Safe Drinking Water

April 25, 2011 by · Comments Off 

In addition to having bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause disease such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. You should purify all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene.

There are many ways to purify water on your own. None is perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods.

Two easy methods are outlined below. These measures will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.


Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a boil for 3-5 minutes, keeping in mind 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 containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.


ou can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Other chemicals such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient should not be used.

Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.

While the two methods described above will kill most microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes that resist these methods as well as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.


Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back into water. The condensed vapor will not include salt and other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cub will hang right side up when the lid is upside down (test to make sure the cup is not dangling in the water). Boil the water for 20 minutes.  The water that collects in the cup is distilled and safe to drink.