Water Processing Making Water Safe to Use

Water Processing: Making Water Safe to Use

Water processing is making water safe to use. It is crucial. Take that quick gulp of water while you were washing your face, suddenly you are at a prom dancing the whole night with cryptosporidium. Let’s assume you learned your lesson, what are you going to do now? Easy, treat any water you come across. It sounds daunting, but it will keep you healthy, and maybe save your life.

Water Processing Making Water Safe to Use

Continuing our series of posts on water we talk about making this precious necessity safe to use, yes use. Do you want to wash your face get a drop of water in your mouth and die of the shits? No, I didn’t think so. Read on!

Nutshell time. Filter out dirt, leaves, and other things floating in your water. You will kill organisms that can kill you. Remove organic and organic substances that can kill you.  Make the water taste better and last longer in storage.


The following are categories of drinking water contaminants[ ref]http://www.epa.gov/ccl/types-drinking-water-contaminants[/ref]:


Physical contaminants impact the physical appearance or other physical properties of water. Examples of physical contaminants are sediment or organic material suspended in the water of lakes, rivers, and streams from soil erosion.


Chemical contaminants may be naturally occurring or human-made elements or compounds.  A special type of chemical contaminant is those of radiological origin. These are elements with an unbalanced number of protons and neutrons that can emit ionizing radiation.

Examples of chemical contaminants include nitrogen, bleach, salts, pesticides, metals, toxins produced by bacteria, and human or animal drugs. Some radiological contaminants include cesium, plutonium, and uranium.


Biological contaminants are organisms in the water. They are often referred to as microbes. Examples of biological or microbial contaminants include bacteria like Coliform bacteria, viruses, protozoans like Giardia lamblia, and parasites.

Water Processing Making Water Safe to Use

You become your own Utility company


Urban water treatment depends on electricity, therefor beware of city tap water during an emergency. Keep water testers around, and when in doubt treat it. You can treat water in several ways, though filtering any particulates or physical debris tends to improve chemical and mechanical methods. Add prefilter steps as needed to your water processing checklists.

Prefiltering Water

You prefilter water to improve treatment. Also, to get rid of a bunch of cruds you would not want to swish around in your mouth. Who wants sand in their coffee?

Use a clean bandanna or cloth, paper towels, or a material which will filer out stuff and not add it’s own stuff to the water. Coffee filters work great here.



In a clean container, bring prefiltered water to a rolling boil and let it boil. Experts1https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/drinking/making-water-safe.html say at least a minute at a boil (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes)

Beware the material your boiling container is made of, you don’t want it contaminating the water that you are trying to treat.


You boil water and then condense the vapor or steam back into water. Sounds easy, and it is. You’ll need a few containers, fire, and a hose of some sort.


Water Purifiers

Water Processing Making Water Safe to Use
Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System

You squeeze all the bad stuff out of water through some a series of materials with smaller and smaller holes. For hiking, I use to use an MSR Hiker Microfilter, eventually, I switched to a Sawyer Mini. High on the list are two filters I’m getting soon.

Water Processing Making Water Safe to Use
Berkey Royal with 2 Black Filters

A group camping style gravity feed system and a Berkey Big Berkey for daily use at home.

Key to any ‘water filter’ is the size of the materials, that make up the filter elements, which keeps out smaller and smaller organisms.

A good resource on emergency filtering would be any of the public domain U.S. Army Field Manuals on survival, such as the FM 21-76 and the newer FM 3-05.70.


Treatment in a bottle

Water Processing Making Water Safe to Use
Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets with PA Plus

Drop some tabs in somewhat clear water, let it sit, drink up. You can do this with Aqua Water Purification Tablets. Make your life easy and lower stress during an emergency by keeping some of these around, these are easy and quick to use. Even if you are planning on using the Chlorine treatment described below.

I wrap my little bottle (I use the single bottle Potable Aqua Water Purification Treatment) in a bandanna, which is then used to prefilter water before dropping these puppies in.

Chlorine Treatment

The CDC seems to have its formula, it differs from most other federal agencies which seem to use the ARC formula.

Water Red Cross2http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/water-safety/water-treatmentFEMA CDC3http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/travel/emergency_disinfection.html
2 Liters, 1 Quart (32 Oz) 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops)
1 Gallon (128 Oz) 1/2 teaspoon (16 Drops) 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops)

The EPA gives a little further information on ratios to use4http://water.epa.gov/drink/emerprep/emergencydisinfection.cfm.

Available Chlorine Drops per Quart/Gallon of Clear Water Drops per Liter of Clear Water
1% 10 drops per Quart – 40 per Gallon 10 per Liter
4-6% 2 drops per Quart – 8 per Gallon (1⁄8 teaspoon) 2 per Liter
7-10% 1 drop per Quart – 4 per Gallon 1 per Liter


To drink and stay healthy your water needs to be safe to drink. The clearest mountain stream water can harbor horrible pathogens. Stay alive and well by treating all water that you drink, and likely all water you use. It can be the difference between surviving and not.