Some months back, I was asked to speak at a Disaster Preparedness Fair. After my prepared remarks, an innocent-looking “seasoned-citizen” lady raised her hand and asked if I could explain the difference between filtering and purifying water.
Storing water is the number-one item mentioned on both the Red Cross and F.E.M.A.web pages. We humans are designed so that water is a necessity and to deprive ourselves of water for very long is not recommended. I had mentioned, during my presentation, that a means of purifying water is one of the essentials if you’re going to consider yourself prepared for a disaster.
My response to the question went something like this: Filtering is just that. Causing the water to pass through something (a filter) that removes the offending elements. Elements such as bacteria, bugs and other things that can make you sick. Purifying can be infusing the water with chemicals such as chlorine to kill the bacteria, parasites, or other illness-causing factors. Boiling is the simplest way to purify and requires no chemicals. Either boiling or chemically treating the water is an effective way of achieving purity or drinkability of your water source.
Later, when I had returned to my book-booth, the innocent-looking questioner came for a visit. After reminding me she was the one who had asked the question about making water drinkable, she informed me she was a retired microbiologist. Talk about being set up! “So, how’d I do?” I inquired. Her response indicated I had somehow muddled my way through and provided an acceptable answer.
Water is that thing we so easily take for granted. And here in our country, pure water is a given. Bottled water is so common, and so commonly purchased we don’t give it a second thought when we pick up a case of purified/filtered water at the store. Consider this,in the event of a disaster, the supply lines are interrupted, the stores aren’t getting their shipments and the municipal water supply isn’t producing. The water in the rivers or rain falling from the sky may be your only option. Are you set up to purify or filter? Either way will make water useful for your drinking needs.
Personally I have a Big Berkey filter that uses two ceramic filters to remove the creepy-crawlies. There are other kits sold online that will do the same thing. But the primary thing to keep in mind, if you get sick from drinking contaminated water, your chances of making it through the disaster just got worse. So be prepared to either purify or filter. Either way works, but getting ill from impure water is not an attractive alternative. Especially during a time of disaster.
As always send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.