elements.

5. Clean with bleach

Purifying drinking water with bleach is very convenient and doesn't require nearly as much energy as boiling water. With this method, you add a small amount of household bleach to the water. This kills harmful organisms. Only use agents that are specially designed for water treatment and do not contain any fragrances. Otherwise you run the risk of suffering irreparable health damage from the chemicals.

6.Water treatment with iodine

The use of iodine to disinfect water is not common. The trace element is an excellent wound disinfectant, a water purifier and has a very long shelf life. It is also often found in medical emergency kits.

You will need an iodine solution called "iodine tincture" with a USP level of 2%. "USP" refers to the concentration of iodine in the solution. You can easily buy these at the pharmacy.

How to disinfect the water:

  • Filter or sieve out the large particles.
  • Add 5 to 10 drops of iodine per liter of water. 
  • Let the water sit for at least 20 minutes.
  • Add a powdered drink mix for better flavor (optional).
  • Ready

Iodine is most effective in warm water. If the water is cold or suspected of containing a high number of pathogens, allow the water to stand for at least 30 minutes after adding the trace element. You can safely increase the amount of iodine to a maximum of 10 drops per liter of water. Adjust the amount of trace element and the exact exposure time to the cleanliness of the water source.

Upon drinking you will find that there is an odd taste. This is normal and has no meaning. The iodine taste can be masked with syrup or powdered drink.

A few important notes on treating water with iodine: The trace element is sensitive to sunlight and should always be stored in a dark place and/or in a dark colored bottle. If you are pregnant, have thyroid problems, take lithium, are allergic to iodine or are over the age of 50, you should avoid this type of water treatment.

Make a simple survival filter yourself

When you collect water, first consider how quickly you need it. Unless you're in a hurry, leave the liquid in a container. The heavier segments sink to the bottom, the lighter substances float to the surface where you can easily skim them off.

Do you have two jars? Perfect, then try this method: Take the first container and fill it with water. Then place your shirt or other porous layer of fabric over the second vessel. Place pebbles in the middle and let the water run over them slowly. Repeat the process by putting sand on the cloth on the second pass.

Instead of sand, you can also use crushed charcoal. Activated carbon filters remove sediment and many impurities, while also improving the taste. Making your own charcoal is easy: make a campfire and cover it with dirt and ashes. Then let it cool completely, this step can take several hours. Then chop up the charcoal.

If possible, build a device that combines all three filter steps. The water gradually becomes clearer.

If an artificial container isn't available, you could build an alternative using natural materials. Bamboo, for example, is suitable for this. It is hollow in the middle so water can easily flow through it. However, there are many other plants with a hollow core. A hollow log is also a good option. Layer the filter materials (pebbles, sand, cloth, and charcoal) into the different parts of the bamboo or trunk and let the water run through them several times.

This should give you a basic idea of ​​how to treat polluted water or how to make your own survival filter. Remember that there is still a chance of getting sick. Even if you follow all guidelines and precautions. Always consult a doctor if you have drunk contaminated water. The side effects of pathogens and microorganisms may only become noticeable after at least a week.

Falls du mehr zum Thema lernen willst, könntest du einen Survival Kurs besuchen. Wir haben im Artikel “Die besten Survival Kurse in Deutschland” die besten Anbieter zusammengetragen.

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