Over 70 percent of the Earth's surface is water, but less than 4 percent of that is fresh water. Luckily, we have systems in place so that we can get clean and fresh water. But when those systems fail, you need to know how to purify water.
Access to clean water, or lack thereof, can affect everything from the amount of water you can drink to basic sanitation. You might think of pure water as a given, but that's not always the case.
If you know how to purify water, you don't have to worry so much about the water that you come across.
What's in Your Water?
Water is important. You have to drink enough water throughout the day to keep from getting dehydrated. But you shouldn't drink just any water.
While it would nice if all water were safe to drink, that's just not the case. You can find a lot of different things in your water, some of it is safe, and some is not.
If you know how to purify water, you won't have to worry so much about the water you get.
There are a few different types of contaminants that you might find in your drinking water. The first type of contaminant is a physical contaminant. That includes sediment or organic materials from lakes and streams.
Another type of contaminant is primarily chemical. Bleach, salt, pesticides, and drugs can all affect your water supply.
The third type covers biological contaminants. Examples include microbes like bacteria or viruses.
Finally, your water can also have radiological contaminants. These are unbalanced chemical elements that can emit radiation. Plutonium and uranium are a couple of examples.
A contaminant like salt might be okay in small quantities, but any amount of viruses or radiological contaminants can cause issues. Understanding how to purify water can limit your risk of consuming and using contaminated water.
While it can be hard to get water that is 100 percent pure, the cleaner your water, the safer it will be to drink or use for other purposes.
Of course, you need to drink enough water, but the quality of your water matters as well. If you have plants or crops to grow, you will also want pure water. Watering your crops with contaminated water can negatively affect your produce and, later, you.
You can get purified water in the form of bottled water, or you can purify the water yourself. Doing it on your own will probably be cheaper and easier for larger amounts of water.
Without access to clean water, you can suffer. Don't drink water or use it for other needs unless you know it's safe. If you know how to purify water, you can get safe water almost anywhere.
Your Life's at Stake
It may sound dramatic, but it's true. Your life's at stake when you drink water, safe or unsafe. So you need to be picky about the water you consume and use in and around your home.
Knowing how to purify water is a simple yet essential skill that many people don't have. Whether you're out and about or at home, you will need water eventually.
And you don't want to dip into your emergency water supply unless you have no other choice. Pure water is essential if you want to drink, bathe, or water your plants.
Water is tasteless
Some may argue that different water tastes different, but overall, it's all very similar. For the most part, water doesn't taste like anything.
An easy way to tell if your water is contaminated is to smell it or look at it. Certain contaminants will affect the water's smell or appearance. Contaminants can also change how the water tastes, but that's not a safe way to test your water.
Being able to tell if your water is safe or not is super important, especially if your water supply is low.
Contaminants can be hard to detect
Unfortunately, some contaminants are tasteless. Coliform bacteria and nitrate are not only tasteless but also odorless and invisible.
That means only a special test can detect these contaminants. Just because your water looks or tastes fine doesn't mean that it's safe to use or drink.
When in doubt, you should know how to purify water. Purification is an easy way to improve the quality of your water, contaminated or not.
Anyone can purify water
Amazingly, you don't have to have any special equipment to purify water. You just have to know how to purify water correctly.
There are multiple different methods you can use to purify water, and some ways work better than others. Some methods require a stove, but others only need direct sunlight. The method you choose will depend on your location and the tools you have on hand.
However, you can purify water on your own. And, not to sound like a broken record, but you should purify water because it's that important.
How to Purify Water
There are many different things you can use to purify water. Some options are great if you're outside, such as on a hike. However, other methods require a stove or other household tools.
If you know how to purify water, you won't have to worry so much about the water that comes through your sink or hose. When and if your water becomes contaminated, you'll know just what to do so that you still have access to clean water.
But you also need to know how to purify water correctly. If you don't follow proper instructions, your water may become safe, but that's not a guarantee. Purifying water the right way is as essential as purifying water in the first place.
There are different ways you can purify water, so you have to decide which one works best for you.
Just add fire
Possibly the most common way to purify water is to boil it. If you have water that you want to drink or use, grab a pot and put it on the stove.
Turn on the stove and boil the water. At elevations less than 6,500 feet, you only need to boil the water for one minute. However, at higher elevations, you'll need to let it boil for about three minutes.
