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Emergency Water Treatment

Safe water is important to life. In a disaster situation or emergency, clean safe water can help you survive and maintain good health. Unsafe drinking water can lead to dysentery, a common and sometimes deadly gastrointestinal illness that causes intestinal inflammation, abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea. These symptoms can lead to death by dehydration. Safe water is free of infectious agents which can be viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Treating drinking water to eliminate these infectious agents will insure that dysentery is prevented. But how is water best treated to neutralize the threat of dysentery?

How to Treat Water for Drinking

There are several steps necessary to treat water for drinking and make it safe. These steps include:

  1. Filter Sediment
  2. Chemical Treatment
  3. Removal of Chlorine and other chemicals
  4. Safe Water

Step 1: How to Filter Sediment

There are several ways to filter sediment from water. One method requires the use of a coffee filter, a strainer, and a food grade 5 gallon bucket. The strainer is lined with a coffee filter and while holding the strainer over the 5 gallon bucket, pouring the water through the coffee filter and strainer into the bucket. This is a slow process, so it is best to find a way to suspend the strainer over the bucket so that you do not have to hold it while pouring the untreated water through. Once sediment has been filtered from your water, the next step is to chemically treat the water to kill any living organisms such as virus, bacteria, or parasites.

Step 2: How to Chemically Treat Water

Treating water chemically is a fancy way for saying that you are going to put something in the water that will kill living organisms that could potentially cause intestinal infection. The most common method of treating water chemically is to use bleach. Bleach is effective. However, there are a few things you should know about bleach

  • Bleach has a short shelf life, about 4 to 6 months
  • Bleach is not healthy to drink
  • Bleach can cause skin burns if not handled correctly.
  • Never use bleach with fragrances or additives.

Make Your Own Bleach

You can make your own bleach by simply purchasing and storing a few items. You will need:

  • 5 gallon food grade bucket
  • Box of Pool Shock (granular calcium hypochlorite)
  • A stick or large spoon to stir
  • A Teaspoon

Instructions to make bleach:

  1. Fill the 5 gallon food grade bucket about 2/5 ths of the way with water which should be two gallons.
  2. Measure 1 teaspoon pool shock and pour into bucket of water.
  3. Stir mixture until completely dissolved. (Don't breath fumes please!)
  4. Pour into container that can be sealed.

Treating Water with Bleach

Using the bleach created above, use a ratio of 1 to 100 parts to treat your water.

Example: 1 cup of bleach will treat 6 gallons of water.

Let the water sit with the bleach solution for 30 minutes. After this period of time, you can pour the treated water back and forth between two buckets to aerate the water which will allow the chlorine to dissipate.

Step 3: Remove the Chemicals

Treating your water with chlorine as described above will dramatically reduce the risk of illness caused by water contaminated by biological threats. There are other threats that may be in your water. These threats include chemicals and heavy metals or inorganic compounds. To purify your water completely, you will need to use a water purifier such as the gravity fed Berkey water filter. Running your water through a Berkey will eliminate the chlorine used in the treatment process above, and also remove many other chemicals that are harmful. Berkey gravity water filters range in size from a small sport bottle up to a large Crown Berkey that can produce 25 gallons of water per hour.

Step 4: Safe Water

Don't forget that once your water is treated, you should keep it in a cool shaded location to avoid new growth of bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The container should be sealed because the chlorine in the water will eventually weaken and allow these threats to flourish again. Enjoy your safe drinking water and be prepared.