Be Ready for What ever Happens
Current issues and topics that are relevant to the classes we teach
When preparing water to drink, there are two distinct processes: disinfection and purification.
Purification means removing all non-water particles including chemicals and non-harmful microorganisms. Most of the time, purification is not necessary.
We generally only have to disinfect the water. This means killing all harmful microorganisms in it. It does not mean all microorganisms must be dead, just those that can harm us. The simplest way is by boiling the water.
Sometimes boiling is not possible, or not convenient. When backpacking, for example, it’s not very efficient to build a fire every time you need to fill your water bottles, and if you are cooking on a propane jet stove, using fuel to get drinking water may mean you don’t get a hot meal after a few days.
One of the best methods for water disinfection is a filter. There are many brands, sizes and styles on the market. How do you choose one? First, decide what level of disinfection you are comfortable with. There are 3 broad categories of infectious agents and from largest to smallest they are parasites, bacteria and viruses. These are measured in microns, one micron being 0.001 millimeters which is very small. Bacteria range in size from 10 to 0.2 microns in size. Parasites are bigger than this, so any filter you find that works for bacteria should work for parasites as well. Viruses range from 0.1 to .005 microns in length, which is much smaller than the smallest bacteria!
Filter manufacturers list the smallest particle size they can filter in microns, so look for that. They tend to fixate their advertisements on being able to filter out Giardia and bacteria, which is good, but they generally do not filter viruses, or at least all of them. Remember some recent cruise ships on which the passengers got sick? It was from viruses, not Giardia.
Some filter manufacturers claim to filter viruses and chemicals. If you are interested in this level of filtration, don’t just read their advertisement, find out who tested those filters, and check out that testing agency. I know of one filter brand that can live up to the claim of filtering viruses and chemicals, because I checked out their test results and the lab that did it. There is another filter company out there that makes a lot of claims, but when I try to compare their claims with the lab results, they do not match up, and when I contacted the lab that supposedly did the testing they could not confirm that they tested that filter.
In short, your life and your family’s lives depend on clean water. Be sure you know how to disinfect your water, and how disinfected it really is.
Want to know more about waterborne infections and water disinfection then be sure to sign up for Advanced Wilderness Life Support in September.
Next time we will discuss food.