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Three Ways to Purify Water

Updated on April 7, 2012

The Key to Life

It's only thanks to this rather simple element that we and everything else alive can exist today.
It's only thanks to this rather simple element that we and everything else alive can exist today. | Source

Introduction

Water, as all we know is essential to life. However, in today’s world it’s not always possible to find clean, pure water for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is pollution caused by ourselves. Indeed there are very few rivers in England for instance that could be described as totally pristine and unspoilt. Sometimes your vision can deceive you, and water that looks clean at first glance could play host to a whole wave of harmful chemicals that have leached into the water after being used to fertilise farmers’ fields. In a survival situation, possessing the ability to purify water and kill off potentially lethal chemicals can be the single biggest difference between life and death. The world of bushcraft presents three different ways to achieve purification, which I will outline in more detail.

Generally, it’s a very good idea to store your water in a good solid water can; similar to what’s used in the army. Preferably the bottle should hold no more than a litre of water, so not to weigh you down too much. The army cans may be old fashioned and not as trendy as some of the water cans you can get hold of nowadays with tubes extending from the bottle enabling you to drink without having to move the bottle. But they key to the army can’s timeless appeal is its simplicity and toughness. You should also endeavour to carry either a small steel mug or Billy can, just in case you need to boil water for whatever reason. Speaking of which...

The Desert- the one place where water should always be filtered

Fire

There are three tried and tested ways to purify water. The first is to boil it, by utilising the power of flame. You may recall my previous hub which explained the actually rather complicated process of lighting and maintaining a fire. The key to successfully purifying water through boiling is by accurately judging when the water has actually boiled, in order to do that, wait until the water has come to a rolling boil, in other words wait until you start to see vapour, then leave it for about two to three minutes. After that, your water should be safe to drink.

An Example of a Water Tablet

Chemicals

There are some parts of the world where the water is automatically less suspect, for instance the fast flowing rivers and streams that cut through some of the world’s most unspoilt habitats, the rainforests, and also the often icy cold water that flows down narrow channels from melting glaciers high in the mountains. The water is probably safe enough to drink without any treatment, but it’s always best to be safe than sorry, especially when travelling alone, because even one small mistake could have dire consequences.

The best thing to use in an environment where the water is safer is a simple chemical tablet made up of chlorine. The effectiveness of chlorine is best demonstrated by the pure and clean look of swimming pools, despite the fact they are frequented by dozens of people a day. The tablets are simply dropped into the water and in virtually no time at all, the water is biologically safe. By following these tips, you should steer clear of the various complaints and ailments that often befall people who drink dirty water such as dysentery, diarrhoea and of course poisoning.

Filter

Sometimes, using a fire is simply not viable, for example if caught in heavy rain; the chances of you successfully starting a fire are practically zero. So, one of the best alternatives is to use some sort of filtration system, basically a pump that cleans water by using charcoal, and neutralising anything nasty and potentially lethal by using iodine.

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    • Blawger profile image

      Bahin Ameri 5 years ago from California

      Very interesting. Do you know anything about reverse osmosis? I've heard a lot about it lately.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Blawger, I'd heard the name before, but I didn't really know anything about reverse osmosis. I've just been reading about it, and it's definitely a case of water purification on a grand scale. The potential for desalinating salt water is interesting and maybe something we'll have to rely more on in the future, with an increasingly unstable climate. Anyway, thanks for dropping by, appreciate it.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Another very useful article. I shall have to add some water purification tablets to my list of survival essentials now.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks christopher, I think the tablets would probably be a better option than the filter, as they would take up less weight in your rucksack.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Hi JKenny - I take it the chlorine tablets make the water taste vile? But even so, it's better than the trotski's, no?

      And in your profile pic ... are those glasses of water or something more interesting?

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Angie, yes I suppose it is better than the trotski's, even so the water would still taste vile, but at least it would be safe.

      As for the profile pic, I'm not sure what was in the glasses, it was taken about three years ago, I can't remember properly. But it was probably something alcoholic.

    • taw2012 profile image

      taw2012 5 years ago from India

      oh that's nice. I have to add some water purification tablets in my well during rainy season......

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks for dropping by taw2012.

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

      Lots of great information in this hub....sadly I think in the future purifying your own water supply is going to be required....and this hub gives some awesome suggestions for doing just that....voted up and useful.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I think so too Cogerson, I remember reading that in some areas of Mexico City that people are already having to rely on delivering water to their neighbourhoods in a big tanker. A terrifying vision of our future, methinks! Thanks for stopping by.

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