The Berkey

How to Sanitize Water In An Emergency

By August 11, 2020No Comments

During times of emergency, our first priority is to secure our basic necessities such as water. Some emergencies may interrupt water services such as hurricane, flood or pipe breakage. At these times, clean drinking water is of absolute importance. 

The available water during times of emergency may be scarce or yet contaminated. The things you need to know is identifying a good water source, how to clean and prepare your water containers and how to sanitize your available water at times of emergency.

Emergency Water Sources

Safe water sources in your home may include water in your hot water tank, pipes and ice cubes, Take note that you can’t use water from your toilet flush tanks or bowls, swimming pools/spas, radiators or waterbeds.

If you need to find water sources outside your home, you can use the following sources. 

  • Natural springs
  • Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Rainwater

Follow the proper way of treating these water sources. Also, take note to avoid water with dark color, odor or with floating material. If necessary, you can only use saltwater after distilling it. Avoid flood water as a water source.

Preparing and Sanitizing Water Storage Container

Before filling the water storage container with safe water, follow these steps to clean and sanitize it:

  1. Wash the storage container thoroughly with dishwashing soap and water. 
  2. Mix 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water. Use bleach that contains 5-6% sodium hypochlorite.
  3. Cover the container tightly then shake it well. Make sure the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container.
  4. Wait until 30 seconds and then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container.
  5. Rinse completely without any residue left from the soap or the sanitizing solution.
  6. Air-dry the sanitized container or use an already safe (treated) water to rinse the inside walls of the container.

In filling the sanitized water storage with safe water, follow these steps to store the water successfully:

  1. Fill the sanitized water container with the clean (treated) water.
  2. Cover the container tightly using its original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap. Do not touch the inside of it with your fingers. 
  3. Label it as “drinking water”.
  4. Write the date on the outside of the container so that you know when you filled it.
  5. Store in a cool (50-70°F), dark place. Do not place it near toxic substances, such as gasoline or pesticides.
  6. Replace the water every six months.

Ways to Sanitize Water 

Boil Water

If the available water is from an unknown source, the very basic thing to do is to boil your water. Boiling the water kills all pathogenic microorganisms present in the water. They include parasites, bacteria and viruses.

Before boiling it, take note of the quality of the water. Is it clear? Is it cloudy? Does it have obvious sediments? Here are the ways how to initially purify the water:

For Clear Water

  1. Put the clear water to a rolling boil for one minute (if boiling at 6,500 feet, bring it to boil for three minutes). If you want longer, you can boil it for as long as five minutes.
  2. Let it cool.
  3. Store the boiled water in a clean and sanitized water storage container with tight covers.

For Cloudy Water

  1. Use a clean cloth, coffee filter or paper towel to filter the water. You can also allow it to settle first.
  2. Draw off the clear water.
  3. Bring the filtered water to a rolling boil for one minute (if boiling at 6,500 feet, bring it to boil for three minutes)
  4. Let it cool
  5. Store the boiled water in a clean and sanitized water storage container with tight covers.

After boiling the water, the water’s taste becomes flat. To improve this, add one pinch of salt to each quart or liter of water. You can also pour water from one clean container several times. Then let it stand for a few hours.

Another way is to aerate it by shaking it in a closed container. Then add a pinch of salt as usual. 

The water can be boiled over a fire, a shove, a solar oven or even a car engine.

Disinfect Water

If you can’t boil the water, use a chemical disinfectant such as unscented household bleach. Labels may say that the active ingredient contains 6 or 8.25% of sodium hypochlorite. Take note that you can’t use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners.

Disinfectants can kill most harmful or pathogenic microorganisms in the water. However, they are not as effective in controlling more resistant organisms such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia

Chlorine dioxide tablets can be effective against Cryptosporidium if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions correctly.

