This article was written for me by a friend from out of state, after having made some inquiries on pure water and the ability to cleanse a large amount of water, either all at once, or smaller amounts over a long period of time. -Corey
Most people just imagine drinking out of a lake or stream. I think they literally picture dipping their cup into their (private) water source, and just drinking it. Maybe the Indians could get away with it, but our immune systems have gotten weak from lack of serious use, and we can’t handle that kind of thing. I've never seen specific research, but I suspect even they had some serious illness/death from that from time to time.
The first step is some kind of a filter. They can range anywhere from a clean sock, to something like a Big Berkey. Even if you’re only collecting rain water from your roof, that water can pick up some nasty things from off of your roof, and needs to be filtered. There are 2 nice thing about roof water; it won’t be as disease-ridden as a pond’s water, and you can collect a lot of it. For a calculator, click here.
Once you’ve collected and filtered your water, you must get rid of the bacteria/viruses in the water itself. Since very few filters clean these out due to their small size, you must kill them.
The best solution is obviously boiling. Since most of us aren’t surrounded by massive forests that can be accessed, and many situations that involve a cutoff of water involve a cutoff of electricity, that’s out of the question.
For me, the solution is to store calcium hypochlorite powder, and use it only if necessary. Again, make sure you’ve filtered it first very well. The cloudier your water is, the more chlorine it takes. (Chlorine isn’t the best for you since it’s so corrosive, so you don’t want to be adding any more than you need.)
Sodium hypochlorite and calcium hypochlorite are the easiest ways to get chlorine to purify your own water. Sodium hypochlorite is a liquid, commonly called bleach, while calcium hypochlorite is a powder (the main ingredient in most pool shocks). Either one works, and both are equally good, but they have their advantages/disadvantages.
|Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)||Calcium hypochlorite (pool shock)|
|Easier to store||More expensive||Cheaper||Harder to store|
|Less suspicious sellers||Sooner expiration||Later expiration||More suspicious sellers|
|Easier to measure||Harder to measure|
The easiest to buy/store/use is regular bleach. You will want to leave the bottle unopened, as doing so aids in the deterioration process. You don’t want bleach with any chemicals added. You don’t want bleach with “watermelon scent”. You want regular unscented bleach. Also, the idea of using bleach isn’t reserved to the prepper group. I just went through a Harris county emergency response class, and they briefly spoke about it. Also, its use is referred to on the FEMA website here. If you’re looking for the ratios of bleach-to-water, they are listed at the bottom of the page.
Even more than bleach, I like calcium hypochlorite, the major component of pool shock. It has some major disadvantages, though. There are horror stories on the internet about it rusting through ammo cans and penetrating into/out of plastic buckets. The way I understand it, the best way to store it is in a glass bottle with a glass lid in a shed where you have no food, and no metal items. That seems a little overdoing it to me, but I don’t know. I have mine still in the original sealed bag, then sealed in 2 ziplocs, 1 inside of the other, then all that is in one of those glass jars with the metal clamps that clamps the glass lid with the rubber seal against the mouth of the jar. Then, I double wrapped the whole thing in trash bags, and zip tied it shut. Another disadvantage is when you go to buy it. I triggered a few odd looks when I was looking for it. For some reason, the Wal-Mart near me had a certain brand that had what appeared to be chemicals in it. I think I found what I was looking for a Leslie’s pool supply store near me. I know the clerk was worried about me, because right away, he asked me what kind of pool I was getting it for, and I told him I didn't have a pool, and that I was getting it to purify water. He was very helpful, and printed out the hazard sheet on it. I made sure to pay in cash, just in case he started wondering if I was a terrorist with some big ideas. The last disadvantage is because it's so potent, it’s very easy to add too much or too little when purifying smaller amounts of water.
Despite the major disadvantages above, it’s still my top pick for a few reasons. First of all, it’s cheap; I paid under $5 for a 1 pound bag of it. ¼ ounce will purify about 100 gallons, so a 1 pound bag will purify roughly 6,400 gallons, or enough for a family of 4 to use just over 4 gallons each per day for a year. If you tried to store that much water, it would weigh over 26 tons, and take up 850 cubic feet. That’s a lot of water purified for $5!
There are a few warnings I need to give about using this stuff.
1. In high enough concentrations, it WILL kill you. In low enough concentrations, it won’t be effective. Since we aren’t depending on this to survive yet, we don’t have experience in telling how much to use. Most people seem to advocate using 1 tsp of pool shock for 100 gallons of water, but others say just to add more powder until you smell it.
2. Don’t store water you’ve added bleach to in plastic. I’ve heard that it will break down the plastic and the water will absorb it. Personally, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. With the tiny amount of chlorine present, I don’t think it would do that much to the plastic.
3. Opened liquid bleach breaks down into water and chlorine gas. That means it loses its potency. If you’ve had a opened bottle of bleach under the sink for the last year, it might work, but it might take double the dosage. That’s another advantage to using the pool shock powder, since it lasts longer.
4. Although chlorine kills viruses and bacteria, it won’t kill cysts. Cysts are hard-shelled bacteria that build a shell to protect themselves against hostile environments, then, when they are in a more favorable environment, they break down the shell, and go about their business. The best way to kill cysts is to boil water for at least 1 minute.
5. Use more in cloudy water. Again, I’m not going to give you a 'for sure' dosage, since I’m not a scientist who studies this type of thing, but it loses its effectiveness when you are using cloudy water.
There are a bunch of numbers out there for what ratios to use, so I’m going to write down a few, and links to the places where I got them, so you can decide for yourself who to trust.
(Since very few people use anything other than bleach, I didn't have as many sources to recommend, but both the EPA and Survivalblog do)
So, print this article out, and go buy some pool shock or bleach (with cash!)