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Survival Water Purification

Water is essential for life. A person can survive for a number of days without food but not more than five days without water. The best solution to having enough water in the wild is making use of the water you get in your environment. However, most of it is usually contaminated and is harmful and requires purification to be safe for consumption. That is why it is essential to learn survival water purification techniques.

Water purification is the process of removing undesired chemical compounds, organic and inorganic materials and biological contaminants from raw water. These contaminants can sometimes enter water through accidents or through the improper disposal of certain materials. Purifying water may reduce the concentration of particulate matter including suspended particles, parasites, bacteria, algae, viruses, fungi, as well as reducing the concentration of a range of dissolved and particulate matter. The main aim is to produce water fit for a specific purpose. Most water is disinfected for drinking, but water purification may also be designed for other purposes, including fulfilling the requirements of medical, pharmacological, chemical and industrial applications.

Why Water Needs Purification

Water purification is a convenient way to get rid of contaminants while also saving time especially when it involves large amounts of water.

Chemicals, toxic materials and impurities found in most water sources increases the risk of getting some types of cancer. Purification of water helps to lower the risk of getting cancer associated with exposure to these materials.

Survival water purification

Water purification not only benefits humans but also animals and plants. Using purified water helps to lower the risk of animal exposure to pollutants that might affect their health while watering plants with purified water also help reduce their risk of being harmed by certain kinds of materials.

Water purification helps get rid of chlorine in drinking water which reduces your risk of getting asthma, birth defects, cancer and cardiovascular problems that are brought about by chlorine. This helps keep one safe from illnesses and serious health issues

Purchasing bottled water from time to time can be costly. Investing in a water purification leads to a lower amount of money spent on having clean water and saves cost.

Purifying water helps get rid of some contaminants that affect the flavor of drinking water by giving it a bad unpleasant taste. This improves the flavor of drinking water without having to boil it.

Water purification not only provides one with safe drinking water but also gives a steady supply of purified water that can be used for other purposes, such as rinsing off vegetables, preparing meals and making tea. This can help your foods and beverages taste fresher.

How to purify water in the wild


Boiling water is the simplest and most effective method to cleanse water that is unsafe because of micro-organism contamination such as viruses, parasites, or bacteria and works best for water that is not clean but is clear. Boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes kills 99.9% of all living things and vaporizes most chemicals.

However, boiling will not remove metals or chemical toxins.  Minerals, Metals, solids and the contamination from the cooking container become more concentrated. One of the advantages here is that you are not adding any chemicals to your water.

It is highly recommended to use other methods in combination with boiling if the only water source contains dirty water. One can achieve this is by boiling the water, passing it through a sand filter that removes all the impurities that were not taken care of in the boiling stage, waiting for the water to cool down before it can be consumed and protecting it from recontamination. If you are purifying water by boiling, it is advised that you use water purification tablets, for instance, AQUATABS to provide your water with protection from recontamination. This will make your water cleaner and safer to drink.


Filtration is an important way to purify your water in the wild especially in times where the only water you find is muddy or very dirty but is not as simple as it sounds. Sand filtration is one of the simplest ways to filtrate your water.

There are hundreds of different types and sizes of filters to choose from. Filters need to be cleaned and replaced when damaged. One needs to know when and how to clean it, or when to change it. Improper maintenance of a water filter can lead to dangerous levels of bacteria building and growing within the filter. Some filters only remove sand and sediment while others remove more and few are capable of removing common waterborne viruses. Some require electricity, some require manual pumping

Purifying water by filtration also leaves water prone to recontamination. When the water leaves the filter it is susceptible to any sort of bacteria in the air. One can use chlorine in their drinking water systems since it provides the treated water with ongoing protection from recontamination. Any bacteria or virus that comes into contact with the treated water is inactivated by the chlorine in the water.

The filtration method is very cost-effective because you are only required to use materials that are readily available, is very effective for getting rid of various forms of contaminants such as debris and other contaminants and also you can use this method to clean a lot of water.


Distillation is the process where water is heated into steam and the steam is captured through a cool surface where it condenses as a liquid, cools and is safe for drinking. Most of the water found in the wilderness is salty and contains a lot of impurities which causes dehydration due to large amounts of salt in it making distillation the best method of purification.

Distillation does not remove all contaminants and does not completely purify water, because of contaminants with similar boiling points and droplets of unvapourised liquid carried with the steam, but most heavy particles that are not vaporized, remain in the boiling solution. However, 99.9% pure water can be obtained by distillation.


Chlorination is the most commonly used method of water purification in the world where chlorine or hypochlorous acid is used. It is highly advisable to carry chlorine when going in the wild and want some clean water to drink. Chlorine is known to be a safe and effective water disinfectant and has virtually eliminated widespread epidemics of waterborne disease. Chlorine is very effective against almost all bacteria and viruses. It comes in a variety of forms; liquid, granules and tablets as well as different base agents including calcium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite.

