Search This Blog

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Creating “The Plan” – Water – Part #3

The first step in making potable (drinking) water is filtration.  Depending on the overall source and quality of the water this can be a relatively simple and straight forward process or more complex process.  If your municipal water supply is still functioning then you could use off-the-shelf products that contain a replaceable water filter within a water pitcher (brand names not mentioned).  You can find these types of product easily within most grocery stores and supermarkets.  These products can remove microbial cysts, some metals, some pollutants and chemical taste.  However, they can’t make water totally safe by themselves, unless the water was basically okay to begin with.  Filtering basically takes out the debris, some harmful chemicals/metals and other bad things; but, it does NOT treat the water so any microorganisms contained within it are killed.  That’s why I ALWAYS say to do BOTH water filtration AND water treatment.   Let’s look at some other options to do water filtration prior to you doing the water treatments below.

Filtering large particles out of the water can be accomplished with any of the following methods:
  • Punching small holes in the bottom of either a metal can or a plastic bottle and running the water through it first.
  • Using a piece of relatively clean cloth (non-colored is best) and pouring the water through it.
  • Gravel (especially Limestone gravel) – is very effective in removal of larger particles in the water.
  • Paper can be used as a filter too (especially standard Coffee filters); but, will filter slower than the options listed above.

Filtering small particles out of the water requires the use of a filter with VERY small holes like:
  • Sand – Yes, clean, chemical-free sand in sufficient amounts can help filter out a lot of stuff you don’t want in your water.
  • Clay – ever notice how yards with clay always drain so much slower than other yards without as much clay?
  • Charcoal – Yes, good old UNTREATED (natural and chemical-free) charcoal is great for removing impurities in water.
  • Ceramic filters – More expensive than any of the other options above; but, can filter out particles down to 2 microns or less.

A very good “homemade” filtration solution can be created with two (2) clean buckets of identical size (at least 5 gallons or more) with their lids and a spigot that can be attached to one of the buckets. 
  • You will stack the two buckets on top of one another.  The BOTTOM bucket will hold the filtered water.
  • The BOTTOM bucket will have the spigot firmly attached (no leaks) to its side, about 1-2 inches from the bottom of the bucket.  (You might need a drill for this or at least a VERY sharp knife – be careful.)
  • The BOTTOM bucket’s lid will also have a small-medium sized hole created in the center of the lid prior to attaching it to the BOTTOM bucket.
  • The TOP bucket will have some smaller (diameter of a pencil) holes created in the center of its bottom.  These holes need to lineup with the larger hole in the lid of the BOTTOM bucket.
  • You need to fill the TOP bucket with layers of sand, charcoal and gravel almost to the top; leaving about 3-5 inches clear all the way to the top lip of the TOP bucket.  (see diagram)
  • Gravel should be put into the TOP bucket first so that it completely covers the bottom of the TOP bucket to a depth of at least 4-6 inches.
  • Untreated, Chemical-free Charcoal (pellet-sized and NOT ground-up into powder) piece will go into the TOP bucket next on top of the gravel to a depth of at least 12-18 inches (or more).
  • Clean, untreated Sand will be the layer on top of the Charcoal to a depth of at least 6-12 inches.
  • With the TOP bucket AWAY from the BOTTOM bucket pour water into the top and let it run through.  You will notice the water will have the color of charcoal to it.  Keep running water through the TOP bucket until the water runs through clear.
  • Place the TOP bucket on top of the BOTTOM bucket’s lid (centering the holes from the TOP bucket and the BOTTOM bucket’s lid).
  • Pour water into the TOP bucket and let it filter through into the BOTTOM bucket until the BOTTOM bucket is full.
  • Use the spigot on the BOTTOM bucket to get filtered water out that still needs to be treated (purified) before drinking or used in cooking.
  • Keep the lid on the TOP bucket when not filling with non-filter water.

You can also buy “kits” sold without the buckets that contain a spigot and a ceramic filter (used instead of the sand, charcoal pellets and gravel) from some outdoor stores for about $30-$60 dollars.  Additionally, you can also purchase from these same outdoor suppliers, manual pump systems for water filtration that also use a ceramic filter (plus other layers).  These pump systems are generally lightweight and portable compared to the bucket systems above.  Prices for these types of filtration systems are generally in the $80 and higher price range.  Replacement filters for these systems can also be purchased at an additional cost.  However, once the water is filtered I still strongly recommend that you treat it (below).

I’ve mentioned that the water needs to be “treated” several times and while I have explained what I meant, I wanted to repeat myself – since it is such an important part in making sure you (or your loved ones) don’t get sick or die from the water you drink.  You can “treat” (make safer to drink) water in the following ways:

Heat: Boiling the water for 5-10 minutes will usually kill off just about anything living in the water. 

