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Water Purification

Posted by imawheatwatcher on September 30, 2008

You will find varying schools of thought in water filtration and purification. Some say yes bleach, some no bleach. Some say bleach before storage others say it’s not needed. Bleach is not healthy when it is not pure household bleach WITHOUT additives (perfumes, dyes, thickeners, etc.) Bleach also has a shelf life of 3-6 months depending on storage temperature. My personal opinion is that it’s a good thing and if done right, will not harm but could possibly help. This is one article that seemed to cover most bases and is from a reliable source, take it as food for thought, I’m not an expert:)

Treatment for Stored Water

Tap water or well water is not sterile. The few microorganisms present can multiply during storage and have the potential to make someone ill. Water that is to be stored for long periods of time should be treated to control microbial growth. Be sure to use the best quality water possible for storage.

Heat Treatment:One effective way to store water is in clean canning jars. Fill clean mason type quart or half-gallon jars with water, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jars. Attach two piece metal canning lids. Fill a boiling water canner half full of water and preheat the water to approx. 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Place jars into the water bath. Add more boiling water if necessary so that jars are covered by 1 inch of water. When water returns to a rolling boil, process jars for 20 minutes. Remove jars from the canner and allow them to cool. After seals set, remove screw bands and place jars in storage. Canned water often will have a white mineral precipitate or ring at the water level. This is normal.

Chlorine Treatment: Liquid chlorine bleach (unscented) can be used to disinfect water for long-term storage. Use fresh chlorine bleach since it can lose up to half its strength after 6 months. One gallon can be treated by the addition of 1/8 teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach containing 4 to 6 percent sodium hypochlorite. (Most bleach contains 5.25 percent.) This is equivalent to 8 drops of liquid chlorine bleach. During storage the bleach will break down into oxygen and table salt.

Bottled Water
Bottled water can be a quick and convenient way to store water. Although it is convenient, it is not considered to be any safer than water from your tap. Standards for public water supplies are set by the Environmental Protection Agency and those for bottled water are set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Additionally the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) works with the industry to assure that FDA regulations are followed, assuring a safe, high quality

Emergency Disinfection of Nonpotable Water
Be sure to filter murky or cloudy water through a clean cloth or allow the sediment to settle before disinfecting it as described below.

Some emergency situations could occur where the only water available is contaminated by disease causing organisms. In this case, the same procedures can be used as for treatment of stored water as follows:

Heat Treatment:
Boiling is the most preferred method. This heat treatment requires water to be boiled in a vigorous rolling boil for 5 minutes for any altitude in Utah. Taste may be improved by pouring the boiled water back and forth from one clean container to another several times to incorporate air.

Chemical and Filtration Treatments:
Chemical treatment is less desirable than heat treatment because the effectiveness is dependent on several variables such as: (1) the amount of organic matter in the water, (2) water temperature and (3) the length of time after the chemical is added until it is used. Furthermore, chlorine or water purification tablets will not kill parasite cysts such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. It is recommended to both filter and chemically treat nonpotable sources of water to minimize potential contamination from bacteria, viruses and parasites.

• Chlorine Treatment: Clear water can be treated with ¼ teaspoon (16 drops) of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon. Use fresh bleach. Mix the water and allow it to stand for 30 minutes before using. If water is cloudy in appearance, chemical treatment is not recommended. A slight chlorine odor should be detectable in the water. If not, repeat the treatment and let stand an additional 15 minutes before using.
• Water Purification Tablets: Different types of tablets are available for water purification purposes. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for treatment and allow sufficient time for the chemical to work before using. Check the label for expiration date, since the tablets can become ineffective with time. Most tablets have a storage life of approximately 2–5 years unopened.
• Commercial Water Filtration Units: You can filter water if you have a commercial or backpack filter that filters to 1 micron. These are available in sporting good stores and are recommended for use when backpacking. They are not recommended to filter large volumes of water or for water with a lot of sediment. Filtering at 1 micron eliminates bacteria, parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, but it may not eliminate viruses. Therefore, it’s recommended that 5-7 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of chlorine bleach be added per gallon of filtered water. Wait 30 minutes before using the water, or cap the containers and store them in a cool, dry place.

(I have found a few brands of commercial filters I am interested in purchasing including the British Berkfeld and AquaRain filters. I may see about a group purchase if there is enough interest, please contact me if you’re interested.)

Contamination by Radioactivity and Chemicals

No effective method for decontamination of water that contains radioactive or chemical fallout is available for home use. This decontamination should be supervised by local or state health officers.

Most of this information is found in the USU Extension Document WATER:Storage and Emergency Use.


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