Without water, a human adult will die within 3 days. That's only 72 hours, and highlights a very important fact about survival - preparing multiple water sources is fundamental to good prepping. If you look around your home right now, how much water do you have on hand? Typically, the average American family will not even have enough to cover their water needs for a single day. But storing it isn't always the problem. Perhaps you have a well that taps the water basin, a rain water tank, or a stream running through your property, but it's not safe to drink. Access to water isn't enough, for it to be of any use to you it must be clean enough to drink. Hospital admissions following a short-term emergency always spike, thanks to the water-borne pathogens the general population ingests because they're just not prepared. If you want to keep you, and your family safe in a crisis, you need to know how to purify your own water - so no matter what happens to the source, you've always got clean water to drink.
How to purify any water source
Boil the waterThe first step is to kill any bacteria that may be present in your water. The easiest way to do this is to boil it, as this eliminates many of the toxins and pathogens that are living in your water supply. You need to keep the water at a fast rolling boil for at least 5 minutes for this method to a have full effect, and then let it cool before pouring through the filter we'll teach you to build. It's true that you don't always need this first step, as the activated charcoal filter you will build also eliminates bacteria, but in a survival situation the team at APE survival wholeheartedly believe that "two is one, and one is none," especially when it comes to a staple as important as water. If you get sick in a disaster it may be your final straw.
Filter the waterThe next step is to remove any minerals, or particles that may be polluting your water source. Get your hands on two solid containers to build your device, and mark them clearly as "filter" and "clean water." This technique works really well with large buckets (that have lids with a lip on them) so they can stack on top of each other and not spill water everywhere while its working. You should also buy a small plastic spigot (a tap) to fix into the side of the bottom bucket to make it easy to get at your clean water supply.
- Take the lid off your clean water bucket, place it over the bottom of the filter bucket (imagine how they would stack together). Now we're going to drill 6-8 holes between the two buckets to allow the filtered water to seep through. One you finish drilling, make a mark that indicates where the lid and the filter bucket line up (it will come in handy later). If you like, you can make the holes in the lid a little larger than the seep holes in your filter, just ensure you keep your seep holes under a half an inch.
- Next, we're going to build the filter element. Line the bottom of your filter bucket with a piece of 100% cotton to keep any of the filter components getting into your clean water supply, an old (but clean) plain cotton t-shirt works wonders for this. Coffee filter paper also works, but this is not as durable if you want to do more than a few rounds of filtration.
- Cover the cotton with at least 3 inches of crushed, activated charcoal.
- Cover the charcoal with at least 3 inches of sand.
- Cover the sand with at least 3 inches of rough gravel.
- Your filter bucket should now be around half full with the elements you've stacked inside. This filter works using gravity, as the water trickles through the progressively finer layers any harmful particles get trapped, so your end product is clean, drinkable water.
- If you bought a tap to fix to your clean water bucket, drill out the bucket and fit it in now. It's fairly straightforward to do this, just be sure to add a little silicone sealer around the hole to ensure there's no leakage once it's fitted into the bucket.
- Next, put the lid back on your clean water bucket.
- Now, stack your filter on top of the lid of your clean water bucket, and line it up with the holes you drilled earlier.
- Carefully pour your boiled (but now cooled) water into the top of your filter, adding enough in so that the water level of the filter reaches almost to the top of the bucket.
- Step back and admire your work as your gravity-fed filtration device starts working.
- WARNING: Never, ever drink the first batch of water you filter, as there's a chance it may have very fine particles still inside. For good measure run three sets of boiled water through your new filter setup to ensure its all working properly.
- From here, all you need to do is pour in your boiled water into the top of the filter, and enjoy the clean water that drains through and into the clean water bucket on the bottom. It's quite easy to get clean water, right?
Three final tips
- If you're worried about leakage between the two buckets, you can fix the two together with silicone sealer or a solvent cement to stop any overflow, though if there is a lip on the lid of your bucket, and you don't store filtered water in your "clean" bucket before you start another round of filtration, it should never overflow.
- Activated charcoal is readily available to buy, however if you don't get around to sourcing yourself a supply before the SHTF, it's not something you can easily make at home. In a pinch, you can substitute with normal wood charcoal, and while it's not as effective (wood charcoal is less porous), it can still help to remove impurities in your water. If you are only using wood charcoal in your filter, it's very important to follow this up with chemical treatment to ensure your drinking water is safe.
- Keep a bottle of regular, unscented household bleach with your water purification system, and add 8 drops of bleach to every gallon of water you have filtered. Stir the water well, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before you drink it.