For Cloudy Water

  1. Let the water settle and filter it through a clean cloth, coffee filter or paper towel.
  2. Use a clean dropper from your emergency kit or medicine cabinet.
  3. Use fresh liquid chlorine bleach or liquid chlorine bleach stored in room temperatures for less than a year.
  4. If necessary instructions are not given, check the “Active Ingredient” part of the label. Find the percentage content of the sodium hypochlorite. Use this information in the following table as a guide. Usually, unscented household liquid chlorine bleach in the US is between 5-6% sodium hypochlorite. In other countries, this concentration may vary. Using the table provided below, add the appropriate amount of bleach using a medicine dropper, teaspoon or metric measure (milliliters).
  5. Stir the mixture well.
  6. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before using it.
  7. Store the disinfected water in a clean and sanitized water storage container with tight covers. 

For Water with Chlorine or Iodine

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label or in the package.
  •  Chlorine dioxide tablets are effective for Cryptosporidium
  • Iodine and iodine-containing tablets (tetraglycine hydroperiodide) or chlorine tablets are not effective against Cryptosporidium

For Water with Unscented Household Liquid Chlorine Bleach (if Water is Cloudy)

  1. Filter it through a clean cloth, coffee filter or paper towel. You may allow it to settle.
  2. Transfer the clear water into another container.
  3. Follow the instructions for disinfecting drinking water written on the label of the bleach.
  4. If necessary instructions are not given, check the “Active Ingredient” part of the label. Find the percentage content of the sodium hypochlorite. Use this information in the following table as a guide. Usually, unscented household liquid chlorine bleach in the US is between 5-6% sodium hypochlorite. In other countries, this concentration may vary. Using the table provided below, add the appropriate amount of bleach using a medicine dropper, teaspoon or metric measure (milliliters).
  5. Stir the mixture well.
  6. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before using it.
  7. Store the disinfected water in a clean and sanitized water storage container with tight covers. 

Volume of Water

Amount of 6% Bleach to Add*

Amount of 8.25% Bleach to Add*

1 quart/liter

2 drops

2 drops

1 gallon

8 drops

6 drops

2 gallons

16 drops (1/4 tsp)

12 drops (1/8 teaspoon)

4 gallons

1/3 teaspoon

1/4 teaspoon

8 gallons

2/3 teaspoon

1/2 teaspoon

*Bleach may contain 6 or 8.25% sodium hypochlorite.

Other Disinfection Methods

If liquid bleach is unavailable, you may use other disinfection methods as in the following: 

Granular Calcium Hypochlorite

  1. First, make the chlorine solution that you will use to disinfect your water. For safety purposes, do it in a ventilated area while wearing eye protection. 
  2. Add one teaspoon or ¼ ounce of high-test granular calcium hypochlorite (HTH) to two gallons of water.
  3. Stir until particles dissolve. The mixture produces a chlorine solution of an estimated 500 mg per liter.
  4. To disinfect water, add one part of the chlorine solution to every 100 parts of water. This is about the same as adding 1 pint (16 ounces) of the chlorine solution to 12.5 gallons of water.
  5.  If the taste of the chlorine is too strong, pour the water from a clean container to another. Let it stand for a few hours before use. CAUTION: HTH is a very powerful oxidant. Follow the instructions on the label for safe handling and storage of this chemical.

Common Household Iodine (Tincture of Iodine)

  1. Iodine may be available in your medicine kit or cabinet. Add five drops of 2% tincture of iodine to each quart of the liter of water for disinfection. 
  2. If the water is cloudy or colored, add 10 drops of iodine. 
  3. Stir and let the water sit for at least 30 minutes before use.
  4. For iodine tablets, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly prepare the water for use. If there is no instruction available, use one tablet for every quart of water you need to treat.

Water Disinfection Tablets

  1. Water disinfection tablets contain chlorine, isone, chlorine dioxide or other disinfecting agents. They are available online, pharmacies, or sporting good stores.
  2. Follow the instructions on the product label. Each product may have different strengths.

Stabilized Oxygen

  1. Some evidence showed that “stabilized oxygen solution” may provide antibacterial properties when added to water. Since there is no proven knowledge or research about this product, this should be the last option.
  2. There are some debates over the internet about its effectiveness. 

Filter Water

 Many portable water filters are effective in removing pathogenic microorganisms such as  Cryptosporidium and Giardia from drinking water. In choosing a portable water filter, select the one with a pore size small enough to filter out parasites. Most portable water filters don’t remove viruses or bacteria.

