Methods of Purifying Water That Are Simple, Effective, and Inexpensive
by Donald Thompson – Emergency Management Specialist
What I would like to touch on here today is Water Treatment. I know that for some, it would be hard for me to teach you something new on this subject. But this particular aspect I have not seen addressed anywhere else.
First, let’s just say it’s been a bad day in Muddville, and whatever nasty situation you are planning for has unfortunately happened. Now you find yourself and your family in the position of bugging out. There may or may not be some others with you.
You may or may not link up with others for that safety in numbers thing. At this time your most pressing problem will be, how will you provide enough drinkable water for your journey? Your journey will have you on the road long enough that it is not possible for you to even attempt to try and carry an adequate amount. Stop and think a moment, how will you approach this problem?
To set the stage here are a few key points so that we are all on the same sheet of music.
A widely accepted way to purify water is to use unscented household Bleach, such as Clorox. Just be sure that it has no scents or additives. Here is the simple formula to use the Bleach.
Water purification – 8 drops (1/8tsp) per gallon/4 liters. Let stand for 20 minutes, retreat if water does not smell of Chlorine. Only do this twice (a total of 16 drops). Now, this part is important to remember. Bleach does have some problems – it has a limited shelf life (6 months to 2 years depending on who you ask). It’s also messy and nasty to clean up if spilled.
We understand that the short shelf life of bleach poses a problem when packing a GOOD bag. So that being said another more economical solution is to use “Pool Shock” a common ingredient to make pools safe to swim in. It is available from any pool care store online or in your town depending on your environment. Make sure that Calcium Hypochlorite is the only active ingredient in the product and at 65% or greater, (Note: You will not be able to find this concentration at Wally-World, you will need to go to a pool supply store) with no added anti-fungal’s, or clarifiers, if not you can seriously endanger you and your family.
You mix 1 heaping Teaspoon, about ¼ ounce into two gallons of water. The mixture will produce a Stock Chlorine Solution of approximately 500 mg/L, since the Calcium Hypochlorite has an available chlorine equal to 65 percent of its weight. You just made a form of Bleach, and with that you can use this bleach solution to treat water at 1 part per 100 parts water, roughly 2.5 tablespoons per gallon of water.
This Stock Solution will also have a shelf life so don’t mix it up until you need it. As for the dry C-H I do not know what the shelf life of this is. All I can say is that in all of my research I have not seen or heard of a limited lifespan. For me the basic rules apply here, Keep it sealed tight, Keep it in the dark, and Don’t play with temperature fluctuations. This should at the least, last many years. If someone knows the actual lifespan, please let me know. I would appreciate it greatly.
But then you all knew this, so let’s see if I can walk you down a bit of a different path.
We know that the basic formula of 1 teaspoon of Calcium Hypochlorite will make 2 gallons of a stock solution, which then treats 200 gallons of water. This is a 1:100 ratio. But then my DW asked the show-stopping question. “Do you have a 2 gallon and a 200-gallon container”? With a dumbfounded look and a rather sheepish “I’ll get back to you on that” I realized I had a problem to solve. How will I measure out a 1:100 batch of safe water?
Who really, does have these kinds of containers to use this treatment option? And how would we do this if we were out on foot. My best guess is not too many. I set about figuring out how to break down the containers of solution into manageable amounts.
But even using a small readily available container meant that I had to accurately measure out 1 unit of the stock solution and then 100 units of water to accurately make the 1:100 ratios. There had to be a better way!
And then I had my AHA moment. Now follow me on this, and you will see the method to my madness.
If 1tsp. to 2 gallons of water makes a 1:100 stock solution, (this treats 200 gallons of water)
Then that same 1tsp. to only 1 gallon of water makes a 1:200 stock solution, (this still treats 200 gallons of water) only the concentration is doubled.
With me so far? Good.
- Then 1tsp. to ½ gallon of water makes a 1:400 stock solution, (this also treats 200 gallons of water)
- Then 1tsp to 1qt. of water makes a 1:800 stock solution, (this treats 200 gallons of water)
- And finally 1tsp, to 16oz. (a pop bottle) of water makes a 1:1600 stock solution (this still treats 200 gallons of water).
The 1tsp of Calcium Hypochlorite treats 200 gallons of water no matter what concentration you decide to make.
OK, that was a bit much. I hope you are still with me because I am going to add in another factor.
This is the second part you need to know. Copy this down it is important. “1oz. of water is made up of 596 drops”.
That 1 oz. of water equaling 596 drops is a key element of this concept. So let’s carry this out a few steps. By the power of deduction (all that Sherlock Holmes holds dear), we also know that 2oz of water = 1,192 drops of water, and 3oz. of water = 1,788 drops. I’m gonna stop here as 3oz. makes my point.
