Simple Steps to Determine If You’re Emergency Drinking Water Is Safe to Drink
I might be stating the obvious here, but that’s OK.
If SHTF then one of the most important resources you’ll need to secure (or have ready access to) is emergency drinking water.
Sounds like a no brainer, but I can’t tell you how many people out there have a bunch of cool survival gear and gadgets in their survival kit but don’t have adequate means of cleaning or sourcing water. That’s an issue.
However, there are quite a few people out there that have means of cleaning dirty water and making it safe to drink.
BUT, just because you have a water filter doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods either. This is because there are all kinds of contaminants present in water that could negatively affect your health, water filter or not.
That’s why I’m going to outline some tried and true methods for helping determine if the water you’re drinking is safe or not. This will help anyone quickly assess if the water they’re looking at is safe to drink. You need to know this information whether you own a water filter or not.
Signs Your Emergency Drinking Water Is Unsafe to Drink
Imagine for a moment you’re in a plane traveling across the barren wilderness of the Rocky Mountains.
The plane goes down and you’re one of the only ones to survive. All you have on you is the clothes on your back and whatever you might have been able to salvage from the wreckage. A water filter is not one of the items you find.
You’re tired, hungry, and thirsty. You know that after 48 hours without a drop to drink things could quickly become perilous.
So, you do the sensible thing and look for any source of water. You know that once you find water, especially moving water, you’ll be able to do things. Hopefully follow it to civilization as well as use it for drinking water.
But how do you know it’s safe to drink?
Let me show you.
1 – Go to where the bugs are:
Let’s say you’ve stumbled upon a stream after the wreck, the fast moving, clear water might induce you onto believing the water’s safe to drink. After all, it looks clean. The problem is you don’t really know what’s in there.
Surprisingly finding a small runoff of the side of the stream might be a better way to find safe drinking water. Especially water with bugs and “stuff” in it.
According to Theresa Crouse:
Plants, animals and insects in water are a good sign that the water is well-oxygenated, has a healthy pH, is mineral-balanced and is (relatively) free of harmful chemicals. If you have to choose, brush the algae away, filter the water, drop in a purification tab and drink from that pond. Steer clear of the crystal-clear, bug-free pond.
This method is used regularly by survivalists and emergency workers in third world countries. One such method is known as “miniSASS.” In this case people actually look for water with the highest amount of fly larvae in it to determine the quality of the water. The more flies the better it is!
In our scenario you won’t have a filter, so if you have the ability to collect clothing and a container from the wreckage you can use that as a filter for the sediment and drink. You could even try finding alcohol from the wreckage and pouring it in to help disinfect.
2 – Smell, taste and look at the water:
The smell test is one you can use regardless of the water source you’ve located might look like.
As you likely know chemicals and bacteria can produce all kinds of nasty smells. Those smells can help you avoid possible sickness from drinking water you’re unsure of.
When you smell the water does it have a scent similar to rotten eggs? If it does that might indicate the presence of sulfur. If it smells like gasoline or paint thinner this might indicate the presence an industrial chemical like methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) or xylenes. These chemicals are dangerous and can’t be filtered out by most filters and can’t be reduced by purification tabs.
If the water has this smell stay away.
What if it smells (or tastes) metallic. This could indicate the presence of heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic, iron, zinc, etc. Some of these are incredibly toxic while others are OK in smaller amounts. Your best bet is to skip over that water if at all possible.
And lastly, if it smells funky or earthy this might indicate the presence of decaying organic matter. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it won’t taste good. Do your best to filter the water of any sediment and drink. Again, refer back to point 1, if there are other signs the water is healthy then this water might look off but could still function as emergency drinking water.
The last thing you’ll want to do is look at the water.
Chemicals and minerals can affect the appearance of the water. For instance excess iron will turn the water orange, manganese in higher quantities makes water black or purple. While both of these minerals are OK for health, if you see the water is obviously different in color then you’re likely to ingest more than what’s healthy.
In some cases parasites are actually visible (though most times they aren’t) so you’ll want to check and see if there are any in your water. Don’t be intimidated by larvae and other bugs, but do try and see if you can see long, wormlike organism in the water as they’re parasitic.
3 – Which water to avoid at all costs:
The following information is going to be true whether you find yourself in the imaginary scenario above, or you find yourself bugging in for a while. The bottom line is there is some water you absolutely, positively shouldn’t drink.
Here are a few examples:
- Sea water – Doesn’t matter how tempting it is sea water will dehydrate you quickly and any water you drink will either be vomited up or cause diarrhea.
- Water animals defecate in – If you can see, or tell that animals are pooping in the water then you don’t want to drink it. Sure, every water source is going to contain some amount of fecal matter, but watering holes for animals that attract large animals are likely zones that attract harmful poop.
- Water downstream from industrial factories – If you live downstream from a factory then it’s advisable you not drink that water as it’s likely contaminated with industrial waste. Factories are notorious for dumping their waste into water (both legally and illegally) and your best bet is to source water from elsewhere.
Is That All You Can Do To Check Your Emergency Water?
If you’re ever stranded out in the wilderness, yes. However, if you’re bugging in there are water test kits that’ll allow you to test the water you’re accessing, whether that’s from the creek in your backyard, or the water collecting in a ditch at the end of the street.
If you want to avoid testing your water and just want to drink from anywhere there’s pretty much only one way to accomplish that.
This is via a water purifier (not a filter).
Water purifiers like the Berkey system below are able to remove almost every harmful organism, chemical, and toxin from the water you drink.
They can effectively take the dirtiest, nastiest water around and turn it into crystal clear, safe drinking water.
The Berkey system is an industry leader for water purification, that’s why it’s trusted by relief organizations, survivalist, and water purification experts above all the rest.
With the ability to provide a family of four with safe drinking water for an entire year the Berkey’s a no brainer for those who want to ensure their emergency drinking water needs are met without hesitation.
Click here or on the image below to learn more about the incredible Berkey systems.