Regardless of elevation, the longer you boil the water, the safer it will become.
Also, those durations are for the water to be at a roiling boil. So don't set that timer as soon as you put the water on. Make sure it gets roiling first.
Boiling is an excellent method for removing parasites and bacteria, but it doesn't get rid of all chemical contaminants.
Drip drip drip
If your water supply is on the more dangerous side, give distillation a try. When you distill water, you turn it into steam and then collect that steam.
Distilling water might not get rid of every possible contaminant, but it can rid your water of larger particles.
To distill water, you need a pressure canner and some small-diameter copper tubing. The canner will stay intact so that you can then use it to preserve food if necessary.
Distillation is a great option if your water contains lead, salt, and heavy metals or if it has radioactive chemicals. Since you're boiling the water, it will also get rid of microscopic critters.
Let gravity do the work
If you know anything about how to purify water, you have probably heard of water filters. You can find a few different kinds of water filters, so you can choose the one that's best for you.
At home, you can use something like a Brita filter. These filters are like pitchers that clean your water. You just pour water in at the top, and there's a filter inside the pitcher that purifies the water as it drips into the bottom.
Then it works like any other pitcher.
If you're on the go, you can use a pump-action filter or a drip/suction filter. Pump-action filters have a pump that helps move water through a filter cartridge. Drip/suction filters use gravity to drip water through a filter and into something like an IV bag.
A filter is an excellent choice if your water contains sediment or other visible particles. While there are excellent filtration systems that can clear out bacteria and viruses, they are not portable at this time.
If it's a sunny day out, you can use the sun to purify water. Solar water disinfection, or SODIS, uses energy from the sun to disinfect your water.
To do this, you can place the contaminated water into a plastic water bottle and leave the bottle in the sun for at least one day. If the sky is cloudy, you'll need an extra day to get the best results.
That does mean this isn't the quickest way to purify water. You also have to use a clear plastic bottle, and it can't be too big. But if you have the patience, it's easy, and you can do it almost anywhere.
Another way to disinfect water with light is to use an artificial UV light. You can find special water purification lights that can purify water in seconds. If you don't have a day or two to let your water sit, using a UV light might be your solution.
However, UV light isn't the best option if your water has large particles floating in it. But if your water looks clean and you want to be extra careful, then it's a good choice.
Better living through chemistry
If you want an easy option for how to purify water, consider water disinfection tablets. You just have to drop the tablet into your water.
It can take anywhere from 30 or 40 minutes to a few hours for the tablets to dissolve and purify your water. Some tablets use iodine to clean the water while others use chlorine. You'll have to decide which is better for you.
Iodine tablets don't have the best flavor, so picky eaters might not want to drink the water. Pregnant women and people with thyroid problems should also look for other options.
On the other hand, chlorine tastes better, even to non-picky eaters. And it's easier to tolerate than iodine.
Finally, different tablets have their own shelf lives. Some tablets last for up to a year while others last for a couple of years. Keep that in mind when stocking your emergency cabinet.
These tablets can rid your water of microorganisms and bacteria, but they might not be the best choice for large particles.
Use chemicals with care
When you have chemicals in your water, you probably think you shouldn't add any more to the mix. Well, you can use specific chemicals to purify water.
While bleach can be a water contaminant, you can also use it to disinfect water. You can also use iodine (like the tablets) to clean and purify your water supply.
However, this method requires a bit more care than some of the others. First, there's no set amount for how much bleach or iodine you should use.
A good ratio is two to four drops of disinfectant for every quart of water. But you'll want to let it sit for about half an hour then smell it. If the water still smells bad, you should add another drop or two and wait again.
When it comes to iodine, you need to be especially careful. Only two kinds of iodine are suitable for water purification. Iodine can be more harmful than bleach, so you want to minimize the amount you use.
You can use iodine or chlorine to treat clear water or water that looks a little murky.
Hydrate for Health
We all know to drink enough water. But you have to drink the right water. Arguably, drinking contaminated water is just as bad if not worse than not drinking water at all.
But if you know how to purify water, you won't have to worry about contamination. There are many methods you can use to purify water, and some work almost anywhere.
So the next time you find some questionable water, don't just pass it up. You know how to purify water, and that's a fantastic skill for anyone.
Has knowing how to purify water every come in handy for you? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.