Water purification in urban environments
It’s a little known fact that we’re supposed to drink adequate amounts of water every day. However, drinking water is no good for you if the water itself is contaminated! Fortunately, the EU’s Drinking Water Directive and the UK’s Water Supply Regulations are both in place to keep our water ‘wholesome and clean’. In other words, the water in the UK must be free from parasites, microorganisms and other substances that could be harmful to our health.
Recently, there was a highly publicised outbreak in Lanarkshire and Lancashire of cryptosporidium – a small parasite that can cause gastro intestinal complaints. Scaremongers were quick to hyperventilate about the issue, with headlines such as “You can’t even drink boiled water” appearing in the press.
However, what was illuminating was the speed in which the water board responded in providing advice to minimise any harmful side effects. The most important piece of advice was to boil your water before drinking! This rapid response meant the issue had all but vanished within three weeks of the outbreak.
DIY water purification
While this is all well and good, it is also important to know what can be done in the event of an apocalyptic epidemic. The first thing you will need when an outbreak emerges is a water filter, and if you don’t have one, here is how to make one (courtesy of Instructables).
Take a large plastic bottle and remove the bottom, then turn the bottle upside down and add the following items in the order listed (leave the cap on first to avoid spillage):
- Small stones
- Sand (coarse or fine)
- A piece of cloth
- A piece of cloth
Now, run the water through the device. This won’t necessarily get rid of all micro-organisms, but follow this by boiling the water and that should be a perfectly safe method to produce drinking water.
Apply chlorine bleach
If boiling water is impractical, apply chlorine bleach to the contaminated water. Non-chlorine bleach will not purify water, so always check the chlorine content of the bleach if you want to store water for a long period of time. If the chlorine content is 1 per cent, then every gallon of untreated water requires 40 drops, whereas if the chlorine is 10 per cent, then 4 drops per gallon will suffice.
Iodine drops provide another solution for water purification. They come in three forms: tablets, crystal or tincture, all of which are effective for killing bacteria. If using tincture then 2 drops per two pints of clear water. If the water is cloudy, 10 drops per two pints of water will do the trick. If using the other forms then follow the directions on the label. This is not a long-term method solution, but hopefully you won’t need it to be!
Water filters for the home
For regular situations where the apocalypse is not looming, you may wish to consider purchasing a water filter for purification purposes. They are designed to combat and remove all impurities in your water system, and will drastically reduce the risk of you digesting any unpleasant microorganisms. Also, filtered water is greatly superior in terms of taste if you’re in the mood for brewing a cup of tea!
[Photos by roegger and Instructables]
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