Fall Re-runs: Collecting and purifying water from natural sources

The Practical Prepper

As I mentioned previously, my schedule has changed and I am unable to write new posts at this time. While I'm on hiatus, we're re-running the earlier posts from The Practical Prepper. Thank you for your patience and your continued readership!

A few weeks back, we talked about some basics of water storage. The response to that post was quite good, and many people had questions about collecting and purifying water.

So, let's cover some "natural" sources of water and a few manmade methods of collecting or obtaining water. We'll conclude with methods to purify the water from those sources and make it into potable water (i.e., safe to use for drinking and bathing).


Natural Sources of Water

The most common types of natural water sources are obvious enough:

  • Streams, rivers and other moving bodies of water
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Natural springs
  • Rain and snow

Of these, rain and snow are the least reliable, depending on your location's climate. Despite that, rain and snow could be naturally cleaner and safer than the other sources (mainly because they are surface water and more prone to contamination). Snow is less convenient than rain, of course, since you have to melt it before using it. Another nice thing about rain and snow is that you can collect them around your dwelling, minimizing your need to haul water.

As for the surface water sources, the most important thing is to know where your nearest supplies are located. If there are obvious sources (e.g., you have a pond on your property or you like on a lake), that's great, but it's still a good idea to find another nearby source as a backup.

To find your local surface water resources, an obvious place to start is Google Maps (or something equivalent). You can switch between "map" and "satellite" view to locate surface water sources. After finding them, remember that it's important to determine if you can legally access them, i.e., are they private property? If they're not public, you'll want to talk over access in an emergency and/or find other water supplies.


Manmade Methods for Collecting or Obtaining Water

Of course, there are methods that we can put in place to collect and or obtain natural sources of water. Some of the most common of these are:


Purifying Water

Using any water you collect from natural sources, especially groundwater, will need to be purified.

There are commercially available chemicals and devices for purifying water. Examples of water purification chemicals include Aquamira Water Treatment or Chlor-Floc Purification Tablets, whereas the Aqua Pail 1000 filters and treats water.

Of course, there is do-it-yourself purification too. The Red Cross lists the following methods to make your water safer (originally from the Center for Disease Control):

  • Straining: Pour the water through paper towels, a clean cloth or a coffee filter to remove any suspended particles.
  • Distilling: Fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot's lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up inside the pot when the lid is upside-down without dangling into the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
  • Boiling: In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute. Cool it and pour it back and forth between two clean containers to improve its taste before drinking it.
  • Chlorinating: Using household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite (listed on the label) as its only active ingredient, add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) per gallon to water in a large pot or kettle. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, find another source of water and start over.

This is a good starting list, however, I think the EPA's page on Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water is a bit more thorough. It discusses boiling, but also has more detail on chlorinating the water, and also includes information on using iodine to disinfect your water.

A couple of final notes: household bleach, with no fragrances or additives, is what's normally recommended to chlorinate your water. You can read up on bleach at my Self-Reliant Info blog.

The downside of storing liquid bleach is that it has a very short shelf life of less than a year... perhaps as little as 3 months. That means counting on liquid bleach you've stored for a year is dangerous, since it may not be effective for purification.

Happily, there is an easy solution to this. As noted on the EPA's "disinfection" page linked above, it is possible to use granulated calcium hypochlorite to make your own bleach as you need it.



Believing that preparedness and self-reliance are key to individual freedom, Atticus Freeman is the founder of the Self-Reliant Info blog, in addition to authoring The Practical Prepper weekly blog here on Farm Dreams. Thanks for reading!


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Tags: barrel, cistern, collection, disinfection, preparedness, purification, rain, storage, water

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