Homesteading and self-reliance

Is Rain Water Safe to Drink?

Nadia TamaraCamping, Do It Yourself, Emergency Preparedness, Water, Wilderness Survival 4 Comments

Water storage and purification

At some point in time, our world was blessed with 100% clean natural resources that could be freely used without the worry of contaminants. Water was one of these resources. Unfortunately, due to an increase in development, pollution and industrialization, we can no longer enjoy clean water any time we want…with the exception of rain water.

Is rain water safe to drink from the sky?

Rain water is nature’s provision of purified drinking water, both to us and the land. In many countries it is the primary source of drinking water.

There are many arguments regarding how safe it is to drink rain water. If you live in a place away from the main city where the air is fresh and clean, then the rain water is safe to drink so long that the catchment device you use is clean and the rain doesn’t come into contact with tree branches or other debris. If you live in a polluted city (like Los Angeles or Beijing) or near a power plant, chemical or industrial plant, then your rain water is very likely to contain airborne contaminants. It is highly recommended that you purify the water before drinking it. If your rain water has been in a container for several days, it’s advised to treat it to kill any potential viruses or bacteria that may have entered.

In emergency or survival situations where your options are limited, it’s safer to drink rain water than any other water that comes from sources such as a lake, river, or stream. Purification is required for any other type of water found in the wilderness, even if found inside plants.

Filtered water Vs. purified water

Filtered water refers to water that has been cleansed from debris. It may look clean to the naked eye, but there is a high risk of waterborne pathogens. We recommend filtering your water with a cheese cloth or coffee filter prior to purification. Filtered water needs to be purified.

There are three different types of purification systems: natural purification, chemical treatments and commercial filtration.

Why is it necessary to purify water?

Filtered water refers to water that has been cleansed from debris. It may look clean to the naked eye, but there is a high risk of waterborne pathogens. We recommend filtering your water with a cheese cloth or coffee filter prior to purification. Filtered water needs to be purified.

There are three different types of purification systems: natural purification, chemical treatments and commercial filtration.

When should I use purified water?

Although potable water is not always accessible, it’s recommended that you only use purified water for the following situations.

  • For drinking and cooking
  • For personal hygiene: washing your hands, brushing your teeth, washing your face, etc

  • For washing produce and other food-related items

  • For washing any eating utensils, dishes and cookware

What are the safest water sources to drink out of?

There isn’t a specific source that is preferred over another, because purification is required for each. However, if you have access to more than one option, choose the one with the clearest water.

  • Streams and rivers: Check that the color of the water is clear and that there are no leeches or larvae. Animals go to the bathroom and die in the wilderness. If an animal contaminates the river upstream, your water will be contaminated, even if it looks clean to the eye.

  • Muddy water: Any mirky water should be filtered or strained first, and then purified.

  • Stagnant water: This water is commonly found in tree trunks and small ponds.

  • Digging near a water source: Start digging a few feet away from a river or lake shore until you find water. This water should be much cleaner but still requires purification. The chances of finding water in a dried-up riverbed are greater at the outer bends of the river and in shady / rocky spots.

  • Plants: There are many plants that can become great sources of water, such as: Bamboo, Coconuts, Plantain and Banana tree stumps, and large-leaved plants.

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What is the best water purification method?

  • Boiling Method: This is by far the best primitive method of water purification. Most professionals recommend pouring water in a pot and bringing it to a rolling boil for at least 3 minutes, but it’s better to be safe then sorry, so we recommend you boil it for at least 10 minutes. If you don’t have a metal container, you can use a plastic bottle, paper cup, or large leaves. Yes, you read that right! Large leaves work as great containers for boiling water. The edges of the leaves may burn, but the part covered in liquid will transmit the heat directly to the water. Try this at home with a large cabbage leaf!

  • Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS): This method is recommended by the World Health Organization, especially in countries where water is scarce. It uses the sun to disinfect water and is very effective. Put water in a clear glass jar or small clear water bottle. Leave it in the sun for about 6 hours. The UV rays of the sun kill 99% of bacteria which makes this one of the simplest, and slowest, methods of water purification (on sunny days).

  • Distillation: This process requires the water to be boiled until it all becomes steam. The steam condenses and becomes purified water that is free from contaminants. This process is used in the ocean because it removes salt as well.

