The tough keep going: water is life!

(TFC– Society is a fragile and fickle structure. The resources needed to sustain life come to us through an elaborate, delicate, and completely interdependent system of logistics. Like a house of cards, one piece slipping can bring it all crashing down. How can four hundred million people survive when our way of life comes to an end? The short answer is; they can’t. The following article will outline some of the ways you can stay hydrated and healthy when the taps run dry. We all know that water is at the top of the hierarchy of needs, you can not survive more than a few days without it. Make sure water is among the first things you plan for. If you haven’t already, sit down with your family and a map, determine where the local sources of water are and take a trip to scope them out now while you have the chance.

I am going to focus primarily on long-term (2weeks+) survival in this article. In my opinion, anyone who finds them self in a 3-day blackout and dies from dehydration is simply proving Darwin right. Those of you who live in a major metropolitan area may want to take this short-term water shortage very seriously. There is very little food and even less water available in major cities if the lights go out or supply chains are disrupted. A simple solution of maintaining a couple dozen 24 packs of bottled water will suffice for short emergencies

First and foremost we need to acknowledge that boiling your water is the safest and most effective way of sterilizing it. You should always boil water in a survival situation for at least 3 minutes. Make sure it’s a good rolling boil, not simply a gentle simmer. Filtration and chemical sterilization can be useful, but they do not compare to boiling. Many bacteria and virus can survive iodine and chlorine, so despite the inconvenience of it, you should even boil water that has been run through the best filters.

If you are in the wilderness you may be tempted to drink from that crystal clear mountain stream, don’t do it. There could be a bear defecating or an antelope rotting in the stream just around the last bend. When selecting a location you should look for the area with the clearest water. If there is no clear water try to at least find a place along the bank where the sediment has settled. Nothing like grit and dirt to ruin a refreshing drink. Always look around carefully for rotting carcasses and industrial pollutants around your water source. If there is a chemical drum floating ten feet away you should consider moving to another location. Rainbow colored film on the water is a sign of chemical pollution and should be avoided, some chemicals can kill you very quickly and boiling doesn’t help at all.

If you are in a city, you are screwed. Okay, maybe not necessarily. There are a lot of unconventional sources to be exploited. First, you should try every tap around you. Look to the outdoor hose bibs, they are lower than any other fixture in a house. Even if the taps are dry you could get a gallon or more from the hose bib. The next option is a water heater, most people think that if there is no water coming from the tap, there is no water. This is simply not true. Your water heater likely has 50+ gallons of drinkable water that can be accessed from the valve at the bottom. If the water still doesn’t flow, unscrew the entire valve from the heater and shove a stick in the hole. Rust and lime often clog the valves. Anything more than five days after the power goes down you should start boiling and filtering your water even from the water heaters since the chlorine has evaporated and the water may be stagnant.

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What should I buy now to help me in a survival situation? Glad you asked. My personal favorite short-term water filter is the Life Straw. Cheap and easy to find, this little filter will give you 1,000 liters of almost perfectly safe water without the need to boil except in the most disgusting cesspools. A careful person could survive a year with nothing but a single filter. If you are interested in a more sustainable and large scale solution a gravity fed reverse osmosis system might be for you.

I can honestly tell you that you will definitely regret not have a solution to water filtration in advance. So take this information to heart. Prepare now and be ready when the SHTF. Buy a system and lots of extra filters. If you didn’t see this article before the SHTF and are now struggling to find safe water that is not too disgusting to drink, here are a couple of simple methods to get you by.

Obviously, you have to boil your water, but sometimes even after boiling water can taste so bad that it is almost impossible to stomach. To remove the smell and some of the bad taste you will need to return to your fire. Pull out some coals that haven’t turned to ash yet. Break them apart after they cool until they are a pile of gravel-sized chunks. The smaller the better, your goal should be pea sized pieces. You will need enough of this to fill up a gallon-sized container. Now you will need a gallon sized container. Cut the top off the container so that you can work on the inside. Find some cloth, the tighter the weave the better, coffee filters work well.

Image Source: Susanne Nilsson, Flickr, Creative Commons
Sparkling water

Use a needle to puncture five small holes in the bottom of the container in one corner. First, boil the material for five minutes then place the filter material at the bottom corner of the container over your holes. Use several layers if you can, the more the merrier. Now puncture a hole in the top of the container on the opposite side from your drop holes in the bottom. You will hang the container over your canteen using some rope through this hole. Once you have hung the container, place the charcoal into the container. It will be leaning, so only fill the container with charcoal up to the lowest point of the rim.

Now you can pour in your pre-boiled water. The first few runs through the filter may pick up some black dust. You can drink this, but I suggest throwing it out as long as you have plenty more water. Soon you will notice that your water is coming out significantly cleaner than it went in. The charcoal should also remove almost if not all taste and smell. Whatever you do, do not ever run unboiled water through this filter. If you do, you have just contaminated your filter and will now have to diehard it or start boiling your water again after filtration. Come back for more next week including how to make a still.

If you should find yourself in a situation where a fire is absolutely out of the question look for a pool. Most of the time if there is a pool there are chemicals. In a pinch, you can use these chemicals to render your water safer. Please keep in mind that some bacteria can survive a chemical treatment and you should boil your water whenever possible. That being said you can fill a bucket with water, drop a chlorine tablet(looks like a giant aspirin) into the bucket, stir for five minutes, let stand for 24. Hours then drink up. Iodine also works to treat water, you can find the mixing table here and here.

Check back next week and we will discuss using a still to get the cleanest tasting water possible.