As you learn how to prepare for a water shortage and begin thinking about your resupply plan, it will be clear that you need a method of filtering and possibly further purifying water. Having stored water is definitely your first defense, but you need to learn how to purify water for drinking to sustain yourself beyond the time your water storage is planned to last.
Is Your Drinking Water Contaminated?
There are a variety of things your water could contain that would result in intestinal distress for you or your pets and other animals. For the uninformed, intestinal distress is just a clever way of saying you’re going to have a severe case of diarrhea. Of course, diarrhea leads to dehydration, and severe dehydration can cause a ton of unpleasant things – death being the worst.
Both organic and inorganic, these water contaminants can really stack up and complicate your water filtration needs. The really tricky thing is that, without testing, you really have no way to know which of them are present. Of course, if you can’t tell it’s there, you really need a water filtration system that makes sure it can’t be.
Boiling Isn’t Always the Answer
If your water supply comes from a lake or other body of water with algae, it’s possible that your water could be contaminated with microcystin, which are tiny little biochemical warheads put off by algae blooms.
The bad news is that you can’t remove this contaminant by boiling or distilling. In fact, both of these will only cause the level of microcystin in your water to be increased because water is lost in the “purification” process.
The good news? Unless your water supply comes from a lake or other slow-moving body of water that has prolific algae blooms, you probably don’t have to worry about microcystin contamination. Of course, for a lot of us, ponds and lakes are definitely a part of our plan to prepare for a water shortage, so we still need to be sensitive to the problem.
So, how do you get rid of microcystin contaminants?
Some experiments have shown good results from using a slow sand filter. It’s not the sand that does the filtering though – it’s a residue that forms on the surface, called Schmutzdecke, which contains microscopic organisms that consume the microcystin. Nature battling nature – gotta love it! Others have shown good results from using crushed activated carbon.
In both cases, a slower rate of flow through the filter is encouraged to maximize the effectiveness. The slower the flow, the more time the microscopic organisms and charcoal have to do their work.
You could also get yourself a Big Berkey water filtration unit. Even though Berkey does not claim to remove microcystin, the black and ceramic filters have been shown to reduce the levels of microcystin to acceptable levels in some sample studies that have been run.
How to Purify Water for Drinking – The Whole Process
Now that I’ve blown your mind by telling you that boiling your water isn’t always the right way to go, let me put the pieces together for you with a plan of attack if microcystin is a concern or not.
Step 1 – Filter Your Water
The first step should be filtration, and you might consider a multi-stage filtration process that includes a slow sand filter or activated carbon – or just get a Big Berkey.
For the vast number of people out there, this is sufficient. However, if you worry about things that are too small for a filter to catch, move on to boiling your water.
Step 2 – Boil Your Water
In lower altitudes, just bringing water to a boil is probably fine. In higher altitudes, it may be trickier, since water will boil at a lower temperature. You want your water to reach at least 212 degrees though, so do what you need to do in order to make that happen.
Step 3 – Cool Your Water
If you felt it necessary to boil your water, you want to be sure to let it cool back down prior to pouring it into your water storage containers – particularly if they happen to be plastic. Even if they aren’t, letting the water cool down means you’re going to have less chance of spilling scalding water on yourself and having the joy of living with a severe burn or having to seek medical attention.
The only time you should do something with your water before you let it cool is if you’re about to pour it into a bag of dehydrated food.
Step 4 – Store or Drink Your Water
I’m going to assume you’ve got this step down. The one thing I will add is that you may consider using a funnel when pouring your water into a storage container. You’ve gone to a lot of work to collect and purify it – why waste any?
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