Water is essential for human life, just as much as the air you breathe. You can go without food for maybe three weeks if you have water by your side the entire time.
But without water, you can survive a maximum of seven days. No matter how remote of an area you are in, and how clean and fresh the stream, lake, or river water looks, it may still be carrying viruses, bacteria, protozoa, or parasitic elements which can end up leading to dehydration, diarrhea etc.
Today’s water purifiers can take care of much of these harmful viruses through mechanical filters, but let’s say you lost your pack. Knowing how to purify water the natural way is an absolutely essential survival skill, one that will help you endure a lot if the need to do so arises.
In case of survival situations, as obvious as it may seem, finding a water source is your primary concern. Most water sources you find should be considered dirty (river, streams, creeks, ponds, lakes, rain, ice, and even fresh snow) and purified as much as possible to be certain you won’t become ill. So, how do you purify water the natural way?
The first thing to do is filter the water. You can create a natural filter using various types of sand and grasses along charcoal or carbon you can readily get from a campfire. Running the water you’ve found through a carbon charcoal filter is a great way to remove sediments, potentially harmful contaminants, and to improve water taste. It’s quite simple to make one actually.
Using a plastic bottle, cut off the bottom while making a small hole in the bottle cap. Add a piece of fabric first. Obtain fresh charcoal that has cooled completely and crush just enough to have powder as well as small bits. Pack it in tightly as much as you can. Finish it off with a couple of inches of tightly-packed grass or sand, and another piece of fabric. Now, place the filter above your future water container, fill it with water and be patient. If you’ve done it right, it will drip through slowly. It might not be perfectly clear the first round, so do it again if necessary.
Boiling the water you’ve found is probably the safest way in the wild to make it drinkable after you’ve filtered it. According to the CDC and FDA, a rolling boil for one minute kills most pathogens and makes the water safe to drink. If you’re in higher elevations, add two more minutes. Once cooled, pour it into a clean container and enjoy.
Let’s say you don’t have luck starting a fire. How to purify water the natural way? Make a simple, yet effective, distillation pit for gathering water. Make a hole in damp dirt or sand and set your water container in the middle. Spread anything plastic you may have over the hole (clean part towards your container). Secure the edges and try filling any small holes you may have. Once secured add a heavy object, a rock or something, in the center. Make sure it does not touch the ground or your container. It is set there to make an angle so water rolls into your container. Keep in mind your distillation pit position should be in moist ground (add green plants or even urine if not) and exposed to the sun. It is a painfully slow process, and not as safe as boiling, but it delivers.
Again, if you are not able to start a fire and you have a clear plastic water bottle at your side, use the power of the sun. The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Sciences and Technology confirmed the effectiveness of this method. Simply fill your PET bottle with water and place it in the sun for at least six hours, even if the outside temperature is low. The sun’s ultraviolet rays kill parasites, bacteria, and viruses in water. It does have its downside; it does not help with chemical contamination. But if the surroundings dictate it, use it.
No one can predict when you’ll need to know how to purify water at any given time, but you can save yourself the eventual trouble and remember to carry a water purifier or purification tablets with you. They will save you a lot of time and trouble should something happen. If not, remember that boiling water is the safest way to purify water naturally. Every other option will raise the odds of survival as well.<
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