Survivalist Forum banner
1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Rogue
Joined
·
1,617 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There seems to be a lot of water storage threads of late along with the typical how long does bottled water last question.

I thought I'd create this post to help those with this sort of question think through the problem and in the end answer the questions themselves. First lets focus on water and what makes it undrinkable to begin with.

Obviously water is water. Chemically it doesn't change much. However, chemicals and organisms can find their way into the water contaminating it and making it unsafe to drink.

Micro Organisms: There are really three classifications of microorganisms.

Protozoa: Protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium among others are relatively speaking large microorganisms. These larger parasites are resistant to chemical treatment like chlorine or Iodine but are easily filtered out due to their large size. Nearly all backpacking filters are capable of filtering these kinds of organisms from your water.

Bacteria: Bacteria like Botulism, E Coli, and Dysentery are smaller than protozoa. These can all be treated with UV light, Chemical decontamination and in most cases can be filtered out by your typical backpacking filter. Beware that some bacteria are fairly small and will require more specialized filters. Bacteria like Legionellosis for example require filters measured in .0x range rather than .x range. So if your pondering whether to get the Sawyer .1 or the Sawyer .02 this might help answer your question.

Virus: Virus are even smaller and are also much more difficult to filter out with your typical backpacking filter. Like Legionellosis you're really talking .0x at a minimum and that will not be 100% perfect. To be more effective you need a reverse osmosis filter, UV light, or chemical decontamination. You can also boil the water of course. Luckily, virus are very species specific and are not common in the industrialized world's surface waters due to our widespread use of sanitation systems. But if raw sewage gets dumped into our water then all bets are off. And for those of you living in the third world you probably already know virus are a big threat.

Chemical: Chemical contamination can be broken down into organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, and heavy metals/minerals.

Organic chemicals are those that contain oxygen/carbon molecules such as most of our pesticides, herbicides, oils, gasoline, etc. Exposure to these can be minimized by filtering water through activated carbon. Continued exposure to these chemicals lead to an increased risk of cancer and other ailments.

Inorganic, minerals, and heavy metals are a bit harder to deal with. Some will be dealt with by activated carbon or another media called zeolite. There are special filters to deal with arsenic for example. But your best bet when it comes to these things are nanofilters or reverse osmosis filters. Since nanofilters are typically hard to find reverse osmosis is your best bet.


So now that you know what contaminants you must deal with lets talk about these in the context of storage.

If the water you put into storage does not contain any chemicals or heavy metals then they will not be present in your storage water after any amount of storage time unless some how they are added after the fact. A sealed container is your first line of defense. However, be aware that chemicals in the plastics of your storage containers themselves can leach into your stored water. It is critical that you NOT use any plastic container that has ever held any sort of toxic chemical. In some cases certain plastics contain BPA which itself can leach into your water over time. Do your own research on BPA to determine if you think its a real risk or overblown hype.

Microorganisms are a different issue. Microorganisms have the ability to reproduce. And as such a very small number can multiply and transition from too few to be harmful into deadly with nothing more than time. This is important because most water filters do not eliminate microorganisms they simply reduce their numbers to a safe level. This is also true of many water treatment systems.

The key to managing microorganisms is to minimize their numbers and to keep them minimized. The municipal water system uses a number of techniques to do this but in the end they treat water leaving their facility with chlorine (or similar) to help keep the microorganisms from reproducing to a level where they become a threat while the water sits in your pipes or water towers. And to minimize contamination by organisms that might otherwise grow in these storage systems.

Chlorine, however, does not last forever. It will begin to break down and as it does any microorganism that managed to survive or that is subsequently introduced will begin to multiply. To minimize this threat it is recommended that you treat your water with additional quantities of chlorine on a semi regular basis. 6 months to a year.

Of course an alternative approach and one most water bottling plants use is to eliminate them from the equation all together. I'll leave it to you to determine whether they are kidding themselves or not but lets discuss their basic process. Keep in mind that not all bottlers are equal.

First they run the water through a reverse osmosis filter. Now reverse osmosis filters pretty much removes everything from the water including heavy metals and minerals. Some then re-add some of the trace minerals that can be beneficial to human health removed by the reverse osmosis filter.

Just to be sure many also run the water through a UV light to sterilize any trace microorganisms that remain eliminating their ability to reproduce. This heavily treated water is then placed into bottles that themselves where sterilized and then sealed air tight.

If you neglect the possibility of BPA leaching from the bottles and we assume that the plant responsible for this was properly run then this water will literally last forever without the need for any additional treatment. After all if there are no contaminants in the water to begin with and the possibility of new one being introduced is zero then the water will remain pure for as long as the bottle remains intact.

