On average, every person uses about ten gallons of water daily for washing, drinking, and for cleaning their houses. Due to natural calamities and years of misuse, our fresh water resources are slowly but surely dwindling. Even in countries that are used to having uninterrupted supply of sterilized, drinkable water, this precious commodity is getting scarce. What do you do if you find yourself in situations where the only water source is suspect? What if your water supply has been damaged by flood? If you know that the water you can get is teeming with bacteria and other potentially lethal viruses and germs, don’t despair. You do not need to go thirsty until you find another water source. There are some steps that you can take to sanitize contaminated water sufficiently to make it potable. Follow these simple steps for sterilizing water.
- Filter away solid contaminants that are large enough. If you are planning to sterilize water that comes from wells, or natural water sources such as rivers or lakes, chances are, the water will contain solid contaminants like dried leaves, twigs, and dead insects. Use a very fine sieve or a clean piece of cloth to strain the dirt away. If you can, buy a portable filter from camping supplies store. Note that this process will only take away fairly large solid particles and not viruses that happen to be very small. To eliminate these invisible threats, you need to do the next steps.
- Chemically treat the water to get rid of disease organisms. Iodine, chlorine bleach, and a few other chemicals can be added to the water to destroy any harmful organisms. You need to be knowledgeable of the ratio of water and chemicals that is needed in order to completely rid the water of threats but not become poisonous to the drinker. For using chlorine, place at least two drops of the chemical for every quart of the contaminated water. Double that amount if the water is particularly cloudy. If you are going to use iodine, place twelve drops of 2% iodine tincture into a gallon of contaminated water. Leave this for about half an hour.
- Use heat and pressure to kill off any organisms in the water. Pour the contaminated water into bottles. Wrap the neck and cap of the bottle using aluminum foil. Make sure that you loosen the bottle’s cap so the bottle won’t burst. Place the bottles in a pressure cooker and leave it at 121 degrees Celsius for half an hour. Remove the bottles and store them in a dry place. Once the water cools, tighten the caps.
- Expose the water to sunlight to sterilize it. A particularly new yet effective way of treating water is SODIS. This is basically disinfection of water by solar means. All you need is bottles made out of PET plastic and the power of the sun. You can also utilize used soda bottles so long as they are relatively scratch-free. Remove the bottle’s labels and wash them thoroughly. Pour the contaminated water into the bottles and fill them up to three-quarters of the container. Put the cap on and shake the water for half a minute. If the water appears excessively murky, filter the water then pour it back into the bottles. Place the bottles under the sun, preferably on a slanted, corrugated roof made of metal. If the weather is particularly sunny, the water in the bottle may be consumed after six hours.
All of the proposed procedures for making contaminated water safe for human consumption have one drawback: they require that the individual disinfecting the water have specialized knowledge so that he can do the procedures correctly. One error in judgment or defect in the equipment could cause people to drink water contaminated with disease-carrying organisms.