Water Treatment Options for The Really Big One


A recent article by The New Yorker entitled “The Really Big One” speaks of a major earthquake that will inevitably destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest according to author Kathryn Schulz. Since the article, we’ve been inundated with questions about disaster preparedness, more specifically, water treatment and purification.

Thankfully, water purification and filtration isn't as difficult as you might think. Our friends at SurviveWorldwide.com offer five unique ways that you can filter water in the outdoors to have fresh, clean drinking water straight from Mother Nature.


Probably the most common and well-known means to purify water is boiling it.  In this method the water should be brought to a rapid boil for at least ten minutes.  Boiling effectively kills off any tiny creatures that would cause you harm.  Though boiling water does take time and your water won't be a refreshing icy cold, it usually doesn't require any extra gear.  Chances are if you're on an overnight hiking trip, you've brought with you at least one pot for cooking food so you'll be able to double up on usage. After boiling, water tends to taste on the flat side so if you want to freshen it up try stirring or shaking it to get oxygen back into it.

Boiling water, however, does not help with filtration. You may still find particles in your drinking water. In addition, boiling water may not be an option in the scenario discussed in The Really Big One. You may not have access to fire or pots. That said, keeping a filter or water purification tablets on hand could mean the difference between life and death during a major earthquake.

Disinfecting Drops or Tablets

Another very popular and simple way for purifying water from outdoor sources is using purification tablets or drops.  These inexpensive tablets and drops can be easily tucked into your hunting gear, fishing gear, or other outdoor equipment.  Aquamira makes a line of Water Treatment Drops and Water Purifier Tablets which utilize chlorine dioxide rather than iodine, which is not extremely effective against cysts like Cryptosporidium, a common organism found in water that causes diarrhea, vomiting and cramps. Just put the number of tablets or drops specified on the packaging into the water at least 20 minutes before consumption. Aquamira’s Water Purifier Tablets and Drops actually improve the taste of water, while removing unpleasant odors.

UV Light Devices

Another method to purify water is through the use of a UV light device.  Like filters, UV light devices can be purchased online or in stores.  There are both battery-free and battery-powered models available.  UV light devices work well for killing small organisms as UV light disrupts their DNA in only a few seconds and can be utilized when the origin source of water is clear.  For larger floating particles it is better to use another method, however.


Outdoor stores now carry a number of water filters that work by pumping the raw water source through a filter cartridge. Water filters can run on the expensive side in comparison to something as cheap as boiling water or purification tablets/drops, but the water tastes fresher and filters work faster than the two aforementioned methods.

Because there are so many filters on the market, it is also important to differentiate what they can and cannot remove. Many filters only remove cysts and bacteria, but do not remove viruses. Aquamira recently introduced a line of in-line water filters and water bottle filters which not only remove greater than 99.9999% of bacteria, but greater than 99.99% of viruses as well. Virus filters not only filter the water, but purify it as well and may be your best option when The Really Big One hits. Viruses will be a major concern for any natural disaster, so if you plan on outfitting your disaster kit, a virus filter from Aquamira would be ideal.

If you don't want to buy a fancy, expensive filter from the store, there's also the possibility of making your own water filter.  There are a variety of ways to make your own filter depending on what materials you have with you.  It does, of course, take longer, but it may help you out in a tricky situation.


If you find yourself in a situation where the only water available contains contaminants like radiation, lead, salt, and heavy metals your choices are more limited.  When this is the case, using a filter is no longer a viable option as the contaminants would simply destroy it and your safest bet is to use water distillation.  The process is more complicated, using a heat source to vaporize the water, thereby separating the water molecules from the contaminants.  While in the wilderness building a solar still, which distills water in a hole in the ground, may be the best option.  

To make one, place a square of clear or milky plastic over a three-foot-deep hole with a clean receptacle centered in the bottom, making sure to run a drinking tube from the container so you can get a drink without disassembling the still.  Seal off the hole by placing dirt around the edge of the plastic rim and put a rock in the middle of the plastic.  Make sure to put the still where it's sunny and damp.

When The Really Big One hits make sure you’re prepared with not only the knowledge for proper water treatment, but the tools as well. To get yourself equipped visit: http://www.surviveworldwide.com/survival/

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