Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cleaning Up Water

One Acre Homestead asked in the comments of my mandarin oranges post about water purification. To be honest, I haven't had a real need to purify water in several years because we haven't gone backcountry camping with the girls yet. There are times we still purify the water in campsites though and we keep means of water purification available for disaster preparedness. What I'm getting at is I'm not an expert here, this is just what we've used...

I would say the first thing to consider is how can your water purification method FAIL out in the field. And then think of what back up would be good. Because water is the most important thing you can have, it's always a good idea to have a plan B in mind. Preferably a plan B that doesn't involve contracting girardia.

We have a filter, UV purifier and chemical purification.

Our filter was a gift from a friend and is a Katadyn Filter. Pluses: fast, pretty light, doesn't leave a chemical taste in the water. Minuses: can clog, need replacement filters, get broken. All filters aren't created equal, but to find one you like, you're better off playing with them at the local REI and being sure to consider how it can clog and how much replacement filters are. I think this one's pretty neat, but it hasn't seen much use.

Our UV purification is a SteriPEN. We got ours when they first came out and they have since put out several different models and options that are probably worth looking into. This appealed to me because I was working in a zebrafish lab at the time and we used UV to clean the water that was cycled through the (hundreds of) fish tanks. I'm a little embarrassed to link because I wrote it soooooo long ago and it's really quite poorly laid out, but we did test the steripen for ourselves and post the results on an old blog. Pluses: fast, little effort involved, it works. Minuses: dependent on batteries, could get broken, water must be reasonably clear. This is what we've used the most on backpacking trips. Generally we strained the water through a handkerchief or something similar, then treated with the steripen. When the girls are older and we're able to do more backpacking, I plan at looking into buying one of the newer steripen models.

Our chemical purification is AquaMira. This involves two bottles of liquid and you have to mix the liquids, let it sit, then add it to your water and let it sit. Pluses: very light, no filters to clog or batteries to deal with. I suppose you could still break the bottles, but at least it'd be cheap to replace. Minuses: fairly long wait time, slight chlorine taste, on longer trips you need to plan ahead and really make sure you have enough to get you through before your next restock point. If I was going to purify a large quantity of water in a disaster situation though, AquaMira would probably be my choice and you can buy it in many different sizes if you were looking at purifying a large quantity of water at once.

That's all the input I have on that topic! Like I said, I'm not an expert by any means, this is just our personal experience.


Heather said...

Only you would think that the above knowledge isn't knowing "very much" :)

One Acre Homestead said...

I'm researching a bit for our preparedness kit. Looks like the chemical option would be best for that. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge! I've surfed Amazon WAY too many hours looking at water purification methods not knowing what really works.

The Hills said...

If you're expecting to have to purify tap water, I'd probably go with chemical (though you need to be careful of expiration dates). Even then, I really like the steripen, but the batteries can be killer to keep up with and make sure you have good ones. We have solar re-chargers so we can keep rechargeable batteries and recharge them even with the power out, but even rechargables don't last forever, so you have to remember to rotate them out. There's also the ol' bleach option for purifying at home during a disaster. It's a little easier to keep fresh if you clean with it at all and can rotate it out with fresh bottles.

One thing I didn't mention, if you dip a bottle into a contaminated source and then purify, you can still get sick from the water on the threads of the bottle. Some people recommend purifying, then turning the bottle upside down, loosening the lid and letting purified water run out. I think that method in particular might also let the bugs IN the bottle, but be aware that contaminated water on the outside edge of your bottle will still be contaminated, so you need to try to do away with that.


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