Water Treatment Methods

As travelers to far away and exotic places know, drinking from the local water supply isn’t recommended.   In many countries, local water, whether piped, from a well or a river, may well be polluted with a host of contaminants that can, at a minimum, cause stomach upsets, perhaps sickness, vomiting or diarrhea and in the worst case scenario, severe dehydration and possibly even death.  That’s why, whenever travelling you need to first find out the quality of local drinking water and secondly, be aware of the various water treatment methods available to you.

Do not assume that just because the local population drinks the water that there is no risk and no need to use any form of water purification.  Remember, the local population is used to using their water supply and may have built up a resistance to the contaminants.  What for them is harmless, for you could be very painful!  Also, just because the water appears clean, doesn’t mean that it is safe to use – even for brushing your teeth!

Available Water Treatment Methods

The first water treatment method is really very simple – use bottled mineral water from a trusted source.  This is a fairly safe alternative and strictly speaking isn’t a water treatment method.  Bottled water is usually available at even the remotest of locations.  A word of warning – check to make sure that the bottle is sealed properly.  If not, don’t buy it as it could have been refilled with local and possibly contaminated water.

Boil your water!

This is perhaps the safest and easiest of water treatment methods.  In order to be sure that the boiling process destroys all bacteria etc, follow this procedure:

  • Strain the water through a clean towel to remove any particles.
  • Boil the water for at least one minute.  This must be a “rolling boil” – lots of steam and bubbles.
  • Let the water cool to room temperature.  Don’t add ice cubes – if they are made with local water…
  • If you’re at a height greater than 6,562 feet or 2,000 m, then be aware that the boiling water treatment method needs to be adapted as air pressure is lower and the boiling point of water is lower.  So, you need to boil the water for at least 3 minutes or use a chemical disinfectant (see next section) after the water has been boiled for one minute.

Chemical disinfectant Water Treatment Methods

Iodine

Available in tablet form, this is a convenient water purifier.  Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly as tablets do differ.  If, after use, the water is cloudy, then double the dose and the waiting time between adding the iodine and drinking the water should be increased.  At temperatures lower that than 5° C (41° F) try and warm the water slightly and increase the time between adding the tablets and using the water.

Tincture of Iodine as a water treatment method

Add five drops of tincture of iodine to a liter of clear water.  If the water is cloudy, double the dose.  Wait at least half an hour before drinking if the water temperature is 25°C or 77°F.  For every 10 degree drop in water temperature, double the waiting time.

Portable water filters

Some water treatment methods rely on portable water filters.  While these can remove most bacteria, they cannot eliminate viruses.  Therefore, whenever using a portable water filter as a water treatment method it must always be followed up by a chemical water treatment method.

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