72 Hours Without This Will Kill You: Survival Water Fundamentals
Good Day, Ready Nutrition Readers! Welcome to “Part I” of a 3-part series detailing information on the fundamentals of water in a survival and preparedness arena. Today’s article will cover some purification methods and tools available to individuals and small groups. Part II will entail the microorganisms and viruses in detail, how to kill them, and what to do if you fall ill from them from a medical and naturopathic perspective. Part III will give information on collection and storage for your home and family, and you can incorporate the information from Parts I and II into it.
As an intelligent and well-informed readership, you are probably already well aware of the human body’s approximate 78% water content. Undoubtedly you also know that a human being can last only about 3 days with no water. Keeping these “factoids” in mind, it is obvious that water is a critical survival necessity that cannot be overlooked. One of the problems you will face is that you’ll be surrounded by a number of sources of water; however, this does not mean it is potable or safe. How do we remedy this? Read on!
First comes the time-honored method of boiling the water, keeping in mind that boiling does not take care of hard elements, such as heavy metals or sediments. There have been plenty of articles on slow sand filtration with charcoal and the like. The information here is for you on the move, when time may not be on your side (the opposite of Mick Jagger’s claim!). Boiled water is effective against viruses, but not against Cryptosporidium, a member of the protista family. Prior to boiling the water, you should give it a precursory filtering (through a handkerchief or tightly-woven cloth such as a t-shirt) to remove the larger particulate matter.
Pasteurization is keeping the water at a temperature of 149ºF for a few minutes; this method is effective against Rotaviruses, Giardia, E. coli, and Hepatitis A, for example. Personally I prefer what the Army taught me: a rolling boil for ten minutes will generally knock out anything. I also prefer the issue equipment of my day for several reasons:
- The gear is cost-effective, easily-obtainable, and reliable (in short, it works)
- The gear is durable and practical: it can take a beating
- It lends itself to repair and replacement, as well as easy maintenance without headaches
The Army’s LCE (Load-Carrying Equipment) suspenders with pistol belt, like this one can hold (2) 1-quart canteens that come with a cover that attaches to the belt with clips. A form-fitted steel canteen cup nestles in the bottom of the canteen covers and holds the canteen. The cover also has a small pouch with hook-pile tape (Velcro) that holds (1) tiny water purification tablet bottle. The plastic canteen tops have a rubber seal and a special hole with a press-valve in the lid top to enable drinking water in an NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) environment (if you have a mask, that is).
I’ve used Camelbacks. To each their own. “Uncle Caveman” (yours truly) prefers the issue canteens because they can take a beating. They are virtually impervious to puncture.
To treat water with Iodine tablets:
Place 2 water purification tablets per 1-quart canteen, allow to sit for 20 minutes with the cap loose, swill the very top off, and voila! Potable water.
The canteen cup is very durable and you can boil your suspected water (follow my advice: all water is suspect), allow it to cool, and then drink. When I went through SERE school, they required you to boil a canteen cup in 2 minutes using 1 match only to start the fire.
“Uncle Caveman” also recommends (as an alternative) empty Gatorade and Powerade bottles, 32-ounce size. They are highly durable and can be used with the Army Iodine tablets in the same ratio. If you can’t find the issue tablets, Coughlan’s puts out a bottle to purify and one to accompany it and help with the taste. For heavy metals, Brita makes pitchers and other bottles to enable you to remove a lot of such impurities from the water.
Calcium Hypochlorite (HTH/pool shock) is purchased in dry form and then used to treat water. Click here for EPA guidelines on how to do this.
How to treat water using calcium hypochlorite:
Placing 1 heaping teaspoon HTH in 2 gallons of water makes a slurry. Then the mixture is used at a 1:100 ratio of slurry to water for treating. One (1) pint of the slurry will treat 12 ½ gallons of water. It is available in 50% or 73% concentrations in your local hardware store.
Treating water with bleach:
Bleach (Chlorox with no additives only!) can be used: 2 drops per quart, or 8 drops per gallon. The problem with Bleach is that it decomposes (turns to water) within 6 months and is denatured, whereas the pool shock can be stored dry and reconstituted as needed. “Uncle Caveman” recommends sealing it up in plastic containers (say a 5-gallon bucket or empty cat litter container) to prevent off gassing of Chlorine gas, as well as to protect the HTH.
A reliable heat source for you to boil water is hexamine tablets. Your best buy is Coughlan’s Emergency Stove, a small hexamine-burner that folds into about a 4”x4”x1” square. The stove comes with 24 tablets; each burns smokeless for about 9 minutes. At night it leaves a really low heat signature. To cut that down even further, dig a small hole/hollow with gaps at each end for air intake and set the stove into it. The stove runs about $7 and can also use small cans of sterno or trioxane tablets. Refill hexamine gives you 24 tablets for about $4.
When There is No Water, Get Creative
“Uncle Caveman” has another goodie for you: how to use urine in an emergency situation where there’s no water. The way to do this is to prep (2) steel (stainless steel’s best) drinking bottles with a screw-on plastic lid. Drill a hole in the lids to the diameter of your tubing (clear heat resistant is best, up to ¼” diameter) and affix the tubing within the lids with glue. You can seal it up with JB weld. Always keep the bottles readily able to be identified! A reddish-maroon “Stop, don’t drink!” for your urine-collector and a green for your “Go drink” water collector. Fill your urine bottle up ¾ full, cap it up, and bring it to a low boil, allowing the condensation (purified water) to flow from the urine bottle direction to the collection bottle. This is water and it is potable.
Best new cost effective product I have found beats a Katidyn price and performance wise. The Mini Water Filtration System by Sawyer Products, Inc., www.sawyer.com, is available in Wal-Mart for $20 per unit. The filter weighs only 2 ounces, has a straw for pouring filtered water or drinking it right through the filter body, and it filters up to 100,000 gallons. Yes, enough for a lifetime. The 0.1-micron filter will strain Salmonella, E. coli, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. The next part of this series will cover those “creepy-crawlies” just mentioned and show you how to deal with them. The information presented in this article is for informational purposes only. Consult your licensed, certified, family physician prior to undertaking any and all information presented in this article. Have a great day!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition
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