Pure Drinking Water
(modified from the the BSA "Guide to Safe Scouting")
A constant supply of pure drinking water is essential to everyone's health. Serious illness can result from drinking unpurified water, so protect your health and do not take a chance by drinking water that you are not sure of. Thermos jugs, plastic water containers, and canteens are all satisfactory for carrying water, but be sure to dispense the water into each person's own drinking cup to avoid sharing germs.
Treatment of Questionable Water
In addition to having a bad odor or taste, water from questionable sources may be contaminated by micro-organisms, such as Giardia, that can cause a variety of diseases. All water of uncertain purity should be purified before use.
Don't take a chance on using water that you are not sure of. There are several ways to purify water for drinking
- Filter the water to remove as many solids as possible.
- Bring it to a rolling boil and boil it for a full minute.
- Let it cool at least 30 minutes.
- Add eight drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of cool water. (Use common household bleach. The only active ingredient in the bleach should be 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite (there should not be any added soap or fragrances - they will give you the runs!). The water must be cool or the chlorine will dissipate and be rendered useless.
- Let the water stand 30 minutes.
- If the water smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add eight more drops of bleach and let it stand another 30 minutes. Smell it again. You can use it if it smells of chlorine. If it doesn't, discard it and find another water source.
- The only accepted measurement of chlorine (or water treatment agents) is the drop. A drop is specifically measurable. Other measures such as "capful" or "scant teaspoon" are not uniformly measurable and should not be used.
Adding Iodine or Halazone
- In addition to common household bleach, several other types of chemical means to disinfect water are available, such as iodine tables, iodide crystals, and halazone tablets. All of these are acceptable, but some people have an allergic reaction to iodine products. Follow the instructions on the package for proper use.
- To treat cold water you must lengthen the contact (sitting) time depending on the water temperature to destroy Giardia that may be present. Very cold water may take as long as four times the normal contact time.
- Water Filters
- Several types of water purification filters are available at camp stores. The Boy Scouts of America recommends that if you use a water filter, you also chemically treat and/or boil the water and carry extra filter cartridges and spare parts. Among the best water filters are PUR, MSR, Katadyn, First Need, and Sweet Water. Although water filters can be purchased from many stores, a good online source to buy one is REI.