Some people believe our next great war will not be over oil or debt or religion, but fresh drinking water. Did you know that only 2.5 percent of all water on earth is considered drinkable? Almost 70 percent of that 2.5 percent rests in glaciers and ice caps. The rest is groundwater or in freshwater lakes and rivers like Lake Michigan and the Colorado River. All of mankind depends on these fresh water sources.

The earth is like a bubble. In general, nothing gets in or out of the earth’s atmosphere (except for an occasional astronaut or meteor). This means that all of the water we have is all we’re going to get. You’re more than likely drinking water that’s been recycled over and over by Mother Nature for centuries.

Water is a critical resource to a survivor. Whether stranded on a deserted island or lost at sea on a cruise ship, water will always be at the top of our list of survival priorities. Every piece of information you can learn about how to store, process, access, source, collect and purify fresh drinking water should be considered a valuable life skill. Humans can only survive 3 days without water. Lack of fresh drinking water is the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths each year worldwide. In this article I want to give you just one tool in your survival water arsenal.

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Emergency disinfection of drinking water with regular household bleach

Clearly, not all water is drinkable. Most open water sources in lakes and rivers contain biological parasites that can cause severe stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and even death. In large scale disasters, even fresh drinking water can be infected with open water sources or even sewage. You never know when you might need to disinfect water to drink in an emergency.

As everyone knows, many municipal water systems use chlorine to disinfect water. Often, the use of chlorine is combined with other purification systems such as filtration and ultra violet treatments. All you have to do is sniff your tap water – it’s no secret. Why chlorine? Simple – it works.

It just so happens that Sodium Hypochlorite is the active ingredient in common household bleach. Sodium Hypochlorite is the source of chlorine in bleach. Most “off-the-shelf” bleach products will contain between 4- and 6-percent available chlorine. It is in this range that all of the below information and ratios are based. You will want to read the label and verify this first – otherwise you are just guessing.

It’s important that you only use regular bleach – nothing fancy with flowers, fresh mountains and little teddy bears on the label. No frills, just standard unscented bleach. The label should look like below:

When it comes to disinfecting water, it seems there is a different ratio and percentage for all kinds of different purifying agents, and it can get really confusing. It can be hard to keep these ratios and solutions straight, but it is very important that we do. All of the liters, quarts, drops, gallons, mL, cups and percentages are very easy to lose track of. I have a very simple memory phrase when it comes to disinfecting water with bleach. Once you read this phrase, you will never forget how to disinfect water with bleach again.

The phrase is: “You must be 21 to drink.”

How simple is that? It is a simple reminder that you need 2 drops of bleach per 1 liter or quart of water – hence 21. And, that just happens to be the legal drinking age in the U.S. so it’s easy to remember. Now, you will never forget it.

You do need to wait a while before drinking, though. The wait time for disinfecting with bleach is 30 minutes. I remember this with: 2 + 1 = 3.

The last important detail to remember is that the water should be clear. Cloudy or turbid water drastically affects the ability for almost all chemical purifiers to do their job properly. You may have to pre-filter the water first to make it clear.

Chlorine bleach is a common item in our society. It’s good to know how we can use it to disinfect water if needed to one day. As I always say, it’s better to know it and never use it than to not know and need it.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

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