Storing Water for an Emergency Course: Lesson 9 – Ready-To-Drink Water: Step 3, 4, 5

Next: Lesson 10 (or click here for the Table of Contents)

This lesson gets to the heart of the matter, and is really one of the most important videos in the whole course. You need to know how to think about water purity when storing water. It’s not just about creating water that is bacteria-free, but it’s also about removing the food that bacteria eat (other contaminants) and residual protection so that the water stays bacteria-free.

The transcript is below for your reference.


Hello, this Glenn Meder and in today’s class, were going to be talking about making your own ready-to-drink water, steps three, four and five. This is the seven-step process that I’m referring to. We’ve already gone through step one and step two. Now we’re moving on to step three which is pre-treatment, step four which is treatment, and step five which is post-treatment. So all of these have to do with the purity of the water. This is a very important thing when storing water because it’s very import that you start with water that doesn’t contain biological contaminants because biological contaminants obviously are living organisms. They can grow and multiply. Now another important step here is to not only remove the bacteria and kill the bacteria, but also it’s better if we can remove the food for bacteria. So some of the other contaminants that can be in water, although they’re not bacteria themselves, they can be fun for bacteria. So the purer the water, the better it is to protect against bacteria. Also we want to ensure that there are no dangerous chemicals or toxic metals water, any other contaminants in the water. So we want the water to be as pure as possible.

So let’s go through step three, four, and five. What are the different steps?

So step three is pretreatment. So in pretreatment what we’re doing is we’re using the filter to remove his many chemicals, particles, and other contaminants from the water as possible before we move on the step four. Step four is the treatment. So what we’re going to do here primarily is to kill bacteria. To do this, we use one of the Red Cross recommended methods for treating water: distillation, boiling, chlorination, which are the only reliable methods for killing bacteria. Now step five is the post treatment. So what were you doing the post treatment is we add a chemical to the water that will add long-term residual bacteria killing effect into the bottle even after the bottle is sealed.

So let’s start with step three which is the pretreatment. So again what we’re doing with pretreatment is were using a filter to remove as many particles, dirt, cloudiness, chemicals and other things from the water before you boil it or use one of the other Red Cross recommended methods. Some examples of filters: Reverse osmosis (RO) is a filter. There’s ceramic filters, hiking and camping filters, there’s Berkey. You know you could even go to a fabric, putting water through fabric to move particulates, and settlement, and that type of thing.  Now obviously one of the types of filters that does not work for this is the type of filter that you have to suck on like a straw.

So I want to look at the good side of filters and the bad side of filters. First of all the good side. Filters are simple and are the simple way to remove certain contaminants from water. Now the bad side of filters is that they provide reliable protection. All filters fail. They produce variable results. You really just don’t know what you’re getting. And the most important thing here is point number three. They are not a stand-alone solution so don’t filter it, then forget the other steps.

So let’s move on to step four, which is the treatment method. Step four is an essential part of this process, especially if you are treating and storing water after an emergency has happened. But it is an important step in the process even if you’re doing this before emergency strikes. So what you’re going to do is treat the water with one of the Red Cross recommended methods. That includes boiling, chlorination, and distillation. Now I want to point out that the Red Cross says that is okay to use tap water when you store water, and I disagree with this. Tap water is not uniform across the country. Tap water is different everywhere you go, and it can change from day to day. Tap water can have bacteria in it. It might have small amounts of bacteria in it. If you drink it even if it has bacteria in it, or small amounts of bacteria in it, that might be safe for you to drink right now. But if you take that same tap water and if it has just a little bit of bacteria in it, and then you seal it up and come back six months later, that bacteria can grow and multiply. So you can have really bad bacteria problem with that bottle of water that you stored. So again, I disagree with Red Cross on that one point.

Okay so let’s talk about the three recommended methods for treating water in an emergency. I go through this these treatment methods in more detail in one of the other courses that I have, so I’m not going into as much detail about this. So the three recommended methods for treating water emergency are (I’m going to go through this in reverse) chlorination, which is bleach. We’re talking regular household bleach, non-scented, is not color safe or anything else, just regular basic like basic Clorox. The next is boiling. So that’s just simply putting a pot of water on the stove and bringing it to a boil. Now the third method is distillation, and dissolution is by far the best method. So basically what happens here is when you boil water, when you bring water to a boil, world the steam is pure water. The contaminants stay behind in the water, so you want is the steam. The steam rises and it will condense on a surface. So when you’re boiling a pot of pasta, for example, you bring that pot to boil and you come back in a little bit and you lift up that lid, there’s water dripping off of the lid, right? So what is that? That’s distilled water. So that’s the steam that is risen and that has condensed on the lid, that distilled water, that pure distilled water, is dripping back down into the boiling water. So one of the ways that you can make distilled water is just to capture the water that drips off of the inside of the lid. So the Red Cross shows an example of just taking a soup pot, putting some water in it, bringing it to a boil. Invert the lid. Tie a coffee mug or something like that to it to catch that water, and that’s one of the ways that you can capture distilled water.

