Water is not just a simple combination of oxygen and hydrogen molecules. It’s essential for all life, whether plant or animal, on our planet. All the living creatures are a part of the water cycle on Earth, which has been taking place in much the same way for millions of years. Yet we take water for granted until times of natural disasters – then potable drinking water is high on the list of life’s essential items. This is why it’s important to learn about water storage now while you have time to stock up.
Depending on the source, water always carries dissolved substances like minerals, salts and even gases. This accounts for the slight differences in the taste and properties of water from different sources. These variations are sometimes insignificant but most of the time what your water supply carries can make the difference between life and death, or sickness and health.
There are many industrial methods to purify water and modify its composition like desalination, filtration, distillation, etc. These impurities can enter water in many different forms through various means. If you suspect the presence of any contaminants in your water supply, please contact local authorities
Statistic: “In the developing world, 90% of all wastewater still goes untreated into local rivers and streams.” ( http://www.selmar.it/eng/index.php?op=nws&wh=par&id=511 ).
Polluted waste water
… could be industrial waste which contains extremely dangerous metals like lead, aluminum, chromium and mercury. Often grey-water (household waste water) can make its way into streams and rivers. Black-water (or sewage water) can end up in streams or municipal water supplies by seepage from leaking pipes. Black water carries diseases and excreted medicines like anti-depressants, sedatives hormones, etc. which can even contaminate aquatic life forms! Fertilizers and pesticides often contaminate ground water near agricultural land. Lead pipes used in older homes to deliver water can also deposit heavy amounts of lead in your body. There is also some debate in the medical world on whether chlorination is a safe way of sterilizing municipal water.
Diseases like diarrhea, cholera, and pathogens like VTEC, cryptosporidium, giardia, hepatitis and dengue are easily transmitted in contaminated water. It is estimated that 5 million deaths are caused each year in the US by drinking polluted water. (Visit water.org for more facts). Don’t let the fact that the water is clear and you are in the woods far from civilization fool you. Parasites from wild animals are naked to the human eye so even a clear rippling stream in the woods is most likely contaminated. So be very careful when thinking about drinking untreated water. Better thirsty than dead, or so sick that it takes months to recover.
The safest way to purify water at home is to boil it. Even this doesn’t kill all the pathogens. Boiling it under high pressure conditions like in a pressure cooker can give you medical grade sterilized water.
Difference in Qualities of Water:
…is water that has been stripped of its natural mineral content. This form of purification is used in coastal areas to make sea water potable (drinkable). Fully distilled water CAN be consumed but it can also disturb the serum electrolyte balance of the body. Our bodies NEED minerals dissolved into it in order to preserve the delicate balance of hydration within our circulatiory system and surrounding tissue. And long term consumption of distilled water can lead to lack of minerals like flouride, magnesium calcium and selenium in the body.
…is water devoid of all microbial life but the minerals are not removed. In cases of surgery or cleaning wounds, we want water with NO bacteria or contaminants to prevent infection if exposed directly to the blood stream and tissues. However we do not have to drink sterile water because the majority of bacteria that is naturally found in water is destroyed naturally by our stomach acid. It is okay to consume sterile water since the minerals are still present, but it has low levels of dissolved oxygen and a characteristic flat taste.
Emergency Water Supply
According to CDC, in case of a man-made or natural disaster, you should store at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for a minimum 3-day supply. This means a family of 6 needs 18 gallons. Recommendations are to budget 1 gal / day for each pet also, however I take issue with that. I have a 45 lb dog who probably only drinks 3 cups / day, and that’s if I mix it in her food! (she doesn’t like water). Sammy the cat drinks about 1 1/4 cup per day. So you know better than anyone else how much your pet drinks. The point is, don’t forget to set aside water for them too.
Another important point to remember is never drink flood water no matter how great the emergency. Water can be obtained from your household water heater. Liquid from canned fruits and vegetables can be utilized also. You can collect rain water. This might not be a good idea in industrial areas where air pollution can contaminate rain water. Drinking blood, seawater, urine or turbid molten ice is not recommended. Alcohol (beer, wine) is acceptable in very small quantities only, since it’s action it actually to dehydrate your body. It is not acceptable for young or folks on medications though.
If you have a stream or river or ocean nearby, getting the water will not be a problem. But it’s likely not potable before you treat it somehow. Here are some useful techniques:
You can filter water through a sack filled with crushed charcoal and sand and then boil the filtered water
“The SODIS method is WHO recommended and uses a combination of UV light and increased temperature for disinfecting water using only sunlight and plastic PET bottles. Filled bottles are exposed to the sun. Bottles will heat faster and to higher temperatures if they are placed on a sloped sun-facing corrugated metal roof. This may require hours to days, depending on the weather.” Resource: Wikipedia.org
These methods will not make sea water potable because of the high sodium content in sea water. Instead one needs to evaporate the sea water (boiling) and collect the steam on a sloping cold surface held over it. This collected steam which cools back into water is what we can drink. This is a method of desalinating or removing the saline (salt) content of the water to create purified drinking water. Water that is not desalinated, destroys the delicate balance of electrolytes mentioned earlier in this article.
When considering water storage to prepare for natural disasters, a fast and inexpensive resource is store-bought plastic gallon jugs of drinking water, or cases of Dasani or other individual drinking water bottles.