Survival Skills: Clean Drinking Water

Updated on September 18, 2016
Cynthia Hoover profile image

Cynthia is a gardening enthusiast. She has a green thumb and always plants a variety of items for harvesting during gardening season.

In a survival setting the single most important skill you can have is knowing how to obtain potable water.
In a survival setting the single most important skill you can have is knowing how to obtain potable water.

Water and Survival Needs

Science tells us that the human body can live without food for weeks, in some cases even months. Water is something altogether different. Two-thirds of the human body consists of water. After oxygen, water is the single most important life sustaining element the body needs.

It is recommended to consume at minimum 64 oz of water each day. This suggestion is based on the average person on an average day (not hot or cold). Consider this; An average man on a hot day can lose a half a gallon of water through sweat alone. Let's face the facts: unless you have tons of money and are living completely off-grid you can forget about air conditioning in a survival setting. The suggestion would be to have well more than the recommended amount of water for each person per day!

Even a lovely waterfall like this can be a host to contamination. Purifying water before consumption can save your life.
Even a lovely waterfall like this can be a host to contamination. Purifying water before consumption can save your life.

Wild Water Sources

Before you go dipping into the creek, it is important to approach what I call "wild water sources" as contaminated! Until treated all wild water sources can be contaminated with disease-causing organisms. Just think of it as not fit for human consumption! Here are a few examples of wild water sources:

  • Streams
  • Creeks
  • Rivers
  • Ponds
  • Springs
  • Puddles

Wild water sources can be contaminated. Animals bathe in it, animals defecate in it, and there is the potential for chemical contaminants as well. Left untreated you are most likely drinking feces along with that thirst quenching water!

Now you could stock up on bottled water, and I understand that many people do. I personally do not want to have to try to store hundreds of cases of water. The amount of space needed to store that much water is less than ideal, let alone worry about the chemicals leaching from the plastic in a long-term storage scenario.

I have well water currently, yet in a survival scenario I will not likely have the electricity to power the pump. This is something I recently dealt with first hand after a devastating flood in West Virginia left me without power for a week.

We do have natural springs and creeks, as well as a river that borders our property. But you will never see me taking a drink straight from the creek without treating it first! Sure I may rinse off my hands in it and play with the kids. But I am not putting it in my body.

Hands down the best method of purification for water is boiling! Many water filters only clean about 84% of the chemicals and organisms found in water. Yes that's right! If you're using a filter pitcher or something similar that still leaves some room for YUCK in your cup!

Granite Ware Stock Pot, 21-Quart
Granite Ware Stock Pot, 21-Quart
During a recent power outage I used my Granite Ware 21 quart pot to boil water for purification. It was a life saver! Using my large pot, I was able to keep plenty of water on hand and available for use. It can be very heavy when full, so use caution when lifting. Having usable water is well worth the physical labor.

Do you know how to purify water?

See results

Purifying Water

For water to be safe to drink it only needs to reach 185 degrees Fahrenheit, well before the boiling point. Allowing it to boil is just visual proof that it is indeed safe to consume!

Now that you know how to purify your wild water sources, how will you store it? There are many food-safe barrels that can be purchased, from buckets to 55 gallon barrels. Often times you can find these on Craigslist, Facebook, yard sale groups, or ads in the newspaper. Sometimes restaurants and schools offer these free for pickup. These items are UV resistant and food grade, and will keep your water safe during storage.

In a pinch, if you do not have the ability to boil water, sunlight can be used to purify your water. All you need is a clear bottle and set it in direct sunlight for 6 hours. Although this method is not that fast, if you are thirsty it is worth the wait. This will be hard to do if you're in the wilderness as well. Although it can be a less labor intensive form of purification. I find boiling more convenient and if I need to I can build a fire and use my pots on an open flame.

With the ability to purify wild water sources so easily, this should be your first goal in a survival setting. As it is the main thing your family will need to survive long term.

During our power outage we were cut off due to flood waters covering our bridge. I boiled water to do the dishes. Even washing with a wild source of water without treating it can lead to illness, since you will still come in contact with bacteria if you do not purify it first.

During survival scenarios it is so important to not consume water before purifying it. There are so many harmful bacteria, and germs floating in wild water sources.
During survival scenarios it is so important to not consume water before purifying it. There are so many harmful bacteria, and germs floating in wild water sources.

Easy Water Purification

There are easier ways to purify water than boiling, or setting water in the sunshine, though these ways are a bit more costly. Here are some other water purification methods:

  • Water purification tablets
  • LifeStraw personal water purification
  • Water distillation unit
  • Electromagnetic radiation purifier

These methods are all fairly costly. My personal favorite among these is using water purification tablets. If you are camping, or find yourself out in the woods and needing a drink, the purification tablets are very handy. They are also relatively small, so you can carry them without breaking your back. Purification tablets are the cheapest alternative to boiling water for purification. They are really easy to use, I have used them in the past with much success. It is much less labor intensive to use a tablet as well. A single tablet can purify a liter of water.

Easy Water Purification Options

Water Purification Tablets
Water Purification Tablets
Water purification tablets are much less labor intensive than other forms of purification. One tablet can treat a liter of water, making it fit to drink. These tablets have come in very handy for me in the past during power outages. I've used them to purify my water, as well as water for my animals.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Cynthia Hoover


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Larry Fish profile image

        Larry W Fish 

        2 years ago from Raleigh

        I remember when I was a child back in the 1950s we all drank water from every stream around and also from the house water hose. My, how times have changed and so many water sources have become polluted. It is a shame what has happened to our planet.

      • Cynthia Hoover profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Hoover 

        2 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

        Mary Wickison thank you for the comment! I do have a filtration system on our well water also. Even the clearest looking water can be loaded with impurities, the gastric upset from those can be horrible . Not to say that your well water may not be perfectly fine with the pumice and charcoal filter though. We upgraded our system and added an additional filtration step and I noticed less days with stomach issues for our family. We have since been excited to find 3 natural springs on our farm since we do suffer sometimes week long power outages. Due to our farm being secluded we are often some of the last people who get power restored so those will no doubt come in very handy.

      • Blond Logic profile image

        Mary Wickison 

        2 years ago from Brazil

        We drink well water here on our farm. We've never had it tested but pass it through a pumice and charcoal filter. I didn't realize there will still be so many impurities. One of my friends here who used to work in Africa always boils her water. I think this is something I should do, as well.

        I remember when I visited Yosemite years ago and the river water was snow melt and it still had a bacteria that causes gastric problems.

        Interesting article.

      • Cynthia Hoover profile imageAUTHOR

        Cynthia Hoover 

        3 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

        LongTimeMother it is something people should at least look into. You never know when you will be without water. Having a working knowledge of his to purify alternative water sources is very valuable information! So many things in water can make people extremely I'll, and potentially cause death if people are not careful! Thank you so much for sharing!

      • LongTimeMother profile image


        3 years ago from Australia

        This is a topic everyone should be thinking about. Because I live off the grid and harvest my own water, I am very conscious of water purification. However I've seen many people fail to cope when their usual water supply is interrupted due to one of many different reasons. Suddenly they end up with problems that could have been avoided with a little advance planning.

        Sharing this so others can benefit from your experience. :)


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)