Water Sources to Avoid


  • Water that is discolored, has debris or unidentifiable substances floating in it, or has a foul odor.
  • Floodwater – By definition, it travels over all sorts of places that are apt to be contaminated, picking up who-knows-what bacteria along the way.
  • Salt water – The salt in sea water dehydrates the body and will kill you if you drink enough of it. However, salt water can be distilled for drinking.

Treating Water for Safety

Rainwater, melted snow, running streams, natural springs and ponds or lakes can be safe sources of water, but they must first be treated. There are numerous ways to make water safe for your consumption:

BLEACH – You can treat water with unscented liquid household bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite. NOTE: bleach powder or color-safe bleach will not work.

Use 8 – 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water

Shake or stir the water and let it sit for 30 minutes

If after 30 minutes the water does not have a slight bleach smell…treat it again

If you still do not get a slight bleach smell, use this water only for cleaning and then only if you must

Do not treat water more than twice – bleach can be poisonous and cause injury

BOIL – If you have no other choice than to use water you haven’t stored or drained from your pipes/water heater, you will need to boil it for five minutes.

DISTILLATION – Distilling water removes all of the microbes, salts, chemicals and heavy metals from water. As the water is boiled the vapor condenses back into water, which is pure. Follow this process to distill small amounts of water:

Fill a pot about half full of water

Tie a cup or other small container to the lid handle in such a way that the container hangs right-side up, and not in the water, when the lid is put on the pot upside-down

The shape of the lid will direct the condensed water into the cup/container

Allow about 20 minutes to allow the cup to get reasonably full

This is a labor-intensive method for getting pure water, and requires lots of effort. (Compact “solar stills” can be found online and can range in price from $100-600).

WATER PURIFIER/WATER FILTER – Making dirty water clean –

Boiling or treating with bleach will kill most microbes, but these procedures will not remove heavy metals, salt and other chemicals. That takes distillation. If your budget allows, purchase a water purifier or water filter (yes, there is a difference).

Purifiers – Only purifiers render viruses inactive, using either an additional chemical or an electrostatic process.

Filters – Filters are refillable but require replaceable after they are spent.

Several sources for lightweight filtering and purifying equipment are outdoor gear, camping, backpacking equipment or outfitter (hunter/fishermen) stores. An online search will give you even more options.

Next>> Month 6: Food