Chemical treatments or Water purification tablets added to water will also kill off the microorganisms usually within 20-30 minutes and sometimes longer (always follow the directions for the product you are using) and it might make the water taste “funny”.  You can usually find these products in Outdoor or Camping supply stores for under $20.   The most common chemical water treatments for water purification are some form of: chlorine, iodine and/or oxidizing chemicals.  All of these chemical water purification options require time to work properly.  Generally the water treatment takes at least 20-30 minutes after adding the chemicals and potentially longer for cold water, since the chemical treatment will work slower in colder temperatures.   Waiting is probably the biggest drawback to this form of water treatment.

  • Chlorine – Probably the least effective, chlorine is somewhat unstable, adds some taste to the water, and leaves behind some chemical residue now associated with a small cancer risk.
  • Household Liquid Bleach that contains at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite can be used.  Do not use scented, color-safe, or bleaches with added cleaners. Add about 3 to 6 drops of bleach per quart of water, mixed thoroughly and allowed to work for 20-30 minutes.
  • Iodine – is another option that is more effective than chlorine; but, leaves behind an unpleasant taste. It isn’t suitable for people with thyroid problems. The awful taste associated with using iodine can be countered by adding ascorbic acid to the treated water; however, this can only be added after the water treatment is complete (30 minutes) since it neutralizes the iodine’s ability to treat the water.
  • Oxidizers – The fastest acting chemical water treatment option.  Oxidizers don’t alter the water’s taste that much and also produce the least amount of “undesirable” chemical residues.  Oxidizers are also generally more expensive than chlorine or iodine.
Ultraviolet (UV) lighting when inserted into the water container will also kill off the microorganisms (timeframe will depend on the quantity of water, size/power of the UV light and the amount of living organisms).  You can readily purchase items from either a Travel store or an Outdoorsman-type store to do this for under $200 and depending on the model you buy perhaps even under $100.  Just be aware that these items require batteries and can also wear out and/or break so having a spare unit or a backup plan is highly recommended if you go this route.

Distillation is another great way to make water safe to drink.  The beauty of distillation is that it not only purifies the water it also filters it.  Yes, this is the ONLY method to combine filtration and purification into one solution.  When you distill water the end product is 100% pure water with absolutely NO microorganisms, chemicals, metals, solids, etc. of any kind.  My friends, this is pure 2H2O2 (water).   See below on how to make a “Solar Still” to be able to distill and purify water.

Plans for making a Solar Still for Water Distillation / Purification

Items you'll need:

  • At least 10 Feet of plastic tubing ideally surgical
  • Plastic (clear) sheeting that is ideally 10 feet X 10 feet in size
  • Clean container (plastic or metal) that has a wide mouth of at least 3 inch diameter (to catch the clean water).
  • Small shovel or gardening-type spade (knife, machete, stick or even your hands will do if you have nothing else).

  1. The solar still must be built in the wettest (dampest) and lowest area available. (in a dry river or stream bed, bottom of a hill, or some other low lying area perhaps with some vegetation). You want to put your solar still in these types of locations because it is where ground water will accumulate and therefore would be the best place for collecting it.
  2. Make sure you have the items listed above with you at all times so that you can create your solar still wherever you are.
  3. Using your shovel (or whatever you have) dig a hole in the ground that is at least 2-3 feet deep and 3-4 feet in diameter. Keep digging until you find damp soil or ground water.  If you don’t, then find another spot and repeat until you do find damp soil or ground water.
  4. Put the clean container in the center and bottom of the newly dug hole.
  5. Now you need to put one end of the plastic tubing into your clean container (make sure you don’t move the container from its stable and centered position in the bottom of the hole or get dirt into it).
  6. Carefully place the plastic sheet over the hole; making sure you cover the hole completely.
  7. Make sure you leave the plastic tubing hanging out of the hole; but, between the ground and the plastic sheet.  
  8. You need to weigh down and seal the plastic sheet that’s covering the hole, so that it is as airtight as possible.  You can use sand, dirt, rocks, and wood (or a combination of all of these things) to help seal things up tightMake sure the free end of the plastic tubing is easily accessible.
  9. Place a weight (small round rock works great) in the center of the plastic sheet.  You want to create the point of a cone that is hanging directly centered above the container – so that the distilled water drips into the container.
  10. As the sun heats up the soil inside your solar still, any water or moisture contained in the soil (or vegetative matter) will evaporate and condense on the plastic. The water will then drip to the lowest portion of the plastic and into the container.
  11. Drink from the container by sucking on the end of the tubing you let hang out of the plastic sheet.
  12. Only water will evaporate and in the distillation process, microorganisms and impurities are not going to be in your container.

Stay tuned for the next BLOG post that will continue with the skeleton framework and will discuss #3 on the list: “Food”.

Survival is a combination of preparedness plus a survival mindset. If you have the WILL to survive, the skills/knowledge to survive, as well as, some planning and preparation ▬ then you will ultimately survive. Don't wait until it is too late or your chances for survival will diminish accordingly. As always, good luck and know I am on your side. ~~ The Survival Guy