It’s no longer possible to just dip your head in a stream and gulp down some cold fresh water. Other than shelter, water is an immediate need in any situation. It is possible to live for up to a week without food, on the other hand, depending on temperature and activity level, the longest a person can go without water is 3 days.
Dirty water no longer refers to water that has particles in it or is a little murky, industrial and chemical pollutants are wide spread. The water may look clear, but is full of chemicals and other pollutants.
Biologically Contaminated vs. Toxic Water
Biologically contaminated water contains micro-organisms, bacteria or viruses. Toxic water contains chemicals, pesticide run offs from farms etc. while it is possible to purify biologically contaminated water with boiling, toxic water cannot be purified in this way.
Pure and impure water should always be stored in different containers and these two functions should never be mixed up.
Assessing water purity
• Stagnant water/ water in swamps should not be drank
• Do not drink water that is near a road
• Water from a spring is purer than water running on the ground
• Do not drink down river of farms or mining sites
• Water with algae growing in it means it has bacteria
• Discolored water is obviously not pure
Filtration is in essence used to make water look more palatable. As long as it is pure, you can safely drink water that is not filtered. However, since most of us would prefer our water to be free from dirt and leaves and algae, you should filter your water.
This is simply done by letting it sit overnight to allow the sediment to settle or if you do not have the time for that, simply run the water through a cloth. Fold the cloth a few times to help capture the smaller particles.
You can also use earth as a filter. Dig a hole about three or four feet from your water source and wait for it to fill up with water. You will notice that the water in the hole will be reasonably clearer.
Common myths about water in the wild
1. Running water is safe
If you have to choose between running water and stagnant water, you should choose running water but it is not necessarily pure.
2. Eat snow to rehydrate
This can actually lead to hypothermia and the snow may contain bacteria if it is not freshly fallen snow. Melt and purify it first.
3. Salt water in small amounts is safe to drink
Salt water will always dehydrate you. It is much better to go without than to drink salt water.
Water is essential for survival and it is important to know what is fact and what is fiction if you find yourself without a tap.