Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Drinking Water

The only thing more important for your very life than clean drinking
water is air.

Understand this well. You MUST have clean drinking water.
By 'clean' I do not necessarily mean that it has to be crystalline
clear. In fact, crystalline clear really is not an absolute guarantee
that it is fit to drink. Muddy water can fairly easily be made clear.
A couple of barrels, some pea gravel, and some sand can do wonders for
murky water.

I'm not going to delve too deeply into the technique of making a water
filter from a couple of stacked plastic barrels, but in essence, what
I mean is taking a 55 gallon drum (or even a 5 gallon bucket),
perforate the bottoms all over with a drill or a nail (or even a
heated screwdriver, if plastic), fill the bottom bucket/barrel 3/4
full of sand (some cheese cloth or something similar helps retain the
sand), perforate the tops the same as the bottoms, and stack the
second bucket/barrel 3/4 full of pea gravel on top of the
bucket/barrel with sand. Pour or allow to flow the dirty water on to
the perforated top of the top bucket/barrel. Water flows down through
the pea gravel, out the perforated bottom, through the perforated top
of the bucket/barrel with sand in it, and out the perforated bottom.
Provide an inclined pan or some other means of collecting and 'aiming'
the flow to a catch basin.

You are using gravity; these buckets/barrels must be positioned so
that gravity can do the work. It can be fed water by simply pouring
buckets of water onto the top of the top bucket/barrel, but some means
must be provided to capture the water flowing out the bottom of the
bottom-most bucket/barrel.

The water that comes out of the bottom bucket/barrel will be more or less clear.
But all this is doing is providing minimal removal of suspended
solids, such as entrained dirt. It has more of an aesthetic effect
than a 'purifying' effect.

The largest hazard in water of unknown quality is the bacteria e.
coli. This can produce severe diarrhea, which can quickly dehydrate
the victim. It will certainly weaken the victim, and can even kill. E.
coli isn't the only possible biological contaminant, but it is
certainly the most prevalent.

A little chlorine in the water will do wonders to truly purify it. It
takes very, very little. A few drops, certainly no more than a
teaspoon per gallon of plain, ordinary, UNSCENTED chlorine bleach--
Clorox, for example-- does wonders to kill off any little critters
living in the water. Powdered, unmodified swimming pool chlorine is
even easier to store, and is MUCH more concentrated than liquid
bleach. Just make certain that you are buying a pure 'hypochlorite'
bleach, with no added chemicals. You are looking for bulk swimming
pool powdered chlorine, not the 'tablets'. This powder is simply the
powdered form of what is generally sodium hypochlorite dissolved in
water that is found in liquid laundry bleach.

That is why it is very, very wise to provide a goodly supply of Clorox
or generic equivalent or powdered swimming pool chlorine with your
survival supplies.

However, if pressed into a survival situation which lasts an extended
amount of time, sooner or later you will run out of Clorox or powdered
chlorine (hypochlorite).

So, before that happens, you need to consider where you are going to
get non-biologically contaminated drinking water.

E. coli principally comes from feces, either animal or human. Runoff
from cattle pastures will almost certainly have e.coli in abundance.
Likewise, if septic tanks or outhouses drain into a ground water
supply, e. coli will be in the water.

First, and this may seem obvious, be most particular about where
outhouses are sited. Be cognizant about where 'upstream neighbors' may
have outhouses. Be cognizant about where runoff from animal sources
may contaminate your water supply.

So, you've done all the above. Now, here is a bit of information that
can save your lives. Chlorine (and iodine) are very, very closely
related, chemically, to oxygen. Where can you get large quantities of
oxygen, in a never ending supply? Yes. From the air. So, after your
bleach, or peroxide, or iodine, or whatever you have treated your
drinking water with is exhausted, you will have to aerate your
drinking water supply. And that means, aerate the pure living
daylights out of it.

Too much chlorine, or peroxide, or iodine can impart a bad taste to
water, or even be potentially bad for you. But there is no such thing
as too much oxygen in the water. In fact, heavily aerated water has,
for almost everyone, a most pleasant taste.

In bulk water storage, you can aerate it by means of a bellows and
appropriate hose or tubing. But, with a bellows, it requires tight
fittings, and not very much 'water head'-- water too deep over the air
inlet to the water storage vessel. That means that a wide, shallow
water storage vessel or container is much better than a narrower,
deeper vessel, if you are going to depend on a bellows for aeration.
And operating a bellows is going to require a lot of work from
someone. Or, will require harnessing some sort of animal power to pump
the bellows.

It is possible to thoroughly agitate water by the simple mechanism of
thrashing the top of the water storage tank with sticks, or any other
means of mechanical agitation. This, also, requires considerable human
(or perhaps animal, if using some sort of 'paddle wheel' arrangement)
effort and/or equipment.

It is possible to heavily aerate water by spraying it into the air and
allowing it to fall back into the reservoir. However, in general, it
is a lot more difficult to move water than to move air. Circumstances
can affect this, such as having the supply of water elevated from the
storage reservoir, and allowing gravity flow to provide the impetus
for a spray aeration scheme.

I am talking now about large, bulk storage of water, suitable for a
significant number of people, not the number of people comparable to
even a large single family. For smaller quantities of water, the
simple expedient of vigorous shaking in a gallon, two gallon, five
gallon container to aerate it is sufficient, and more than sufficient.
It is very much possible to super-aerate water by mechanical shaking,
but that is, in general, a 'small scale solution'.

The drawback to using aeration in lieu of chlorine, or iodine, is that
e. coli and other pathogenic bacteria have evolved over time to
tolerate a certain amount of oxygen. Oxygen is everywhere, and neither
chlorine nor iodine is present in any significant quantity. So severe
and repeated oxygenation of drinking water of suspect quality is an
absolute MUST.

Do not think that you can use table salt, sodium chloride, as a
chlorinating agent. It simply doesn't work that way. I won't go into
the reasons, but just think of the concept that the chlorine has
already been exhausted of its purifying ability by being combined in
the salt molecule.

Do also note-- chemical toxins are, by and large, simply not affected
by aeration. If your water supply is chemically contaminated, there is
no choice-- you have to find a different source of water.

For practical matters, unless you want to forever be tied to some
means of mechanical agitation (and significant human/animal effort),
you must somehow locate a source of non-biologically contaminated
water. Yes, it is possible to boil water to decontaminate it. For any
number of people, from family-sized groupings on up, this requires a
significant investment of time, fuel, resources, and effort. It simply
is not practical for the long haul.

So. In simple terms, for those in a survival situation, a reliable
source of biologically (and other sources of contamination, as well)
an uncontaminated water source is almost an outright necessity. And,
as noted, even severe, repeated aeration is not an ironclad guarantee
of purifying the water of biological contamination.

Mike Kemp

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