Everyone agrees that you should have an emergency supply of water. Most experts advise that you should have a minimum water supply for 72 hours and the CDC recommends that you have 1 gallon of water for each person in your family for each day. If you have a family of 4 you will need 12 gallons of water for those 72 hours. This is pretty easy to do with bottled water. Bottled water is pre-packaged and has clear expiration dates so you know that the water is still safe to drink.
Acquiring safe drinking water becomes a little more difficult if you need to abandon your home or if the emergency lasts longer than 72 hours. Each case requires an understanding of water safety, contamination, and treatment.
Choose the right water source
Water from flowing streams and rivers is always preferable to the stagnant water in ponds or lakes. Always try to choose water as close to the water source as possible. In many cases, spring water coming out of the ground will be the safest for drinking. As much as possibly, try to avoid water that is down river from towns and industry. Waste and pollutants often find their way into the water systems. Likewise, water near to agricultural land can be a problem. Fertilisers and pesticides soak into the land, and through rainfall and runoff, will get into the streams and rivers.
Avoid water in marshes and swamps or where algae is growing. Trying to find the cleanest water will make your life much easier. With the being said, there are times when you do not have any choice about the water that is available to you. This is where it is best that you understand the potential contaminants in the water and the technology needed to remove them.
To make water completely safe to drink, five types of contaminates need to be eliminated:
How to purify water
Depending on the level of contamination that you are dealing with, there are a variety of methods you can choose. Water purification technology has advanced quite a bit over the last few years and there are numerous methods for getting rid of the nastiness in contaminated water. Unfortunately, getting clean, safe, good tasting drinking water requires more than one filtration medium. Below are different filtration methods and what they remove.
Boiling water for at least one minute will kill or deactivate all viruses, pathogens, bacteria and protozoa. This is an easy way to filter water with no special equipment and you can treat a lot of water at one time so it is good for large groups or families. Boiling does not remove chemical pollutants or clarify turbidity in the water. Boiling also requires a fuel source to burn which is sometimes difficult to come by.
A water filter is generally a device that blocks impurities or particles from passing through it. This works through size exclusion where the holes in the filter are so small that the bacteria cannot fit. Most filtration of this kind is called Hollow Fiber.
Adsorption normally refers to a product like activated carbon. There are a few forms of activated carbon (granular, powder, and fiber). The small pores in the carbon increases the surface area of adsorption. Activated carbon is ideal for removing chemicals, metals, and turbidity of water. It also improves the taste of your water and has faster flow rates. Activated Carbon Fiber is a fibrous adsorbent that has 10x higher adsorption than traditional activated carbon and gives you faster flow rates.
UV light purifiers
This method uses UV rays to blast microbes and organisms in the water. This neutralises them and renders them harmless to humans. UV purifiers require a power source (generally batteries) and are potentially fragile, leaving you without filtration.
One of the most popular filtration straws on the market. Originally designed as an emergency water treatment method, straws are also well suited for time in the backcountry and are cheap to throw in an emergency pack. The LifeStraw has a hollow fiber membrane filter that cleanses the water as you sip it straight from the source. LifeStraw does not remove viruses and it can only be used directly from the water source.
Hand pump filters are common for backpackers and have the ability to filter large amounts of water. Hand pumps are generally reliable and easy to use. Hand pumps have small filter pore sizes so they can remove more particulate, but this reduces the flow rate of water. Most hand pumps are heavy and have multiple pieces that can get lost. Also, very few hand pumps can remove viruses. There are a few lately that have been released on the market that give you complete viruses protection.
Gravity filters are a three step process that are great for groups of people at a campsite or have time to set up a semi-permanent installation. Most gravity filters have a large water reservoir that is filled with dirty water. It will have a tube that is connected to the filter medium and another tube attached to the clean water receptacle. Most gravity filters are made of hollow-fiber which allows for fast flow rates. Gravity filters are hassle-free, light-weight and can collapse down to save space. These systems do not protect against viruses and you need quite a bit of water to make the system work.
Another very common filter is an in-line filter and most people are aware of the Sawyer Mini. It is one of the lightest filters on the market. It is economical to use and can used with a water reservoir, a collapsible canteen, as a straw and can be threaded onto a water bottle. This type filter will filter up to 100,000 gallons if you continue to backflush it and take care of the filter. The filter is great for a single user, but not very good for larger groups. This type of filter also does not remove viruses and does nothing to remove chemicals and metals.
Chemical water treatment methods, most commonly contain iodine or chlorine dioxide. This is a lightweight option, is good for treating large amounts of water and kills viruses found in the water. The downside is it takes a few hours to treat the water and leaves a negative taste in the water. This treatment does not’t remove the turbidity of water.
A small company out of Utah recently released an adaptable water filter that they believe fixes many of the problems with single use water filters. The MUV Adaptable Water Filter is a multi-stage water filter that can be modified and used based on the water contamination that you are dealing with. Not only does it remove all of the water pollutants covered above, including viruses, but it is also versatile in the way it can be used. You can easily modify the filter to work in a water bottle, as an in-line filter, as a gravity system, as a straw, threaded onto a 28mm soda bottle, and as a pump. The MUV was released on Kickstarter on May 24th and reached its backing goal in just 72 hours. There is still time to back their Kickstarter project and you can see their Kickstarter video below.
With the different MUV filter modules you are able to completely control how your water filter works and what it removes. Using the chart above you are able to determine which module is right for you given your current water situation. You can easily combine one or more of the modules to get superior filtration.
MUV can adapt to your lifestyle or your needs. With a few simple adapters you can go from using MUV in a water bottle to a hydration system to a pump. No longer do you need to buy a variety of separate water filters that are incompatible with each other. Now you can easily buy one system that covers 99.9% of all your water filtration needs.