How to Find Water and Filter and Purify or Distill Using the Sun

How to Find Water and Filter and Purify or Distill Using the Sun

Knowing how to purify water can literally save your life. You may think that because you are miles from civilisation that any water source would be safe to drink but this is not the drinking dirty water

After obtaining shelter, water is your next priority and regardless of your current supply, you should begin immediately securing a source.

In most cases, you will have to filter and purify any surface water source you find in a wilderness environment.

Surface water sources are contaminated by animal faeces, birds, insects and animal carcases and by humans as well.

The water source will contain harmful bacteria, parasites and pathogens that will cause illness or worse. The water must be filtered and purified before it would be considered safe to drink.

Acceptable methods of emergency water purification include, chemical treatment using iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets, or sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine), by boiling the water or by using a portable water filtration system.

Basic Layer Filter

basic water filter systemNot only must you know how to purify water you must also learn how to filter it properly first.

Water must be filtered to remove waterborne cysts that can harbour and protect bacteria from chemical treatment or even boiling. The cysts can be described as micro sized seedpods that can withstand high temperatures. Filtering will remove these cysts along with pesticides, herbicides, sediment, insects and other debris.

Filtering mediums include charcoal, sand, gravel, cloth, cheesecloth and coffee filters. Layer the filtering mediums with the finer material as the bottom layer to filter out the microorganisms.

Use any food can with a hole in the bottom, plastic soda bottle or any suitable device that did not contain chemicals or other toxins.

Next, pour the water into a vessel for boiling or into your container for chemical treatment.water boiling over open fire

Allow the water to rapid boil for one minute if at sea level and if you suspect you are above sea level boil for three minutes. Water boils at a lower temperature at higher elevations because of the reduced air pressure thus, the extended boil time.

Boiling longer than the recommended times will cause you to lose water volume through evaporation; this can be problematic if you have a limited source.

For every 152 meters / 500 feet above sea level, water’s boiling point is reduced by one degree.

Before setting out on any outdoor adventure make sure, you know how to purify water before you find yourself in a survival situation.


Finding Water

You now know how to purify water but before you can get started, you have to find water first. You may not always have a river, stream, lake or pond next to your campsite in fact you may have to dig for it or collect it using other methods that will be described but first how to dig for water –

forest with dry washDry wash or shallow gullies can be a source of water, particularly if there is green vegetation along the sides. These washes usually have water flowing at various times. In the dryer seasons, the flow diminishes or stops completely but there can be water just below the surface.


arid landscape

Note the green vegetation in this arid environment. The plant life could not survive on the rock outcropping unless there was a water source just below the surface. You may find a natural spring is seeping through a fissure in the rocks and is filling up a small cistern. In years past people constructed cisterns to collect spring water, pooled water made is easier to collect. Any water collected from a cistern must be purified; animals will use the source as well and will have contaminated it.


Solar Water Distillation and Transpiration 

Solar Water Distillation and Transpiration

solar transpiration using plastic bag  

Transpiration simply means to lose water vapour.

Plants lose water vapour through their epidermal pores or their stomata located on their leaves. Technically this a gas exchange in plants.

Plants absorb carbon dioxide and through transpiration exchange that gas for oxygen, which is present in the vapour they lose through their stomata.

soar stillPlastic bags a weight (small stone) for the bag and some string are needed to collect water using this method.

The vapour given off by the leaves will condense on the sides of the bag and drip toward the weight placed in the bag.

Clear plastic is ideal because it allows the sun’s rays to strike the leaves.

This is a way to collect moisture from the soil using a solar water distiller. Materials needing are a digging tool, collection cup, sheet of clear plastic and a small rock for a weight.

Evaporated water is purified so you do not need to know how to purify water collected with this method.

Dig out a small depression and make sure the plastic can cover it with plenty of overlap on the sides. Once excavated place a collection cup in the centre of the depression and fill the hole in with green vegetation.

Place the plastic over the top and secure along the sides with the excavated soil or rocks.

Place the small rock over the collection cup that is under the plastic and put a small hole in the plastic over the cup. The weight creates a depression to allow water to flow toward the hole.

The sun will essentially “sweat” the moisture from the soil and vegetation. As the moisture evaporates, it will condense on the top side of the plastic and begin to flow toward the hole and begin dripping into the collection cup.

Portable Water Filtration

If you are able to prepare for a situation that requires raw untreated water to be filtered and left safe and sterile for drinking, then it is always advisable to carry a portable water filter in your backpack. In fact you can also get a water filter drinking straw which will give you safe drinking water direct from a water source. [not sea water].

These other ‘instant safe drinking water filters’ offer safe, clean, drinkable water but without the hassle of all of the above methods.

There are two very good filter systems you can use for this type of filter:

drinksafe water straw photoPersonal WaterStraw 700 litre pure water filter –
 Click to see more info and pricing for DrinkStraw 700 here

girl with a lifesaver Water FilterPersonal WaterBottle 4000 litre pure water filter –
 Click to see more info and pricing of LIFESAVER® 4000




Learning how to purify water is not complicated and the methods described are relatively easy to soldier with lifesaver drinking filteraccomplish. In some cases, you will have to be prepared by having certain materials with you or have the ability to find those materials in your environment. Foraging can result in you finding what you need, such as discarded metal cans or other vessels to boil water in and discarded plastic shopping bags that can used to collect water from green vegetation


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