Myths vs Facts– Fresh Water

By TF 

One of the reasons for this site is that there is a large amount of misinformation on the web!  In a survival situation having accurate information can literally save you and your loved ones lives.  However, inaccurate information can not only cost you precious time and supplies, but it can cost you your life and the lives of the ones you love.

The concept of drinkable water is surrounded with myths and misunderstandings.  After all water all over the place, the planet surface is covered by 70% water!  Right?  Though true, less than 2% is considered ‘fresh’ water, the rest contains salts and minerals that is not good for drinking.  Of the less than 2% of  ‘fresh’ water 1.6% is locked away in ice caps and glaciers, along with a bunch more underground.  Reality is, that when all is said and done, there is about 1/100% that is ‘fresh’ accessible water from lakes and streams.

In comparison, it would be like taking a little desk globe of the earth approximately a foot in diameter and putting a drop of water on it.  That is the amount of ‘available fresh water’ in the world and we have not even started to talk about ‘fresh’ water pollution yet!

Another interesting, but important note is, that your body is 65% water.  So when a 200 pound man brags that it is “all muscle!” – nope! – about 130 pounds is water!  Dreamers!    Info.

Water is one of the necessities for survival!  You can only live for about 3 days without it.  The problem is that our body, in one way or other, gets rid of 2-3 quarts of water on a normal day and if your doing strenuous activity you could lose even more.  Those 2-3 quarts a day need to be replaced or we are in serious trouble.  Figure a gallon per day per person,  when calculating how much to put away in storage, for an emergency situation

Serious consequences occur when dehydration starts to set in.  At about 1% dehydration you can get weak and light headed, mental and physical reactions are cut by 15%.  At 8% dehydration, vision gets blurred, heart beat becomes erratic and you can get delusional, medical attention is needed – strokes and brain damage  are possible! (Whoa! not good if you’re lost in the woods). Drop to 20 % dehydration – you are helping feed the local wild life.   Info.

Point?  Is that ‘drinkable’ water is precious!  So, when you read that you should boil water from 5 min. to 30 min. in a survival situation, you are not only boiling away life sustaining water, but will probably end up with an empty cup!  Be cautious of these sites, they are just repeating what they’ve heard or are guessing.
Do your research, your life could depend on it!

Make Sure Your Water Is Safe To Drink!
    One of the Myths perpetuated on line is that as long as the water is flowing good and looks clear you can probably drink from it, at least here in the old U.S.A..  The ‘probably’ should be  ‘probably not’!

Though you may get away with drinking directly from a stream or river, it’s not worth the risk.  (Note – unless you are in a survival mode and have no way of purifying the water.)  

Some claim they have drank from rivers all their lives with no bad affects.  Good for them!   However, all it takes is one dead animal laying up stream, a few feral pigs just wallowing in the muddy stream banks or an infected animal (2 or 4 legged) doing their duty on the banks of the stream. This can later wash into and contaminate the water.  (Water born illnesses are constantly rising,  400 – 600 cases a year in WA. state alone.)  Info.

However, to keep this in the proper perspective, consider how many people, including kids, gulp down water while they swim in the WA. lakes and rivers during the year.  Remember though, in times of disaster, there may be no doctor’s offices to run to.

There are many good and creative ways to make water drinkable.  Many of the sites on our  ‘favorites’  page will be good to review on this subject.  However, we will touch on some of the basics.

   No doubt this is the best way for getting rid of most of the pollutants (including radiation), but it is not very practical in a survival situation. There are some ‘possibilities’ on the web, but I don’t see them as being practical, plastic tubes and aluminum wrap will not last very long.  Only if you can have coiled copper and a permanent still will it be practical for long term survival.

    Boiling is by far the most recommended and probably the simplest way of getting rid of the ‘beasties’ or ‘animalcules” in your drinking water.  Info.

Note- the use of the term ‘purification’ in this article is dealing with bacteria and parasites, not radiation, heavy metals or chemicals.

The boiling temperature of water at sea level is 212 F and decreases approximately 2 degrees at every 1000 feet of elevation.  This means that at an elevation of 8000 feet the boiling temperature of water would be 196 degrees F.  Now during the summer Mount Rainiers’ snow level is 5000 to 8000 feet and I’m not planning on going up there to see what temperature water boils at. (Getting old, don’t like the cold)  Anyways, quickly checking references, you will find that most parasites and bacteria will die at below 140 degrees F. (Some of them stubborn ‘beasties’ make it to the 140 degree F. mark).

The point?  It seems there’s a good gap between the 140 and even the lower 196 degrees  at the 8000 ft. mark.   So by getting a good rapid boil going to the water, including the few minutes it takes to get to boiling point, you should have bumped off all the critters that could have caused your digestive track a whole lot of grief.  In a survival situation getting that kind of sick could mean your death!   info.