Did you notice that 1 drop of the 1:1600 stock solution (1 drop treats 1600 drops) will treat just less than 3oz.? Good. Now let’s move along and jump to16 oz. 16oz. x 596 = 9,536 drops, divide this by 1600 and you can see that it will take 5.96 (go ahead and round it up to 6) drops to treat a 16oz bottle of water.
So if 6 drops treat 16oz., then 12 drops must treat 1qt., and 24 drops will treat 2qts. and 48 drops will treat 1 gallon of water. It took a few minutes for the full impact of this to register on me. 48 Drops treat a gallon. I can count to 48 in my sleep. (Do I get an AHA?)
Now if you are as intuitive as I believe you are, you would have seen all of these little golden gems?
- All of these size bottles will be laying everywhere.
- Anyone can easily carry 16 oz. of Stock Solution.
- You can now mix up a batch of treated water to fill the size of container you have.
- If you are on the move you can make enough water for your daily needs. And be able to carry it.
- You can carry only the amount you will need for the day. If water is plentiful.
- You can afford to share with your fellow travelers. (This will earn you near God Like status.)
- You could even mix up and hand out 16oz bottles of stock solution to others.
That one bottle can make many, many more, on an as-needed basis. Yes, that 16oz bottle of stock solution means you are carrying 200 potential gallons of safe drinking water.
This revelation sure did take a burden off of my shoulders, both physically and mentally. And it works in both bug out and or hunker down scenarios. I see this as a fairly easy way to address all of my water needs, especially when I have to be on the move.
Find yourself a way to package up a few individual Teaspoons of this, and you will be able to carry potentially thousands of gallons of drinkable water when you needed it. And all you will need in addition to a few pop bottles is an Eye Dropper.
I have been working on this for a while so it took me a while to come up with this (OK, I got it from someone else). Here is where I need to add in an afterthought. It has to do with fixing up additional packages of 1 tsp. (heaping) of the Calcium Hypochlorite.
Pinch the end of a common plastic straw leaving about an 1/8” (I find that a needle nose pliers works best). With a lighter melt that 1/8” so that it seals up the end. 1 tsp. of the Calcium Hypochlorite will nearly fill the body of the straw. For me using a powder funnel for reloading seems to work pretty good.
Now with the pliers just snug up to the C-H, trim off the excess straw leaving 1/8” and melt this end also. WAL-LA. 200 Gallons to go. Ten of these straws can easily fit into a standard 16oz. COKE bottle.
They will just sit there waiting for their moment to shine. Ten straws, that’s 2,000 gallons in your pack. This is not just a good way to store and carry the Calcium Hypochlorite. It also makes it an easy way to dispense a life-saving commodity. Just think of the good you can do with a handful of these straws.
Oh and one last point. I like to use the regular Coke bottle with the RED cap to hold my stock solution. The red of course signifies Danger. Diet Coke bottles (or any other without a red cap) will hold the water that I can drink.
Additional good information-CDC recommends a fresh 1:10 to 1:100 solution for cleaning up blood spills.
FEMA recommends 8oz of bleach to 5 gallons of water for killing mold and 4 oz. to 5 gallons for disinfecting flood-contaminated articles:
(That’s 125ml / 20liters and 250ml / 20 liters for you metric folks).
Here is the mixing chart again in case you want to print out labels for instruction.
- 1Tsp. to 2 Gal. of water makes a stock solution that treats 200 Gal., at a 1:100 ratio.
- 1Tsp. to 1 Gal. of water makes a stock solution that treats 200 Gal., at a 1:200 ratio.
- 1Tsp. to 1/2 Gal. of water makes a stock solution that treats 200 Gal., at a 1:400 ratio.
- 1Tsp. to 1 Qt. of water makes a stock solution that treats 200 Gal., at a 1:800 ratio.
1Tsp. to 16 oz. of water makes a stock solution that treats 200 Gal., at a 1:1600 ratio. 1 oz. = 596 Drops. If 1 drop of stock solution (1:1600 ratio) treats 1600 drops and 1 oz. = 596 drops, then 1 drop of solution treats just under 3 oz. (1788 drops) or 2.68 oz. If 16 oz. = 9,536 drops divide by 1600, then 5.96 (go ahead and round it up to 6) drops will treat a 16oz. pop bottle of water, then 12 drops will treat a Qt., and 24 drops will treat 2 liter’s., and 48 drops will treat a Gal..
For me, this is a doable solution to a problem that has been eating at me.
I hope in a small way this helps to add a bit to the collective knowledge. I also hope it starts to pay back some of what I have received from all of you.
Thanks for your time, and as Red Skelton would say “MAY GOD BLESS”.