Friday, February 7, 2014

Safe Water

REI Drop-Dispenser Bottle
Last weeks blog about Waves4Water got me thinking about how to purify water in the backcountry.  It is easy to gather water from any open source, purchase Aquamira, or Micropur tablets, follow the directions, and have a safe drink.  But these cost a bit and do have relatively short shelf lives.
But what if you are financially challenged, but still love to get outdoors?  Normal, unscented, household bleach will work just fine and costs about $4 at Target or Walmart for a 64 ounce bottle.  If you only use it for purifying water, that should last a long time.  Bleach is safely transportable as long as the container is clearly marked.  Remember that bleach has a shelf life too.
Many outdoor blogs recommend using bleach, but don't actually tell you how much to use, or how to use it. On the Internet, there are dozens of sites with information on how to use bleach.  The site I like the best is from the CDC here.  It is a PDF you can print and post at home.  I copied it below.

The hardest part will be waiting 30 minutes for the bleach solution to work, so I suggest doing this well before you run out of water.  In my experience, when one of my two water bottles are empty, it would be time to refill the first bottle before drinking the second one.
Carry one coffee filter or use a bandanna to filter water into a container.  Then add the bleach, seal the container and continue hiking along the trail, waiting to drink it for at least 30 minutes.
Going with the 1/8 teaspoon per gallon measurement, that would mean you would use 2 drops of bleach for each of your one liter containers.  By the way, 1 quart = 0.94635 Liters and 1 Liter = 1.05669 Quarts.
A small squeeze bottle like this 2 ounce one from REI should last a few days, if it was your only source of treating water.  Using a permanent marker, I would label this bottle with the words "BLEACH" and the "2 DROPS/LITER" you need for measuring it.  Keep It Simple.
My suggestion is to first use a water filter like a Sawyer Squeeze, but in case it clogs or breaks, back it up with bleach.
You can also use bleach during an emergency at home to purify water.  Water main breaks, loss of electrical power, hurricanes, or winter storms are times when my home water supply has been disrupted.  I keep 5 gallons of water or more in storage at home for drinking, just in case.  To treat 5 gallons of water, use 1/2 teaspoon of non-scented bleach.  Unscented household bleach should be on everyone's emergency item list.

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