Here are a few side points to this issue and maybe a disclaimer.
1. Read my  ‘all about me’  page and you’ll see the need to do your own research! —  It makes it all soak in better anyways!
2. One site recommends ‘slushing the boiling water around the rim of the container to kill any surviving ‘beasties’.   Yep! That’s what ya need in a survival situation, a  scalded hand!  Besides, I think a little research will show the cup above the water line is probably hotter then below the water level.  (Sounds like a video waiting to be made, let you know when!)
3.  ‘Old man’ logic would seem to dictate, that reaching a rapid boil is dealing with clean water with no debris.  Cloudy water should be boiled a tad longer.  If you have scum or solids that you just can’t strain out (or you like algae), be safe, boil even longer.

Note on cooking! – if water is not already drinkable, bring to a boil ‘before’ adding your extra ingredients for the same reason.  It just takes longer to kill the little varmints when they are nestled up to a cool chunk of food.
Think about cooking a stew— it takes some time for a chunk of beef to get cooked all the way through.   Just saying!  You are on your own in a survival situation, use your head and stay healthy!

Side Note;  Your water may taste a little ‘flat’ after boiling and for good reason.  Boiling has simply removed some of the oxygen from the water, thus the bubbles.  Solution?  After it has cooled, put a cap on and shake or pour back and forth between two containers to ‘oxygenate’ the water again. Easy!


Rather than go into a long explanation here, I’m going to refer you to my ‘favorites‘  page again.   There is just so much fine information on making primitive filters, for when your stuck out in the woods or emergency filters you can make for your house or shelter.  (Here are a few just to give you a few ideas.   here,    here   and here)

So check out some of the survival sites over there.  Please, let me know if you have found some great sites that I have not posted.    I’d like to provide as much ‘accurate information’ as quick as I can, for those who will listen.  Time is a wasting!   Thanks!

Oh! Want to know other ways you can help with this site? — we listed a bunch.  Help!

Chemical Purification
Again, there has already been a lot on this subject published on the sites I’ve posted under ‘Favorites’.
However, a couple of things I feel are very important to bring up are the following –
1. Be careful of the iodine based chemicals for purifying water.  If you have allergic reactions to it or shellfish – avoid it at all cost.   Same goes for women who are pregnant.
2.  Many of the store bought water filters do not filter out dangerous bacteria and parasites!  Make sure that they can, many of the better ones seem to be made of ceramic and have some silver in them.   Do your research, I have not done enough research on commercial filters to make suggestions.
3.  On using chlorine to kill the beastiesI’m not a fan of chemicals in my food or water, plus at some point – you are going to run out.   However,  that being said, sometimes in emergency cases and especially serving a lot of people, it may be the easiest way.  Here are the suggestions and research I’ve found.
   Note –  Use only — fresh, ‘unscented’ household bleach, normally 5.35% or more chlorine
   Note – Household bleach weakens with heat and age (after 6 months)  be sure to rotate your stock.
Keep a couple of gallons on hand at all times.
City systems go down, even in normal times you may need to do this!

Add 2-4 drops of bleach for every quart (liter) of water (8-16 drops to a gallon)
shake and let stand for an hour before drinking.
   If water has particles or is still cloudy add the same amount of bleach and do again.  Test by smell and sight – If after an hour the water is still murky or does not have a hint of chlorine smell, put more drops in, shake and repeat process until it is clear and has a ‘slight’ chlorine odor – you can let it air for awhile afterwards.

 A better product to use?
Could be Calcium Hypochlorite!  Huh?   (Ca(CIO)2
Better known as a ‘shock treatment’ for swimming pools.
Reportedly a better disinfectant than store bought bleach,
plus a one pound bag treats about 10,000 gallons

1. – Mix about a 1/2 teaspoon of C/H in a gallon of water shake and let it dissolve for at least a 1/2 an hour – DO NOT DRINK THIS – AVOID CONTACT WITH SKIN!
 – This Gallon mix can now make about 100 Gallons of drinkable water.  So, if my math is right, at 128 fluid ounces to a gallon, that is a few drops over one fluid ounce to a Gallon of water.
Apply the same smell and sight test to the mixed drinkable gallons,
let each gallon set for at least an hour after using.
   This mixture will also weaken with time and heat, so mix only what you can use over a few weeks.

  should be in a granule form,
it should be a high quality, high test product, sold in pool supply companies.
It comes in a plastic wrap package and will store for longer periods
than liquid chlorine.
I suggest though, finding a glass container or putting it in separate
plastic containers, so that the fumes airing out won’t contaminate or fade other things that may be stored with it.
There are a few articles on this, but some of the best I’ve found is here , here ,  others here , and here

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