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The Best Water Treatment Methods

April 08, 2019 4 min read

You may know that having clean water is extremely important, not only in emergency situations, but also in your everyday life. We are lucky enough to be able to turn the handle on the faucet to produce clean, great tasting water instantaneously. But, what if that stops working? How do you provide clean water for your family if the city puts out a “boil water order,” or even worse, what if the water just stops flowing? Having both stored water and a way to treat unclean water goes from a happy prepper thought to a necessity. There are endless brands and types of ways to clean dirty water. Some work better than others. Some may be cheaper, and others you can pay an arm and a leg for. Due to the vast number of filters and purification systems on the market, choosing a water filter that is best for you and your family can be intimidating. Knowing the pro’s and con’s of the different methods can be very beneficial.

There are many different types of organisms that can be found in water, which is why it is recommended to treat your water before using it. Filtration and Purification are just different ways of treating your water. Filtration is the act of removing something from your water. For example, dirt particles and larger micro-organisms. However, it won’t remove everything that is in your water purification on the other hand is a way of treating your water to “kill” the microorganisms in the water. It doesn’t remove anything, just makes it safe to drink. Your best bet is usually to use a combination of filtration and purification to reap the benefits of both. So what are the actual methods of treating and removing microorganisms?


Carbon, or Activated Charcoal, can be found in most filter and micro-filter systems. ( Carbon helps to eliminate the organic chemicals that make your water taste and smell bad. For example, pesticides and chlorine. It can also remove larger particulates such as dirt. Carbon is not effective against viruses, bacteria or most protozoan cysts. This method should be used in combination with another treatment source.


These are the cheapest and most plentiful on the market. They come in everything from a straw to actual pumps or even drip systems. Ask questions to find out whether it is a filter (to remove protozoan cysts) or a micro-filter (to remove protozoan cysts and bacteria). If you plan on using the filter for a 72-Hour kit or other short term use, a lower gallon capacity will work fine. If this is intended to be used often for camping or even for long-term use, you may want a unit that can handle more water. Remember that filtration methods can’t remove everything from your water. You’ll need something to treat viruses in addition to your filter.

Boiling: This method is great for killing all of the microorganisms in your water. It’s relatively easy too. Simply place your water over fire and bring to a boil. Done! The downfall is that this method takes a longer time than using a filter. After boiling the water, it needs to cool before you can use it for drinking water. Whether it is a wood burning fire, or a camping stove it requires a fuel source to maintain the fire as well. This method also leaves behind the dirt and particulates that are in your water, meaning it will still taste like the lake you took it from.

Distillation: Distillation is the process of collecting the steam when you have boiled your water. Once it condenses it becomes usable. This is one of the best methods for treating your water because it removes turbidity and dirt particulates, protozoan cysts, bacteria, and viruses. The downfall is that it isn’t a simple process to collect your steam and it still requires a fuel source.

Chemical: Two of the most popular chemicals for water treatment are Iodine, Chlorine Dioxide. Iodine is a cheap option but doesn’t kill all microorganisms. It also leaves an awful taste and smell in your water. Those that have allergies to iodine should not use this chemical for treating their water. Chlorine Dioxide, on the other hand, can kill all microorganisms including the dreaded cryptosporidium. It does take time and patience however since it is recommended to treat your water for several hours so it has the time to penetrate the exterior shell of the protozoan cyst.

UV: This is a newer method to the prepper market. It uses UV to sterilize the micro-organisms. This method is quick! It usually takes between 45 and 90 seconds to treat a liter of water. However, like other purification methods, it may kill everything, but it leaves all of the turbidity in your water. Use this in combination with a filter for an ultimate system.

There is no one way to treat water and in fact, using more than one is by far the best option. By using a combination of methods you can insure that you and your family have safe, drinkable water storage no matter what the situation.