There are two types of water emergencies: Lack of water and compromised water. In Part 1, we covered how to store water in cases where there is a water shortage. Here we will cover what to do in case your water safety is compromised.
A break in the water pipes that allows dirt to get into the water, contamination at the water treatment plant or ground seepage into a well can all compromise the quality and safety of your water. You want to prepare for these cases where you have plenty of water but it’s just not safe to drink.
Three components to water safety
There are three things you want to remove from your water: sediment or particulates (dirt or silt, insects, debris), chemicals (like lead, mercury, chlorine, pesticides and herbicides) and bacteria. Look for filters that will remove all or most of these contaminants.
Boiling water will remove the bacteria but not many chemicals. Purification tablets will will remove bacteria and neutralize some chemicals. But with both these methods you are still left with sediment. You can remove the bulk of sediment by passing the water through several layers of cloth.
The life-span and effectiveness of your filter depends on how much it has to remove. You should always try to remove as much sediment as you can before filtering.
This site will help you compare different water filtering systems and choose what’s best for you and your family.
Personal water filters
These are popular with hikers and you can find them at most sporting-goods stores. Lifestraw is one of the most popular brands and is highly rated. Costing just $20, it is an affordable addition to your 72-Hour Kit. Pictured here is the Katadyn is another brand that is popular with hikers. Many reviewers consider it the premiere personal water filter The Katadyn Vario is a hand-pump filter that removes pretty much all sediment and many chemicals. In murky water conditions, a ceramic disc protects the primary filter. It has an internal carbon filter that reduces chemicals and makes water taste fresh. It costs between $70-$200, depending on the model.
This survival filter is foot-powered (the same idea as the Katadyn Vario) and is a little cheaper than the Katadyn ($60). You can clean and replace the ceramic filter. That makes this a good optiojn when you have a long-term water contamination
Most people consider Berkey the premier gravity water filter, setting the industry standard. It uses micro filters, ceramic filters to remove sediment, chemicals and bacteria.
You can get models that hold from 3-27 gallons of water water. It can filter up to 3000 gallons of water before you need to replace filters. The body is stainless steel, so it always looks nice. Models range in price from $200-$650. Berkey also has less expensive models made of BPA-free copolyester.
There are also lots of Berkey knock-offs. Berkey and Berkey fans will tell you they are not as high quality. I’ll leave that for you to research and decide on your own.
These follow the same principle as the Berkey filters. But since these were developed for use in third-world countries (where water quality is unreliable and people have few resources) they have a bare-bones design. They are designed to be cheap and easy to make and replace. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. This is an effective little filter. It screens out virtually all germs, including the microscopically small criptosporidium and e. coli. It also removes 85-98% of harmful chemicals and other contaminants such as chlorine, fluoride, lead, herbicides and pesticides.
For less than $30, this filter kit and a container is all you need for a good water filter. To put this filter into action, you’ll also need a drill, drill bit and a screwdriver to secure the filter and install the spigot. You can buy just the filter with a plastic spigot or you can buy the filter and purchase a more heavy duty metal or brass fittings at the hardware store. I made mine with a 5-gallon plastic bucket and the plastic spigot that came with the kit. But you could also use a ceramic crock as your filter container. With nice a nice brass spigot, you will have a nice-looking filter that will also keep the water naturally cool. Very handy if there is a power outage
Either way you go, this is a simple, inexpensive way to ensure you have clean water.
Now we come to the Cadillac of purification/filtering systems. Reverse osmosis (RO) filter systems are usually permanently installed or mounted under the sink. A reverse osmosis system will remove sediment, nitrates, arsenic and other potentially harmful contaminants. Water experts consider RO the most thorough of filtering systems.
RO uses three filters, a micro-filter to remove sediment and most bacteria, a semipermeable membrane that removes the smallest bacteria as well as most other contaminant. Lastly is the carbon filter, which removes chemicals that make water taste bad. Most of the carbon filters last for up to six months and the reverse osmosis filter lasts at least a year. The RO water filters must flush water over the membrane during filtering. The membrane only allows the small water molecules to pass, filtering out contaminants. But that means you will use 5 gallons of water to produce a gallon of purified water. Expect to pay $170-$700 depending on size and model.
Point-of-use water filters
There are two kinds of point-of-use filters: faucet or in-sink and counter-top or pitcher styles. Most just use carbon filters to absorb impurities (especially odors). For the faucet or in-sink models, look for one that has International certification from NSF. It will improve the odor and taste of tap water as well as filter out chlorine, lead and other contaminants. Filters last for 200 gallons before you need to replace them. Cost $20-80.
A pitcher or counter-top filter is the least expensive. It also removes the fewest impurities of all the filtering methods. Most filters will process about 50 gallons of water before you need to replace them. Cost $25-45
Last, but certainly not least, let’s look at distilled water. Distillation turns water into steam. When that happens the contaminants no longer remain suspended in the water. Then when the steam condenses back into water, it is virtually free of all contaminants, free from all chemicals, bacteria and particulates. It’s also free of all minerals that normally remain suspended in water. Some people say that that makes distilled water a poor choice for long-term use. The body needs the minerals that are found in water. But nothing beats distillation for producing pure water.
You can buy counter-top distillers for as little as $75. The smaller models typically produce 4 gallons of water a day.
24 hours is kind of a long time to wait for 4 gallons of water Larger models that cost around $600 will produce 7-9 gallons of water a day. Besides costing more, they also take up more space.
But you can make your own distiller following these instructions. Then there’s this site that tells you how to make a solar-powered distiller. It will take even longer to produce a reliable amount of water but, hey! It’s free! And it doesn’t use electricity. So that makes it cool.
Water is life
Don’t take risks with water safety. Make sure that you have a good supply of safe drinking water.