Water is essential in any survival situation, much more so than food. Always remember your “Rule of Threes.”
You Can Survive For:
- Three minutes without air
- Three hours without shelter
- Three days without water
- Three weeks without food
If you are sheltering-in- place, there are several sources of potable, or “safe” drinking water in and around you home, and there is also water you should not drink.
Safe Water Sources
- Melted ice cubes
- Water drained from the water heater (if the water heater has not been damaged) DO NOT CONFUSE THE WATER HEATER, WITH YOUR FURNACE OR HOME HEATING SYSTEM
- Liquids from canned goods such as fruit or vegetable juices
- Water drained from pipes
Unsafe Water Sources
- Hot water boilers/furnace (home heating system)
- Water Beds (fungicides added to the water or chemicals in the vinyl may make water unsafe to use)
- Water from the toilet bowl or flush tank
- Swimming pools and spas (chemicals used to kill germs are too concentrated for safe drinking but can be used for personal hygiene, cleaning, and related uses)
Even water from the safe sources as identified above should be treated before you use it. You should treat all water of uncertain quality before using it for drinking, food washing or preparation, washing dishes, brushing teeth, or making ice. In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain germs that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis.
There are many ways you can treat water. None is perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom or strain them through coffee filters or layers of clean cloth.
There are basically three water treatment methods, Boiling, Chlorination, and Distillation. You should have the necessary supplies to do at least one, if not all of them as part of your Go Bag and Home Preparedness Emergency Supplies kit.
Boiling is the safest and simplest method of treating water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.
Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This also will improve the taste of stored water.
You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.
Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir, and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.
While the two methods described above will kill most microorganisms in water, distillation will remove germs that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals. Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting only the vapor that condenses. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities.
To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Turn the lid of the pot upside down. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up. (See figure) Make sure when you place the lid onto the pot, it dangles above, and not into the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
Remember, most people on average need a gallon of water a day to replace the body fluids you lose through sweat, urination, digestion, even breathing! Just about every process in the body requires water.
Want to know just why water is so important? Consider these 10 things that you may not know about water and your body:
- Your brain is 75% water
- Your blood is 92% water
- Your bones are 22% water
- Your muscles are 75% water
- Without water, your body could not absorb nutrients from food
- Water regulates your body temperature
- Water carries nutrients and oxygen to all of your cells
- Without water, waste could not be removed from your body
- Water helps your lungs absorb oxygen in the air you breathe
- Water cushions and protects your vital organs
In a survival situation, if you are lost, or otherwise stranded, as time goes by and you fail to replace these lost body fluids as you normally would, everything starts to break down. Exhaustion, fatigue, hypothermia, brain lock, all can set in, leading to eventual total dehydration and most likely to death.