Many Chlorine tablets are considered a dangerous good and need to be handled carefully. Direct contact with chlorine tablets or resulting dust can cause severe skin and respiratory irritation. Chlorine tablets when mixed with acids and some chemicals are explosive and highly flammable. Household bleach, halazone tablets or calcium and sodium hypochlorite create a very strong chlorine taste and smell in the water.

The amount of chlorine you add to the water is dependent on the temperature and quality of the water you want to purify. For water that is murky, you will need to use about 4 drops and clear water will require 2 drops.

 Use of Survival Straws

The survival life straws help people purify their water when spending time in the wilderness. They are very light, easy to use and one can find them in most places where hiking stuff are sold. Most filters contain an activated carbon filter element, which filters out larger bacteria and pathogens and removes odd flavors and odors from the water.

Firstly, you need to hold the survival straw into the water body for about one minute. This will enable the water to move into the filter membrane. Afterward, suck on the straw to draw water from the water body and into your mouth. The water that gets to the mouth is clean and safe from microbial and contaminants. The survival straws are probably the easiest way to drink purified water. It is an easy method of water purification, unlike distillation and filtration.

UV Light devices

Ultraviolet water purification is a decontamination method that uses ultraviolet light at an appropriately short wavelength to eradicate or inactivate microorganisms. UV water purification is more effective in clear water than water with large floating particles. It is very damaging to small organisms.

Water that was preserved under a UV light water purifier must not be exposed to visible light for a long period of time before drinking to avoid consumption of reactivated microbes. It is a fast method, cost-friendly and needs minimal labor.

Iodine treatment

Iodine treatment is the use of iodine chemical to acquire drinking water from untreated sources in the wild. It is effective against microorganisms and other types of contaminants.

To purify water with iodine successfully;

First, you need to fill your container with clear or dirty water.​Once you have placed the water in a container, add about 5 drops of the iodine to the water if it’s clear and about 10 if the water is muddy. Shake the container to allow the iodine and the water to mix then leave the container in a dark place for about an hour. The importance of keeping the container in a dark place is the fact that it protects the iodine since iodine is light sensitive. After one hour, your water will be clean enough and safe to drink.

Evaporation Traps

Getting a water source in the wilderness may sometimes prove difficult or one needs to walk for a very long distance to find one. In such situations, making evaporation traps on the ground is one of the ways to get water without a water source.

First, do a survey on the land. Try finding spots on the land that look like there was a river bed because you are more likely to get a lot of water in such an area. Once you have located the spot, start digging 19 inches deep holes. The more the holes, the more the water you will have. For dryer land, one needs to dig further to locate moist land. Then get a non-poisonous plant and throw them into the hoes you have dug and take an empty cup and place it at the center of the holes. Next, take a plastic bag and cover each of the holes with it sealing it by pouring sand around it. Place a rock at the center of the plastic wrap to keep it from coming into contact with the cup. Wait for the sun to evaporate water and Collect your water.

​Solar Disinfection

Solar water disinfection is a type of portable water purification that uses solar energy for disinfection and to make contaminated water safe to drink. There are three main subsets of solar water disinfection; electric water purifier, heat purification, and UV purification.  The most common way is to expose plastic bottles full of contaminated water to the sun for a minimum of one day. The sun’s UV light kills and destroys all biological hazards in the water.

This type of water purification is easy to use, is inexpensive or else free, offers good bacterial and viral disinfection, does not use dangerous chemicals, and does not require constant attention.

All in all, it comes with some disadvantages. One needs sunny weather or two days of direct sunlight for maximum effectiveness thus it offers no residual disinfection during rainy season. It is also less effective against bacterial spores and some parasites and the water and the bottle need to be clear and not glass during the process.

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Natural Chemical Treatments

Some plants in the wilderness can kill microorganisms or stop their growth. One can make use of the plants to purify your water, especially in an emergency situation. These are the plants you need when you are looking for a way to purify the water you drink in order to protect yourself from waterborne illnesses.

One of the best shrubs you can use for the purpose of making your water pure for drinking is the Oregon Grape. The inner bark of the plant has berberine which is an antimicrobial alkaloid that is very powerful against microorganisms. All you need to do is chew the root of this shrub before taking the water and after. When you chew the shrub’s root, the antimicrobial properties of the berberine kick in and fight all the microorganisms in the water. However, you might not find this shrub easily and it is very bitter when you chew it.


Water found in the wild is contaminated with microorganisms and harmful chemicals and these can cause diseases and very serious health problems that may be hard to cure. It is important to be open to using different water purification methods because of the different water sources found in the wild. One should also carry a few items from home and get different skills which will make purifying water an easy task when you get in the wild.

  • July 14, 2022
Paul Dudley

Paul is the owner and founder of . His passion for ham radios and fishing lead him to create this site. He loves playing with his radios and doing many other outdoor activities