There are filters with labels “reverse osmosis” that remove Cryptosporidium. Some other types of filters function as micro-straining.

For Tap Water

    1. Look for a filter that has a pore size of 1 micron or less. This measurement can remove microbes 1 micron or greater in diameter (such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia).  These filters have two types: absolute 1 micron filters and nominal 1 micron filters. Also, take note that not all filters can filter and remove particles 1 micron or larger in the water. Absolute 1 micron can remove Cryptosporidium more consistently than nominal. Some nominal 1 micron filters can allow 20% to 30% of 1 micron particles like Cryptosporidium to pass through.
    2. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the water filter of your selection. After filtering, you can also add a disinfectant such as chlorine, iodine, or chlorine dioxide. These disinfectants help kill the remaining bacteria and viruses. Filter manufacturers may need to test their filters if they can actually remove Cryptosporidium or Giardia. Filters that are already tested and certified should have a label showing “NSF/ANSI Standard 53” or “Standard 58” for cyst reduction ro removal by an ANSI-accredited certification organization. If you choose a non-certified product, choose a technology that can reduce Cryptosporidium. This includes filters with reverse osmosis and those with an absolute 1 micron pore size or even smaller.

For Crypto Removal

Filters designed to remove Crypto (any of the four messages below on a package label indicate that the filter should be able to remove Crypto). Here are the following labels to look for in your water filter:

  • Tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 for cyst removal
  • Tested and certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 or NSF/ANSI Standard 58 for cyst reduction
  • Reverse osmosis (with or without NSF 53 or NSF 58 labeling)
  • Absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller (with or without NSF 53 or NSF 58 labeling)

For Unlabeled Crypto Removal

Filters labeled only with these words may NOT be designed to remove Crypto. Here are the following labels or specifications to look for in your water filter:

  • Nominal pore size of 1 micron or smaller
  • One micron filter
  • Effective against Giardia
  • Effective against parasites
  • Carbon filter
  • Water purifier
  • Activated carbon
  • Removes chlorine
  • Ultraviolet light
  • Pentiodide resins
  • Water softener
  • Chlorinated
  • EPA approved (Caution: EPA does not approve or test filters)
  • EPA registered (Caution: EPA does not register filters based on their ability to remove Cryptosporidium)

The Berkey Water Filters

The Berkey Water filters offer a great solution in removing particles and pathogenic microorganisms. They can remove a wide variety of contaminants such as inorganic chemicals, parasites, viruses and bacteria such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia (see the complete list of contaminants Berkey can remove). 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum removal standard for Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia are 99% or a 2-log reduction and 99.9%, a 3-log reduction, respectively. 

 Black Berkey Filters remove cryptosporidium to greater than 99.996% (log 4.6). That is over twice the EPA standard, by log 2.6. They have also been tested to reduce Giardia cysts by greater than 99.994% or log 4.6. This also exceeds the EPA standard.

The Berkey Water filters are also great gear during emergency situations. Since they work without electricity, they can continue to purify and filter out raw and untreated water from any water source.

The quality output of the filtered water is very different from before it was filtered. The Berkey Water Filter makes your water taste much better. You don’t need to add another chemical to improve its taste.

They are also simple and easy to use. You don’t need a plumbing system and can be set up as fast as 10 minutes without any tools. It is a good long term investment so you can really save money. 

Distill Water

The two methods already mentioned so far can kill most microorganisms. Distillation can also remove them as well as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.

Distilling your water is when you boil the water and collect the steam in a clean container. This steam turns back into the water for your safe consumption.

To Distill

  1. Fill a pot halfway with water.
  2. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up. When the lid is upside down, make sure the cup is not dangling into the water.
  3. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid slides down into the dangling cup. This collected water is distilled water.

Conclusion

During a water emergency, we may or may not be prepared for it. Still, we should be prompt to do what is right for us. Water for safe drinking is a top priority. Being able to know where to find, how to treat and store water makes a difference in our survival during emergencies.

 
EcoBlueLife.com is a replacement water and air filter company located in the United States. The views and opinions contained herein are solely those of the original author and do not represent Eco Blue Life or its affiliates. This article was originally published on TheBerkey.com  

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