Clean looking water is often not pure. Don’t be fooled. Even clean looking, cool, clear mountain streams often contain giardia, crypto, and other illness-causing microorganisms. Similarly, rainwater runoff from roofs, as well as water gathered from farmland or manufacturing plants, may contain dangerous, hidden chemicals. Even normally safe tap-water and well-water can become unsafe due to a storm or disaster.
Purification Methods for Evacuation (Bug-Out)
There are various water treatment tablets available for water purification, but they are not all equally effective. You need a product that will kill 99.99% of the bacteria in the water, but you also want a product which will kill viruses. Most water filters do not provide this level of purification, nor do most purification tablets. Boiling is ideal, but often impractical in an emergency situation, especially if you are engaged in an evacuation. If you select a method or product other than one of the two methods included below, be sure it offers the same level of effectiveness as these recommended products.
Option 1: Water Purification Filter
There are two water purification filters that we highly recommend for inclusion in a GO-Bag or evacuation kit. There are other excellent filters available, but these two are small and lightweight—and economical.
The Sawyer “MINI” is used like a straw, or it can be inserted between a water bladder and drinking tube, or, used in several gravity-fed methods. (The Sawyer SP160 comes with a MINI and a lightweight collapsible water bladder for gravity-feed operation.) Weighing only 2-ounces, the MINI is capable of purifying 100,000 gallons of water.
The other GO-Bag water filter we recommend is the Sawyer “PointOne Squeeze.” It will also fit in the palm of your hand, but weighs 1-ounce more than the MINI (3-ounces). Both are simple to use. The Sawyer PointOne Squeeze is perhaps a better choice if the goal is to fill water containers. Use: Just fill the included pouch with water, screw the filter onto the water pouch, and then squeeze the bag to filter water directly into your water bottle or canteen. It couldn’t be easier.
Note: Products sold as “water filters” are very different from “water purification filters.” And, not all water purification filters provide the same level of protection, either.
We strongly recommend a filtration system which will kill 99.99% of pathogenic bacteria. Your water filter should be able to remove protozoa, viruses, and bacteria such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli. To accomplish this reliably, you need a filter that is rated at “1-micron absolute.”
When shopping for a water purification filter, be sure to compare apples-to-apples, and don’t believe advertising hype. If you are considering a filter other than the ones recommended here, read the fine print on the product’s packaging.
There are a number of high-quality filters which have not been subjected to costly independent verification. Nevertheless, when you shop, keep in mind that the industry standard is NSF 53 or NSF 58.
Warning: “LifeStraw,” and many other filters promoted for inclusion in evacuation (GO-Bags) and survival kits, in our opinion, are inadequate. Also, many products sold as “water purification filters” do not remove the common bacteria and viruses which are routinely found in water after a disaster. To solve this problem, we recommend purchasing a filter such as the above-recommended filters which provide filtration at the “1-micron absolute” level.
Option 2: Chemical Treatment – Chlorine Dioxide Tablets
‘Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets’ are one of the few truly effective chemical products. They are more effective than Chlorine Bleach, and far more effective than Iodine tablets.
Chlorine Dioxide will kill most protozoa and viruses in 15-minutes, giardia in 30-minutes, and cryptosporidium within 4-hours. Katadyn Micropur is easy to use, and the tablets are packaged in small, individually wrapped foil packets. This makes them ideal for inclusion in a GO-Bag, as well as for a KOP Kit or every-day-carry in a wallet or purse. It is available in both 20-tablet and 30-tablet packages. Both sizes contain individually-wrapped foil-protected tablets.
Redundancy: For adaptability and additional redundancy, many people include both of these methods in their GO-Bag. Or, one of these methods, plus a UV-light treatment device such as a SteriPEN Quantum. (Or, the SteriPEN Quantum UV Water Treatment System which combines basic filtration plus UV purification). This may sound excessive, but since maintaining health is so critical, it is worth considering the use of multiple methods to be sure that your water is pure before drinking it.
Caution: Most water purification methods, including these, are not 100% effective. This is why it is worth the effort to use two top-rated methods back-to-back. This redundancy is also recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). They agree that using two different methods together, is the only way to reliably produce safe drinking water during an emergency situation.
Don’t take chances: Don’t let urgency or fatigue distract you from using safe, pure water for drinking, food preparation, hygiene, taking medications and other medical needs. If you are not 100% sure that the water is pure, purify it.
Be Prepared: These water purification tools are small and lightweight, making them easy to keep close at hand. Since purification filters such as the Sawyer MINI are small, it is easy to keep one in the glove box of your car, your briefcase, sports bag, and your suitcase when you travel. Purification tablets such as Katadyn Micropur, are so small that several can be stored in a wallet, or an entire package can be stuffed in a cosmetics bag or shaving kit for travel, as well as with your every-day-care gear.
It’s a simple task to be prepared to purify water. After personal safety, securing pure drinking water is the #1 need in an emergency situation.
Emergency Situations: During evacuation (bug-out) for a storm, disaster, or any emergency situation, it is best to purify all water before drinking it. Even improperly bottled or stored water can be contaminated.
Waterborne viruses and bacteria can not only make you feel sick, vomit and give you diarrhea, they can also immobilize you at an inopportune time. And, they can quickly create deadly health problems when medical care is limited or unavailable.
Purify your water after storms, floods, and during certain other emergencies. Keep in mind that even normally-pure tap water, and well-water, may not be safe during these times. If you are not 100% confident that the water is pure, purify it.
For more information on water purification, read “Prepared, Ready to Roll – Book 2 & 3” by SIG Swanstrom.