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Water Cleaning Methods to Try On Your Next Vacation to Far Flung Areas

Not all populated parts of the world have access to clean and safe drinking water.

And in most—if not all—of these places that have a hard time accessing clean and safe drinking water, water purification and filtration are just as difficult, if not more difficult. The reason for this from the lack of knowledge to the lack of resources to do so. Fortunately, there are a number of water cleaning methods that can be done even in areas far from cities. Highlighted below are these methods, which are easy to teach and utilize.

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A Bit About Water Cleaning Methods

To fully appreciate these water cleaning methods, one first has to know the difference between purification and filtration. While their aims are the same, these are two different processes.

Filtration is the process of eliminating debris, as well as some bacteria, using a mesh net or cloth through which water flows.

Purification, on the other hand, is a UV or chemical process of preventing bacteria from multiplying and, thus, causing harm. The heat or chemicals in these methods, in essence, deactivate all the nasty things that have made it its home, making it very safe to consume.

In some cases, the water obtained may need to go through both, while in other cases, the water obtained might only need to go through one. Knowledge of the difference, though, is life-saving. If you mistake water that needs purification for water that only needs filtration, you can end up acquiring a disease or two.

That said, read on to know more about both purification and filtration and their respective water cleaning methods.

Water Filtration

Water droplet falling

The use of a water filter, particularly one that’s sold in a specialty shop, can remove some contaminants, bacteria, and protozoa from water. However, they are unable to remove viruses that are present in water—viruses are way too small for these filters to catch.

Aside from removing some amount of contaminants and certain harmful micro-organisms, filtering also enhances the flavour of water in that water will have a more natural taste. Not only that, it makes water immediately safe for consumption—provided, of course, that the water obtained only needs to be filtered to become clean.

Water Purification

Water being poured from a bottle

Purification cleans and makes water safe for consumption by “deactivating” every single harmful pathogen, viruses included. What purification does not eliminate, however, are contaminants. Thus, it follows that even purified water can still have harmful things in it. Fortunately, filtration needs to be done before purification, and since filtration removes contaminants, it follows that by the time water goes through purification, it will have had any contaminants removed.

Methods that count as purification include boiling, the use of chemicals, and UV light. In places where resources are scarce, boiling is the most common method used.

Water Cleaning Methods That Can Be Utilized in Remote Areas

Now that you're aware of the differences between filtration and purification, it's time to pick a DIY method. Consider the following:

DIY Filtration

To filter the water yourself, there are several options. These include tubing or wood, a layer cake of rock and sand, a cloth or shirt, and a container.

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Tubing (or any similar material) and Wood

This is considered the best DIY filtration option and best water cleaning methods out there. So amazing is this filtration option that if sapwood is used in this system, it’s possible to remove 99 per cent of bacteria in water.

To create the filter, cut a tiny bit of sapwood out, and tightly wrap it with plastic tubing (or any similar material). To use this filter, pour water onto one of the ends and let it drip out of the opposite end and into a container.

Other materials that can be used in place of plastic tubing are cordage, cloth, and plastic cut out of a water bottle.

A Layer Cake of Rock and Sand

This is a classic filtration method that sees one layer rock and sand in a bag or hollow log, and letting water drip all the way from the topmost layer through a tiny hole at the bottom, and out into a container.

To create the layers, begin by placing in the finer materials such as sand, small pebbles, cloth, and others. Proceed by adding in bigger rocks and some charcoal bits. Then create another layer of fine materials, and another layer of thicker materials. By the time you finish, you will have created a layer cake.

A Cloth or Shirt

Filtering in water through one piece of cloth can eliminate debris and dirt, but nothing else. However, it works if your goal is removing debris and dirt and if it’s possible to purify it later.

A Container

If there’s nothing else available, you can set dirty water in a container, then let it stand for approximately twelve hours. In a lot of cases, dirt and sediment should set at the bottom, whilst the clear water stays on top. Obviously, this isn’t effective when it comes to the removal of pathogens, but can, at least, make water palatable.

DIY Purification

If you're looking to purify the water, there are equally as numerous ways to do so. Let's examine each more closely below.

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Boiling is considered standard water purification treatment. According to experts, even a minute of full boil—at low altitude—can kill nasty micro-organisms and viruses. But at high altitude (i.e. 5,000 feet), the time should be increased to three minutes.

This process can be done in any glass or metal container, but if neither are available, rocks can be heated in a fire, then placed into whatever receptacle you have.

Chemical Treatments

  • Iodine. The most preferable solution is a 2% tincture. Five drops should be applied for each quart of water. Ten drops must be added if water is cloudy. Iodine must be made to sit for half an hour prior to consumption of the water being treated.
  • Chlorine. Is generally in tablet form, and must be dropped into one litre of water to work. Four hours later, the water should be safe for consumption.
  • Bleach. Many bleaches use one type of liquid chlorine known as sodium hypochlorite—a purification agent. The household variety of bleach generally has five to eight per cent of sodium hypochlorite, although there are those with higher content, which you shouldn’t use. Use a dropper to apply a couple of drops a quart, and let it stand for half an hour prior to consumption.

Solar or UV

  • SODIS. This method, full name Solar Water Disinfection, is reliant on the sun’s power to make water safe. This is easy to do—in fact, all you need is a clear bottle and you’re set. Place the water in the clear bottle, making sure to leave it in there for the whole length of time that the sun is up. The UV rays should kill most micro-organisms like bacteria. Proceed with the use of other purification devices afterwards.
  • UV Devices. There exist a number of devices out there that artificially make UV light to remove micro-organisms and viruses. A number of these devices are hand-cranked, while others require batteries to function. Since they’re not filtration devices, they’re unable to remove visible debris. Therefore, it follows that filtering the water must be done before using any UV device.

Water cleaning methods give you viable hydration options that won't make you sick.

These methods above can be done alongside rainwater harvesting, and so it follows that they somehow answer the question: “How useful is rainwater harvesting?” They make collected rainwater clean, and therefore help in making rainwater another good source of water to use.

Which of the aforementioned water cleaning methods are you familiar with? Let us know in the comments section below.

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