top of page

Is Your Water Source Safe?

Water is the most critical resource you must have almost immediately or else you will begin to break down and eventually you will start to fail as your organs start to malfunction and quit, then you will suffer from dehydration and eventually die. Most documentation states an adult must hydrate daily and no less than once per three days. Of course, this is based around your body side, condition you are in from the starting point, and your exertion level. You must also consider what you are consuming for food. When you eat and do not drink water, it takes internal fluids to process and digest the food you consumed. Avoid food when possible and definitely avoid salty food when you do not have water to drink. You can survive longer without food than water. Keep that in mind.

There are numerous circumstances why you could be without water. You may be stranded on the highway and have to walk for help. Do you carry water in your vehicle with you? Maybe you have water and energy snacks in a back pack? One can receive training on water and the many available means to procure and store water in the event you are without. The key you must remember and decide is if the water source is clean. If the water is not safe and you consume it, you will become deathly ill. If you do not get help, you could die. We carry at least two water cleansing methods with us at all times. This could be a filtered water bottle and water treatment tablets in our backpack. You must decide what works best for you.

Here are a few things to remember:

1. Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available.

2. If you don't have bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through a clean cloth or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.

3. If you can't boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through a clean cloth or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1⁄8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.

4. If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or state health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.

You should always pay attention to public officials when they announce water warnings for your area. In times of crisis, follow advice from local officials. Local health departments or public water systems may urge consumers to use more caution or to follow additional measures.

Look for other sources of potable water in and around your home.

When your home water supply is interrupted by natural or other forms of disaster, you can obtain limited amounts of water by draining your hot water tank or melting ice cubes. In most cases, well water is the preferred source of drinking water. If it is not available and river or lake water must be used, avoid sources containing floating material and water with a dark color or an odor. Generally, flowing water is better quality than stagnant water.

Examine the physical condition of the water.

When emergency disinfection is necessary, disinfectants are less effective in cloudy, murky or colored water. Filter murky or colored water through clean clothes or allow it to settle. It is better to both settle and filter. After filtering until it is clear, or allowing all dirt and other particles to settle, draw off the clean and clear water for disinfection. Water prepared for disinfection should be stored only in clean, tightly covered, containers, not subject to corrosion.

Please ensure you read each tab below for important details about disinfection, how to choose a disinfection method, and Steps to Emergency Drinking Water Disinfection.

Follow advice from local officials. Health departments or public water systems may urge consumers to use caution or to follow additional measures than the information provided here.

Choose a disinfection method.

Boiling and chemical treatment are two general methods used to effectively disinfect small quantities of filtered and settled water.


Boiling is the surest method to make water safe to drink and kill disease-causing microorganisms which are frequently found in rivers and lakes.

These disease-causing organisms are less likely to occur in well water (as long as it has not been affected by flood waters). If not treated properly and neutralized, Giardia may cause diarrhea, fatigue, and cramps after ingestion. Cryptosporidium is highly resistant to disinfection. It may cause diarrhea, nausea and/or stomach cramps. People with severely weakened immune systems are likely to have more severe and more persistent symptoms than healthy individuals. Boil filtered and settled water vigorously for one minute (at altitudes above one mile, boil for three minutes). To improve the flat taste of boiled water, aerate it by pouring it back and forth from one container to another and allow it to stand for a few hours, or add a pinch of salt.

If boiling is not possible, chemical disinfection of filtered and settled water collected from a well, spring, river, or other surface water body will still provide some health benefits and is better than no treatment at all.

Chemical Treatment

When boiling is not practical, certain chemicals will kill most disease-causing organisms.

For chemical disinfection to be effective, the water must be filtered and settled first. Chlorine and iodine are the two chemicals commonly used to treat water. They are somewhat effective in protecting against exposure to Giardia, but may not be effective in controlling more resistant organisms like Cryptosporidium. Chlorine is generally more effective than iodine in controlling Giardia, and both disinfectants work much better in warm water.

Use non-scented household chlorine bleach containing chlorine compound to disinfect water.

Do not use non-chlorine bleach to disinfect water. Typically, household chlorine bleaches will be 5.25% available chlorine. Follow the procedure written on the label. When the necessary procedure is not given, find the percentage of available chlorine on the label and use the information in the following table as a

guide. (Remember, 1⁄8 teaspoon and 8 drops are about the same quantity.)

If the strength of the bleach is unknown, add ten drops per quart or liter of filtered and settled water. Double the chlorine for cloudy, murky, colored, or extremely cold water.

Chlorine Disinfection

1% 10 drops per Quart - 40 per Gallon 10 per Liter

4-6% 2 drops per Quart - 8 per Gallon (1⁄8 teaspoon) 2 per Liter

7-10% 1 drop per Quart - 4 per Gallon 1 per Liter

If the strength of the bleach is unknown, add ten drops per quart or liter of filtered and settled water. Double the amount of chlorine for cloudy, murky, colored, or extremely cold water.

Mix the treated water thoroughly and allow it to stand, preferably covered, for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odor. If not, repeat the dosage and allow the water to stand for an additional 15 minutes. If the treated water has too strong a chlorine taste, allow the water to stand exposed to the air for a few hours or pour it from one clean container to another several times.

You can use chlorine tablets to disinfect filtered and settled water.

Chlorine tablets containing the necessary dosage for drinking water disinfection can be purchased in a

commercially prepared form. These tablets are available from drug and sporting goods stores and should be used as stated in the instructions.

When instructions are not available, use one tablet for each quart or liter of water.

You can use tincture of iodine to disinfect filtered and settled water.

Common household iodine from the medicine chest or first aid kit may be used to disinfect water. Add five drops of 2% U.S. or your country’s approved Pharmacopeia tincture of iodine to each quart or liter of clear water.