A few tricks to keep your water clean in an emergency

A water filter will improve the taste and smell of your water, however, it will not remove all contaminants or bacteria. If your water source is compromised you’ll need to purify the water before drinking it. Water can become contaminated by flooding and major storms. 

Do not drink water that has a strange smell or dark color. If your tap water smells of chlorine it’s safe to drink. That indicates your water agency has increased the chlorine content to combat microorganisms.

Before purifying your water you should use a bandana or coffee filter to remove visible contaminants if it is cloudy or has visible contaminants.

Boil your water

The best tasting, easiest method for purifying water is to boil it. In a large pot or kettle, or your single-walled water bottle, bring the water to a rolling boil for one full minute. Keep in mind that some water will evaporate, so boil a little more than you need. Let the water cool before drinking.

Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This trick will also improve the taste of water in your water storage containers.

Use bleach to purify water

Another highly reliable method for purifying water is something every home has, bleach. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 6 or 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.

Don’t wait for a disaster to try and figure out the math. Write the number of drops/teaspoons of bleach needed, in permanent ink, on the outside of each water storage container.

Add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water if the water is clear, or 16 drops if the water is cloudy. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let it stand another 15 minutes. 

Travel water purifiers

While boiling and chlorination are very reliable methods of purifying water, travel purifiers are a quick and easy way to purify water.

A purifier will have a cartridge with microscopic pores that catch debris, protozoa and bacteria. These will become clogged over time and need to be replaced; so be sure to carry extra cartridges. Most purifiers use chemicals, such as iodine, to kill viruses which are too small to be captured by the cartridge. There are purifiers that use ultraviolet light to kill viruses but these don’t filter the water and require batteries. Many purifiers also include activated carbon which will help remove unpleasant tastes.

To choose the right travel purifier, consider its weight, how quickly it will purify water for your size group, the level of effort for maintenance, how easy it is to use, and, finally, cost. There are models that use pumps, some that you drink through, and some that use gravity to do the work for you. All of these have tradeoffs. If you haven’t used one before, buy a cheap one and learn what you don’t like about it. This will help you find the right one for you.

What can you do right now?

Make a commitment to pick up one water filter and add it to your Go bag. The goal is not to be done, but to do one little thing today that makes you better prepared for the future.