Top 5 Survival Water Purification Techniques

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survival water purification simple techniques

In any wilderness situation, water purification is a top priority. Even though the water may look and smell all right, it can carry microscopic threats that cause severe illness, such as protozoan, bacteria, and viruses. By following a few simple water purification techniques, you can purify your water even without access to pumps, chemical purifiers or purchased filters.

Water Purification Technique 1: How to Filter Water in the Wild

The first step before purifying nearly any water source is to filter it to remove as many impurities as possible. You can create your own survival water filter with items you already have on hand.


First, pre-filter any collected water before purifying. This is a quick way to remove any large particles and silt. It can also improve the look and taste of the water.

There are several ways to create a simple pre-filter.  You can pour the water through dried grass or other plant fibers to filter out larger particles. You can also use any type of cloth you have available, such as a bandana, t-shirt or sock.

Charcoal and Sand Filter

Once the water has been pre-filtered, create your main filter.

First, create a housing for the filter. You will need some type of container to hold several layers of plant and organic material. It needs to have an opening on either end for the water to flow through.

A container can be made from a plastic bottle, bag or sock or whatever else you may have on hand. For a plastic bottle, cut the bottom out and turn it upside down. Remove the cap to have a drain hole.

If using a plastic bag, cut a small hole in the bottom for it to drain. Place a little bit of dried grass over the drain area to prevent any of the organic material from the filter from falling out.

If using a sock or other piece of cloth, the weave will hold the contents in place. Simply layer the contents as described below.

Place a layer of charcoal over the grass in the bottom of the filter. Add a layer of sand, then dry grasses or gravel, with the bottom layers being finer materials and the top layers being larger materials.

Hang up the filter and put a container beneath it to collect the filtered water. Pour water through the filter.

Never depend solely on a filter to purify water. Always follow filtering with an additional purification method.

water purification techniques

Water Purification Technique 2: Bring It To A Boil

Boiling is one of the most commonly used methods for purifying water. To disinfect water by boiling simply place water in a pot with a lid. The lid will help the water to boil faster (which uses less fuel). Heat the water to a rolling boil. When dealing with questionable water, you may wish to let it boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat but leave the lid on until it cools.

If you do not have a suitable container to place over a fire, then other methods may be used. Containers can be fashioned from wood or clay and filled with water. Take heated stoves from the fire and drop them into the container until the water boils.

Make sure that the rocks used are non-porous or they may explode when placed into the fire. (Also avoid putting the wet rocks back into the fire because they may explode.)

boiling water

Water Purification Technique 3: Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS)

The SODIS method is a water disinfection method currently used to treat drinking water in developing countries. It is recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF and the Red Cross.

This simple method of water treatment requires only a clear PET bottle and sunlight. Fill the bottle (such as a soda or juice bottle) with clear water and place in direct sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours. The UV-A rays from the sunlight kill viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

If dealing with cloudy water, pre-filter it first until the water is clear. The water must be exposed to full, direct sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours.

This is a useful method for treating water when fuel sources are low.

Water Purification Techniques 4 and 5: Distillation

Distillation is the process of purifying water through evaporation or condensation, then collecting the purified water. Distillation is useful for otherwise undrinkable water sources such as salt water, sea ice, and urine. Here are two different ways to purify water through distillation.

Solar Still

A solar still works well in any location that receives sunlight.

inside solar still

First, dig a hole at least two feet wide and two feet deep. In the bottom of the hole, anchor a container to collect the distilled water. Fill the area outside of the container with any undrinkable water, including urine and plant materials.

solar still

Cover the hole with plastic, weighing down the outside corners so that the plastic remains in place. Put a weight, such as a small rock or another object in the center of the plastic to serve as a drip point. Make sure the drip point is centered over the collection container.

As the sunlight hits the plastic, the moisture in the hole will condense on the bottom of the plastic, then drip down to the drip point and into the container.

Campfire Condensation Still

When all else fails, you can purify water over a campfire. Simply bring the water to a boil. Put pieces of cloth over the water to collect the steam. Carefully remove the cloth as it gets wet. Once the cloth is cool enough to handle, squeeze the water out into a container.

Safe drinking water is crucial to survival regardless of your circumstances.

To obtain safe drinking water, you may first need to pre-filter it to remove any large contaminants. For some water sources, boiling may be the simplest and most effective method of purification.

For other water sources, such as saltwater, you may need to take additional steps and distill the water before drinking.

Whenever in doubt as to the quality of water, remember safety first. Use the water purification techniques that will produce the highest quality of safe water to provide for your health and well-being.

survival water purification techniques

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