By Richard Douglas
Water helps everything grow and thrive – including bacteria, viruses,
Water-related illness is a huge concern, especially for the young and the old, killing
nearly 3.4 million people each year. And once you’re sick, staying hydrated while you’re
“getting sick” is a massive challenge as-is, which becomes that much greater when
Common symptoms from drinking contaminated water are “Montezuma’s Revenge,”
diarrhea, vomiting, cramps. An E coli infection can be fatal and kills here in the US each
year (usually through uncooked meat).
Staying hydrated while your body deals with these contaminants is a real challenge
because you’re pooping and puking all your water up. When SHTF and water supplies
are in limited, dehydration is a serious threat to your health.
For example, I visited Egypt a couple years back to tour the country. Did a bit of hunting with my .338 Lapua rifle which was equipped with a nice long range scope. But while I was there, I got REALLY sick from contaminated water.”
But while I was there, I got REALLY
sick from contaminated water. The only way I can describe the feeling is to imagine
eating broken shards of glass. And then setting the shards of glass on fire. It felt like my guts were being cut apart, and nothing helped. It lasted several days – even though I
was taking a very strong antibiotic for it – and basically took me out of commission; I
needed a bathroom OFTEN!
In a SHTF scenario without an antibiotic, good hydration, and a bathroom, I’d have been in some serious trouble. Knowing how to purify water adds to the confident mindset
needed to survive. Here’s a list of what you need to treat, and how. Below this list are
more detailed instructions on how to use these treatment methods to purify water most effectively.
The Bad Guys
The greatest source of water contaminants is a fecal waste. Everybody poops, and it
takes very little fecal waste to make water undrinkable. All of these microbes come from
human and/or animal fecal waste:
Protozoa – several types, including:
● Giardia lamblia
Boiling kills these bugs. Iodine or chlorine does not. Filtration must have a “cyst
reduction” rated filter, and then is effective.
Bacteria – including:
● E. coli
Boil these bugs to death! Iodine or chlorine will kill these too. Filtration only has
“moderate” success with removing these.
Viruses – including:
● Hepatitis A
Filtration will NOT kill viruses! Iodine or chlorine is effective at killing viruses. Here’s a
list of how to use these treatment methods most effectively.
Method #1: Boiling
The oldest method for making water safe to drink is by boiling.
Keeping water at 165 degrees for one minute will kill off any bacteria, viruses, and
microbes like protozoa. When at altitudes greater than 2000 meters (roughly 6,600 feet
above sea level) you must boil water for at least 3 minutes.
But two big problems with this method during SHTF: time and fuel.
It takes time to treat water this way, and burns up fuel that could be used for cooking
and heat. Also, it doesn’t improve the taste of the water, or remove any of the “gunk” in
it. You’ll want to filter the water first, through a cloth, to remove any gunk.
Method #2: Ultraviolet Light
This is a newer technology and is good to treat small amounts of relatively clean water,
where your concern is only bacteria and other microbes.
You insert the UV pen into your container for a few seconds and this will kill off these
microbes and purify water. But if your water is cloudy, or has dirt, debris, or gunk in it,
the light won’t get through, and won’t be effective. You could be at risk.
Best to filter this water somewhat, even running it through a porous fabric like a sock, to
filter away most of the light blocking debris. This also doesn’t alter the taste and is
suggested for small amounts of water only.
Method #3: Chemical
Iodine or chlorine tabs have been in use for a long time.
The AquaMira Military Water Purification Tablets might cost a little more, but you’re
getting what you pay for. Also, because these tabs are individually packaged, you don’t
have to worry about the remaining product becoming less effective from being exposed
to the air (like if it were in a bottle).
One of the biggest concerns with buying chemical purifiers is the expiration date. Make sure your packs have one (some other companies don’t list there’s).
Using this every day to treat your water won’t be good for you over the long haul,
though. You don’t want to be taking either of these chemicals into your body every day!
Also, pregnant women and people with a thyroid condition must not use this method.
And it will alter the taste of the water.
Method #4: Mechanical Filtration
Removes the sediments and “gunk,” and can get out the bacteria and microbes. But this
won’t remove viruses!
The most effective mechanical filtration systems must have the highest rating filters.
The Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System is VERY popular, and a good overall
One of the reasons this filter is popular because it will filter 100,000 before needing a
filter change. It’s small and compact, lightweight and easy to carry, and has a very
attractive price point of under $20. However, if you’re in an area where virus-
contaminated water is a concern you’ll need a secondary system to kill these off.
Method #5: Sunlight
In an emergency, sunlight can make water safe to drink.
First, filter off the water through a cloth so the water isn’t cloudy. Then place water in
clear plastic jugs on a reflective surface like aluminum foil in very bright sunlight for at
least 6 hours.
None of these methods address chemical contamination. This infographic has great
suggestions on treating water, as well as storing clean water:
[Paste Infographic here]
Here’s a video showing how to make swamp water drinkable: https://youtu.be/eOxZrCAPhok
Richard Douglas is survivalist and firearms nut. He’s work has appeared on large
publications like The National Interest, Daily Caller, American Shooting Journal, and
more. He’s also the founder of Scopes Field, a blog where he reviews various firearms