How to get drinking water in extreme conditions?

In case of an emergency, you should probably buy water purification tablets so that you can use any water. There are several offers on the internet, but which tablets are best and where can I buy them?

How to get drinking water in extreme conditions?
Under extreme conditions, how to get drinking water? Image by Zaccaria Boschetti from Pixabay

Drinking water is one of the most essential elements for human survival. But in crises, water supply and availability can be very difficult. What to do when access to drinking water becomes a very painful problem?

For safety reasons, many people also want to prepare for a crisis and prepare a 72-hour survival bag. Drinking water reserves are an important part of this, and it is recommended to find out how to use water purification tablets in case water supplies run out and water has to be obtained from other sources.

Water purification tablets - a short-term solution

When clean drinking water is not available, you have to draw water from a lake, river, stream, ditch, pond, or other body of water. But it is not safe to drink such water without purification because it may contain biological contaminants: bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.

One way to get rid of biological contamination is to use water purification tablets. The tablet is placed in water, stirred thoroughly, dissolved, and after a certain time, the water is safe for drinking and cooking.

Such tablets are used by travelers when it is impossible to take enough drinking water with them on longer treks, especially in hotter climates. They can be bought in tourist shops. The tablets vary in composition. The main active ingredients in tablets can be as follows.

Zion compounds (sodium dichloroisocyanurate) - these tablets are small in size but act very quickly in clear water and can be taken as soon as the tablet is dissolved. Usually used by travelers when planning to travel to hot climates where water contamination is high and dehydration is likely. Zion tablets are useful when drinking water needs to be obtained and purified very quickly.

Silver salts - fast-acting, relatively high potency tablets. Also for conditions where drinking water is needed immediately and there is no time to wait. Used in military tasks, and sports disciplines.

Chlorine - is the most commonly used and available water purification tablet in European countries. The most harmless to health, but you should expect the water to have a chlorine odor. If this is not pleasant, the container can be left open to reduce the aroma. The effect is slower - wait about half an hour until the water is drinkable.

Iodine is also one of the most popular pill types in Europe. But there are restrictions on their use. They are not recommended for use by young children, pregnant women, or people with thyroid disease, or iodine allergy. Iodine also has a specific odor that many people dislike.

Water purification tablets are handy to take with you when hiking. It will be a good solution to get drinking water in a crisis, but not for more than a few days. It will also not be rational to purify water at home, for example, if water is regularly drawn from a river.

Instead, the simplest and safest method is to boil the water. One minute of boiling is enough to destroy all living micro-organisms. Water purification tablets will only purify water of biological contaminants, but not organic, chemical, or radioactive contaminants.

Safer purification with a filter

Water can also contain organic contamination caused by various chemicals, industrial pollution, animal excrement, microplastics, rotting plant, and animal parts. Highly contaminated water has an unpleasant taste and smell and drinking it untreated can result in vomiting, poisoning, and viral diseases. Organic pollution is more difficult to get rid of.

The safest way is filtration - a filter will clean the water mechanically of sand and clay impurities, other larger dirt particles, also organic contamination (a filter with an absorbent such as charcoal and silver should be used), and biological contamination (if the filter has an antibacterial absorbent).

Filtration will also reduce the unpleasant taste and smell of the water. However, it is recommended to boil the water further or add a water purification tablet. For example, filter pitchers can be used to filter water. If more water needs to be purified, a filter can be used with a water pump, but this also needs electricity.

In addition, such a filter will not fit in the survival bag. If you want to be prepared for a crisis, you might want to consider buying a portable solar battery. This will give us alternative access to electricity.

Small, hand-operated water filters (like small pumps) and water bottles with a water purification filter are also available in tourist shops. Such filters can also be useful in crises. But if branches, sand, or other dirt get stuck in the water, any filter will clog up in no time. Therefore, before filtering the water, it can first be settled.

If the water has to be drawn from a pond, for example, a hole can be dug nearby - the water will slowly fill the hole through the groundwater and the sand and pebbles in the bottom layer will act as a natural filter, already partially removing organic pollution and dirt from the water. Further treatment will be carried out by a mechanical water filter.

One effective way to clean water of bacteria and micro-organisms is UV light filters, which instantly disinfect water with ultraviolet radiation. Small, pocket-sized, battery-powered UV water filters are convenient in a crisis. They can be bought in tourist shops, mostly foreign online shops. However, larger filters are also available which require electricity. UV filters will not remove organic pollution or dirt from the water.

Important to observe

Water purification tablets are hygroscopic and easily soluble in water. For example, cyanide tablets usually come in paper packaging. If the tablets are to be stored, they should additionally be placed in a waterproof plastic bag. Otherwise, they will dissolve if they come into contact with even a little moisture.

Attention should always be paid to the expiry date. If it has expired, the tablets will no longer work.

Before using purified water, the tablet should be dissolved thoroughly, no undissolved pieces of the tablet should remain in the water.

To avoid health risks, you should carefully study how the tablets from the respective manufacturer should be taken: how long they should take, in what proportions they should be added to the water.

Water purified with tablets is not intended for long-term and regular use. Certain compounds produced by such purification may be harmful to health in the long term.

Popular methods for filtering water are not safe. For example, putting a piece of silver in the water will reduce bacteria, but if the water is highly contaminated, it will not be able to be purified in a way that makes it drinkable. Carbon will not clean the water of biological pollution, it will only reduce organic pollution.

Untreated rainwater will also not be safe to drink as it may be biologically contaminated. Rainwater collected in a container should only be used boiled or treated with a water purification tablet. If radiation has spread, rainwater will be the most dangerous as it will have absorbed radioactive dust in the air.