In light of hurricane season, it is becoming more and more essential that we know how to fend for ourselves and our families. When it comes to survival, drinkable water should be a number one priority. Being cut off from an adequate water supply can leave you defenseless against otherwise easily preventable problems such as dehydration and fatigue. People have managed to survive without food for weeks. The same cannot be said for water, however. The most a person can hope to live without water is 3-10 days depending on the circumstances, such as the person is in good health and only exposed to mildly cool temperatures (70 F and below). In an extremely hot climate (120 F), even a healthy individual cannot hope to live longer than two days without water.
There are several methods to combat these problems, one of the most common methods being boiling and evaporation techniques. Boiling is considered the best methods for purifying water. When done correctly, boiling will kill microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoans. Basically, there are a lot of situations that range from unpleasant to unbearable that can be avoided if you take the time to boil your water in emergency situations where there is a possibility of water contamination.
The Right Way to Boil off the Bad:
- Bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute (three minutes in altitudes > 6,562 feet)
- Allow to cool to room temperature naturally (do NOT use ice to cool)
Although boiling is probably the most effective way to treat water, it is not always a practical possibility. In many emergency situations, electricity will not be available. When preparing for any type of emergency situation, it should never be assumed that electricity will be accessible. In fact, in more times than not, that will not be the case. In natural disasters such as a flood, fire starting will also not be an extremely likely option. The odds will not always be in your favor, it is smart to have an alternative solution to treating unsanitary water. Another good option in these situations is water filtration.
Certain kinds of water filters can remove pathogenic organisms and dangerous chemicals from a water supply. However, most portable water filters cannot purge the water of viruses. Thus, the filtration method often requires a two part system. After filtering the water, the water supply can be further disinfected by way of a chemical disinfectant such as iodine. Iodine tablets, or radiation pills, can be used to further rid the water of infecting agents. When using such tablets, you should follow the manufacturer’s included instructions. When the water is cloudy, the tablet dosage doubles. If the water is extremely cold, strides should be taken to heat it as much as possible.
When accessible, boil your water. However long it may take, watch that pot until it boils hard for at least one full minute, and then let it cool. Boiling water is the easiest, most efficient way to treat water. However, you cannot count on your stove to be working in the midst of a natural disaster. Because of this, you should keep a proficient water filter and chemical disinfectants (such as iodine) handy. Your otherwise dehydrated (or extremely ill) future self might thank you someday.