5 Different Methods To Purify Water
If you’re looking to be able to have supplies of drinkable water, you may have to purify water to be able to drink it. There are a number of different ways to do so, and each has their upsides and downsides, so you need to be aware of those.
Ideally, you should have the tools and capability for multiple methods. Some methods are best for when you’re on the move, others for when you’re staying put in a home or other shelter, and some work everywhere.
Just like having one of the best guns for preppers and knowing how best to use them, being able to purify and store water is another essential survival skill. You’ll die without it. So let’s get into this…
Bring The Heat: Boiling To Purify Water
The oldest method in the book is to boil water to purify it. The most proven method for killing bacteria is heat (enough heat will kill anything) as it will rid water of germs.
Bear in mind, however, that boiling as a purification method is terribly inefficient. You have to bring the water to a boil and keep it there for at least 10 minutes in order to kill any bacteria off, which means you’ll lose a significant amount to steam. Additionally, you’ll consume a lot of fuel, which might be a scarce resource, depending on your situation.
It works, but – as mentioned – it’s not the most efficient method.
Reverse Osmosis: Best Method To Purify Water In The Home
When sheltering in place, especially in a permanent structure such as a house, one of the best methods to purify water is by reverse osmosis. Essentially it’s a fancy filtering process, wherein water is passed through a semipermeable membrane. The membrane only allows the smallest of particles to pass through, more or less only allowing water molecules to do so.
Typically, it’s a two-stage process, with a high-pressure and low-pressure filter. The membrane removes bacteria and other contaminants to a far greater degree than any other filtration method. However, it comes at a cost.
Reverse osmosis filters for one are fairly expensive. As a long term solution, you also need to have enough filters on hand for long-term use without resupply, and they require sufficient pressure to work. Reverse osmosis filters are also terribly inefficient; typically you’ll get 1 part fresh water for every 10 of unfiltered.
There are some portable systems for backpackers and other uses, but keep in mind that these are more emergency systems rather than long-term solutions.
Iodine Will Purify Water…But Won’t Taste Great
Another method is to use iodine to purify water. However, iodine does come with the caveats that A. your water is not going to taste great and B. that ingesting too much over a long period is not great for your health.
Granted, you need a certain amount in your diet, which is why a lot of table salt is iodized. Adults typically need at least 150 micrograms per day, but more than 1100 micrograms per day can become toxic, so that’s something to be aware of.
You can opt for iodine tablets or tinctures for purification purposes. The latter is better for large-scale applications, such as if you’re purifying whole drums for long-term usage or storage.
Other Water Filtration Systems
Other water filtration systems are available that are a little less precise than reverse osmosis. Popular types include activated charcoal and sand filtration. These are the typical filtration systems for common household water purifiers. You know, the kind that come with their own pitcher.
While these filters are somewhat effective, they aren’t as effective as other methods for removing biological contaminants, e.g. bacteria. Therefore, unless you know your source to be free of contaminants, but just need to be able to get trace minerals and so on out of it, these aren’t the best methods for water purification.
Another method is to use UV disinfection. Ultraviolet light can be used to purify water, but your standard blacklight or what have you is not sufficient. There are plenty of UV water purification systems on the market, so you can get one for the home and even for portable use. UV disinfection is almost as effective as reverse osmosis, though not quite as effective as boiling, but is still a viable method.
However, as with other systems, there are some drawbacks.
First, power is required so you will need to be able to use a power source of some kind. Second, there are some consumables involved as you’ll need to have a stockpile of bulbs on hand, enough to last the amount of time you foresee having to use your UV filtration system. Third, brackish or other dirty water should be filtered for larger contaminants and boiled until it’s clear.
You also need to get the right filtration system for your purposes; portable systems are meant for short-term use only, so you shouldn’t rely on them for a homestead or long-term filtration.