According to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) of 2008, “At any one time, more than half the poor of the developing world are ill from causes related to hygiene, sanitation and water supply. Diarrhoeal disease alone kills six thousand children every day.” Now, you may think something like, “that’s sad, but what does it have to do with me?” Well, think for a moment what will happen in developed countries if the grid went down? Look at what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina!
Having access to clean water and good sanitation is vital for people on every continent of the world, and often something that we take for granted. So what do we do in a SHTF scenario? How do we stay safe, and how do we treat people if they turn up with some type of infectious diarrhea?
Let’s take this one step at a time, today we will discuss clean water. We know it’s essential, but how do we get it? Water storage is one option, a good one at that, but let’s face it, we don’t all have room for a giant water tank in our back yard. So then we need to talk about how to clean water.
If there is debris in the water, you will need to strain it. This can be done with a coffee filter or through several layers of cheese cloth. Afterwards, you have to kill any potential bacteria. There are many commercial products to do just that. (Look for future posts under the product reviews section!) But, what do you do if you find yourself without one of these products. One of the best ways would be to bring it to a full rolling boil for at least one full minute, and then allow it to cool. As we know, this is not always possible.
If you don’t have fuel or something to cook with you can disinfect the water with household bleach. This will kill most, but not all disease-causing organisms. You need to be sure and use chlorine bleach that is NOT scented and doesn’t have any other additives such as color-safe bleach, or bleach cleaners! Most household chlorine bleaches have 4-6 percent available chlorine, in which case add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water (2 drops per liter), stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Check the label; if the percentage of available chlorine is around 1 percent, or you don’t know what the percentage is, use 40 drops per gallon/ 10 drops per liter; if the percentage is 7-10 percent, use 4 drops per gallon or 1 drop per liter. You will need to double the amount of chlorine if the water is cloudy, murky, or colored, or if the water is extremely cold. If, after sitting covered for 30 minutes, the water doesn’t have a slight chlorine odor, repeat the dosage and let sit for another 15 minutes.
Water can also be disinfected with iodine. This treatment is less effective than using chlorine and people who are allergic to shell fish may also be allergic to iodine. Specifically, it has shown to be less effective in controlling Giardia, but some treatment is better than none. Add 5 drops of 2 percent iodine (from the medicine chest or first aid kit) to every quart or liter of clear water; add 10 drops if the water is cloudy. Let the solution stand for at least 30 minutes.
The last method I want to discuss today is Solar Water Disinfection. This in my opinion would be a last ditch effort to clean my water, but again it’s would be better than nothing. Pour the filtered water into a clean, plastic container, anything from a zip-lock bag to a plastic PET bottle, and then allow it to sit in direct sunlight for at least 6 hours. Putting it on top of a reflective emergency blanket or on top of a hot rock may be better.
Once you have disinfected your water, what do you do with it? How do you keep it clean? One thing to keep in mind is making sure that the containers you keep your water in are properly disinfected. You will need to clean them with dish soap and clean water, and then disinfect them with a bleach/water solution. Add 1 tsp. to a quart of water and rinse all water containers and lids, making sure that all parts come in contact with the solution for at least 15 seconds.
Containers are clean, water is clean now what about the taste? You can improve the flavor of purified water, if needed. Boiled water can taste “flat”, and disinfected water can have a strong chlorine taste. Aerate it by pouring it from one clean container to another several times. Alternatively, add a pinch of salt to each quart or liter of water.
If the flavor is still unpleasant, use a powdered drink mix, if available. You can
also make an herbal tea to help people drink it better.
The last thing to consider, is keeping your water source clean. Once the water in a container has been purified, you must take care to open and close the container carefully. Don’t touch the inside or the rim with your fingers, or else the water could become contaminated. Keep the kids out of it, unless they are old enough to handle it safely. They may want to help, but keeping the water clean is too important.
I hope you find this helpful, and come back next week for the second part where we will discuss sanitation! Survivalist JacLynn signing off!