  • Unscented Bleach / Chlorine: This common household item is a powerful water purifier, but it’s unsafe when used in large quantities because of it’s very concentrated. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends adding 2 drops of bleach per liter of water. A little goes a long way. Shake the water and let it rest for 30 minutes before drinking it.
    • This method is less effective in cold water.

  • Iodine: A couple drops of 2% iodine should be added per liter of water. If the water is cold, or cloudy, use 10 drops instead. Mix it up and let it stand for 30 minutes before drinking.
    • This method is less effective in cold water.

  • Water Sterilization Tablets: Tablets are great when other options (like boiling) are not possible. Tablets effectively kill waterborne viruses but are not the most effective option when compared to other purification methods. They will leave an aftertaste in the water that many people complain about, but it can be masked with a powdered drink mix.
    • Can water purification tablets be eaten? No, never!! They are made to be dissolved in water, not swallowed in its entirety. Consult a medical professional immediately if this occurs! While you're waiting for medical assistance, drink a lot of water.
  • Ultraviolet Purification: This method is highly effective in eliminating microorganisms in the water, however it does not remove other contaminants. It’s recommended that UV Purification be used alongside another filtration method to remove chlorine, salts, heavy metals, and other man-made substances.

DIY Water filtration and purification system

If the only water you have comes from a dirty puddle, take the following steps to assure yourself clean and safe drinking water.

DIY Water filtration and purification system

You will need the following items:

  • 1 empty water bottle (any size works!)
  • A handful of charcoal crushed to powder (this can be found in a fire pit)
  • A handful of sand
  • A pocket knife
  • A piece of cloth (any cloth material that you have handy works, such as a piece of t-shirt or last resort you can use a napkin or coffee filter)
  • 1 or more small water bottles (if possible 500 cc. each, or smaller)

DIY Water filtration and purification system

This is the assembling procedure:

1. Gather your water in a container and let it settle for a while until the sediments sink to the bottom.

2. Meanwhile, cut your largest bottle in half. Use the side with the mouth of the bottle. First, pack the cloth tightly inside the mouth. This will prevent the charcoal powder from falling into your clean water.

3. Next, pack a layer of powdered charcoal. Packing it tightly is essential for filtration!

4. Following the charcoal, add a layer of sand. Use your pocket knife to nail this to a tree so you don’t have to hold it.

5. Gently, pour the dirty water over the top of the sand.

DIY Water filtration and purification system

6. Use the bottom half of your bottle to catch the clean water. This may take some time but it’s worth the process.

DIY Water filtration and purification system

7. Your final step is to purify the water so you can be sure that it’s free from waterborne pathogens. Use any of the purification methods discussed above, depending on your resources.

DIY Water filtration and purification system

Congratulations for being patient with the entire process. Nothing tastes better than knowing your water is safe to drink.

Now you and your loved ones can enjoy clean water!

In conclusion

Water is one of the most vital resources in the world. On average, a human being cannot survive more than ten days without water. That may sound like a lot, but in reality, by day three the body would start to deteriorate quickly and cause some organs to progressively weaken and eventually shut down. It’s not a challenge I would recommend anyone to try at home.

One of the most valuable lessons we can learn in survivalism is to find water and purify it. At some point in our life we may be presented with multiple scenarios, from droughts to floods. During a drought, our struggle will be to find water. During a flood, our struggle will be getting rid of water, yet finding clean water to drink. We will have to purify the water regardless of the situation we’re in. It’s advised to use natural (boiling, SODIS) methods whenever possible, but some chemical and commercial treatments are effective too.

Which kind of water purifiers have you used? Have you ever built your own filtration system?

Let me know in the comments below!!

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Comments 4

  1. need information on water prep
    also -alot of the food for an emergency requires boiling water. can you recommend a stove and what can of fuel does it use? also do you black gas tanks hold gas for a long time?
    how long? do you sell satellite phones or way to communicate if cells go down? can all of these items be store outside in a shed – if it doesn’t have direct sunlight. do you sell generators and how do they work? gasoline? how do i manage to apply for you blog. is there a fee? and which one is the best. I know these are a lot of questions but i plan on buying items from you

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