As Joe has noted several times in previous posts, the human body does not last long without water. So much of our body is composed of it and it facilitates so many biological processes that we must have a pretty steady and generous supply of it for good health.
Storing and Collecting Water
Storing a sufficient supply of purified water is an excellent idea although it is quite a space hog. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to store enough for your needs over an extended period of time.
Second to storing clean water would be having a dependable source for it. Collecting rainwater is a good idea, but obviously dependent on precipitation that may be long in coming during hot summer months.
We are blessed with several ponds on our property. They give us some peace of mind regarding our water situation. Three of the four are located on low spots on our land, so they pretty easily refill with rainfall. (By the way, one of them was man-made and did not hold water for the first several years we lived here. Eventually, our herd of cows effectively compacted the bottom and sides by their weight as they waded in and out during hot weather and it now holds water year round. I have heard hogs will do the same thing).
It’s really nice to have these water sources for ourselves and our animals, but we cannot just drink it as is. We must make it potable for human consumption. We would first choose from the ponds the animals do not have access to. Next, we would filter it (more on that another time). Lastly, we would disinfect it. This is where the bleach comes in.
Joe mentioned in his recent piece on fire that boiling water will effectively kill microbes lurking within. Keeping enough safe water for everyone to drink could become someone’s all day job if done exclusively by fire, plus you have to wait for it to cool. An alternative is to use household bleach.
Storing bottles of prepared bleach is a good idea. Unfortunately, it loses its potency over time, even if the seal is unbroken. This is especially true in warm temperatures. What we have decided to do is to also store powdered calcium hypochlorite (concentrated bleach granules) for use in making chlorine bleach as we need it.
Where can you get powdered bleach?
We ordered pool shock in 1 lb packets and have stored them ina “gamma seal” lidded bucket. It is important that you make sure of what you are getting. You do not want an algaecide or other chemicals mixed in with the calcium hypochlorite- those are not safe for human consumption.
How do I use it?
Adding 1/8 oz (about 3/4 teaspoon) of the 65% available chlorine powder to a gallon of water will create full strength bleach. This bleach can then be used at a rate of about 8-16 drops of bleach added to each gallon of collected water. At this level of usage, each pound of powdered chlorine will produce approximately 128 gallons of prepared bleach, which will in turn purify thousands of gallons of water. What a Godsend you could be to your family and neighbors in preventing water-borne disease!
It is important to note that cloudy or off-smelling water should get additional drops of bleach. Shake it well and then wait 30 minutes for the microbes to die. While it is considered safe to drink the water after the half hour is up, the smell and taste will usually dissipate overnight if it is left to stand uncovered.
When purifying water in a container that you will drink out of later, such as a bottle or jug, be sure to allow some of the chlorinated water to cover the rim. The easiest way to do this is to loosely put the cap on the bottle and shake it. This will allow some of the contained water to splash out on to the rim. You can then tighten it. This will kill the microbes on the surface of the rim so won’t accidentally consume contaminated water.
Chlorine is generally considered a better option than iodine since iodine does not break down chemically and often has a strong unpleasant taste.
Please take care to identify any containers you fill with bleach. Since you may not have much choice in what you can store the prepared bleach in (even old water bottles), you need to be careful that no one accidentally splashes it in their eyes or tries to drink it full strength.
UPDATE: Just to clarify- If possible, always filter and boil questionable water rather than relying on chlorine bleach if you have that choice. You never want to introduce unnecessary chemicals into your body. In addition to the debate about whether Giardia can be effectively killed with chlorine, there is additional evidence now that it should not be our first choice: trihalomethanes. These are harmful chemical compounds created when chlorine reacts with organic material often found in water sources.