So I want to go into the specific instructions by the Red Cross for each of these methods. So chlorination: “You can use household bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0% sodium hypochlorite. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle. Add 16 drops (which is 1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of bleach, discarded it and find another source of water.” Okay so that’s the specific instructions for using bleach, and I want to point out that it’s not just how much you use. There is actually a process involved here.

Now boiling. This will they say about boiling: “In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.”

Okay, distillation: “While the two methods described above will kill most microorganisms in water, distillation will remove microorganisms that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals. Distillation involves boiling water, and then collecting the pure vapor that condenses back into water. The condensed vapor will not contain salt or most other impurities.” So, in other words, distillation is the only one of the processes that is actually purifying water. And so you can use it on saltwater, for example, or most other contaminants it will remove.

So a few more points about step four which is the treatment process. Like I said, distillation is the only method that actually purifies the water as well as killing bacteria. So when possible, use distillation. Now at the same time you have to understand that not all water has to be purified to the same degree. Drinking water for infants, for example, or for somebody with a compromised immune system, that water has to be the best water you can provide. So you’re talking distilled water or bottled water. But you don’t need to use bottled water or distilled water to wash your hands and. I will go into this more in a later video, but I just want to make this point now.

So the third point here is that distillation and boiling will sterilize water, but that doesn’t mean that it will stay sterilized. So what I mean by this is that yes, distillation and boiling will kill bacteria, but that doesn’t mean that won’t get re-contaminated after the fact. And so that’s why step five is so important.

So let’s move on to step five. Step five is that we’re going to add a chemical into the water that will continue to kill bacteria that may still be in the water after you’ve already sealed the cap on the bottle. This is a very important aspect of storing water. You want to have something that will continue to kill bacteria in case some bacteria got introduced to your water in the filling process. This is what happens in the bottling industry, the bottled water industry. This is actually one of the very important steps of bottling water. So when water is bottled in the commercial situation, they have very controlled, sanitary conditions. They control the air, the air quality, the air pressure. They don’t let bugs in. It is all very carefully controlled. The bottles are clean, the water is purified, but then right before they put the cap on, what they do is they add ozone to the water. Ozone is an oxidizer that will continue to have a killing effect on biological contaminants even after the bottle is sealed. And then the advantage with ozone is that ozone doesn’t add a residual chemical to the water. It actually breaks down so that the O3 molecules, which is ozone, actually break down into O2 molecules, which is just oxygen. So what you’re left with the bottle is simply oxygen.

When you’re bottling water at home, you’re not going to use ozone. What you’re going to use is either regular household bleach, or you’re going to use hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide should only be used on distilled water. All other types of processes, let’s say you filter and then boil water, that’s when you should use bleach. If you’re using reverse osmosis water, filtered water, whatever, you’re going to use bleach. Only with distilled water can you use hydrogen peroxide. And we say this because distilled water has gone through a very thorough purification process, a very reliable purification process. So if you are producing and storing freshly produced distilled water into bottles, then you’re able to use hydrogen peroxide. What we’re talking about here is just over-the-counter regular hydrogen peroxide. You’re going to add 2 to 3 drops of hydrogen peroxide to a 500-mL bottle, which is basically quart of water. And then you’re going to seal it up and give it a quick shake.  Now the advantage of using hydrogen peroxide is that hydrogen peroxide is H2O2, which means that it will break down into water and oxygen, so there will not be a residual chemical in the bottle after a few hours. So that’s the advantage of using distilled water.

If you are using tap water, well water, filtered water, boiled water, anything other than distilled water, you’re going to have to use a stronger chemical. So what we’re doing here is bleach. So you’re going to add 2 drops of non-scented, liquid, household chlorine bleach to each gallon of water.

So in summary, the pretreatment, treatment, and post treatment steps all work together They’re all important, so carefully follow the instructions for each step. Step three, which is the filtration, the pre-filters is optional but it is certainly recommended. The other two steps, steps four step five, are really essential.  In the next video we will continue our discussion of making your own ready-to-drink water. Specifically, we will look at steps six and seven.

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