The key here though is that the bottle itself must be sterilized as well as the water. We wouldn't want our pure water to be contaminated by the insides of our storage container.

Now in theory if you treat your water with chlorine before adding it to a storage container and you ensure that every inside surface of that storage container has sufficient contact time with that chlorinated water and that storage container is sealed with an air tight seal. Well you should be able to obtain the same results. Of course ensuring sufficiently long contact time to all internal surfaces with sufficient chlorine levels is much harder than it sounds. But it is possible.

Now all of this might seem overkill. And to a certain degree it can be. There is nothing stopping you from simply filtering/treating the water from your storage immediately before consumption thus negating any sort of growth that might occur while in storage.

Anyway, I want to keep this somewhat brief (fail) so I'll end with that. I am sure this will open up all sorts of conversations. There are many people on this site with fairly good insight into these issues. But buyer should always beware.
 

·
Getting There!
Joined
·
11,458 Posts
Ok, how about heat in killing off all living organisms?

Boiling isn't really necessary, but boiling allows you to know that you've reached the sufficient temperature. 160+ degrees plus some time will do it. Correct? For all living organisms? And viral contamination (rare in the US) too?
 

·
Rogue
Joined
·
1,617 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ok, how about heat in killing off all living organisms?

Boiling isn't really necessary, but boiling allows you to know that you've reached the sufficient temperature. 160+ degrees plus some time will do it. Correct? For all living organisms? And viral contamination (rare in the US) too?
If you are asking then this might help:

Emergency Disinfection

The key to remember in this discussion is the difference between pure and drinkable.

The goal in making water drinkable is typically to reduce the concentration of harmful contaminants below a harmful level. The human body poses a pretty powerful immune system that will handle trace quantities of microorganisms. However, different people will have different immune capacities. So the EPA and others typically set the bar low enough to work for the lowest common demoniator.

If you want pure then I can't give you that answer. I would guess it requires more time then what the EPA recommends.

When we speak of decontamination for storage now we need to realize that microorganisms can reproduce and multiply while chemical contaminants will not.
 

·
Getting There!
Joined
·
11,458 Posts
If you are asking then this might help:

Emergency Disinfection

The key to remember in this discussion is the difference between pure and drinkable.

The goal in making water drinkable is typically to reduce the concentration of harmful contaminants below a harmful level. The human body poses a pretty powerful immune system that will handle trace quantities of microorganisms. However, different people will have different immune capacities. So the EPA and others typically set the bar low enough to work for the lowest common demoniator.

When we speak of decontamination for storage now we need to realize that microorganisms can reproduce and multiply while chemical contaminants will not.
I am in the process of recycling old beer and wine bottles by thoroughly cleaning them and then filling them with tap water for long term storage. I don't have a filter. I figure that having relatively clean bottled water to be a good thing, however, if the biological contaminants are reproducing inside the bottles I need a new plan.

I'm on a very rural and old water system. The annual tests are acceptable as far as contaminants go.

Boiling before bottling will be a real chore compared to just filling the bottles from the tap.

I have played around with an idea to make a solar oven to pack with bottles for a day or so. If I can get them hot enough I'm hoping to fully kill off any organisms that might reproduce while the bottles are in storage.
 

·
Rogue
Joined
·
1,617 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have played around with an idea to make a solar oven to pack with bottles for a day or so. If I can get them hot enough I'm hoping to fully kill off any organisms that might reproduce while the bottles are in storage.
Well I can certainly say that the concept is sound. Its the same concept behind canning food. Place it inside a can/bottle and heat it for X amount of time to kill off any microorganism contaminants and as long as the container remains sealed your golden. You might find canning guidelines useful for determining the process.

The key will be to find lids for the bottles that can remain air tight and survive the high temperatures associated with canning. Its certainly doable.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,601 Posts
I am in the process of recycling old beer and wine bottles by thoroughly cleaning them and then filling them with tap water for long term storage. I don't have a filter. I figure that having relatively clean bottled water to be a good thing, however, if the biological contaminants are reproducing inside the bottles I need a new plan.

I'm on a very rural and old water system. The annual tests are acceptable as far as contaminants go.

Boiling before bottling will be a real chore compared to just filling the bottles from the tap.

I have played around with an idea to make a solar oven to pack with bottles for a day or so. If I can get them hot enough I'm hoping to fully kill off any organisms that might reproduce while the bottles are in storage.
Got a dish washer? many of them have a sterilize cycle to heat the water up for several minutes.

I do make my own wine so he's another suggestion from that field. The use of metabisulfites are used to sterilize the bottles as well as in the wine to kill off anything while in storage.

Some folks can't handle the sulfurs, more so then folks that can't tolerate chlorine. Either way are acceptable ways of sterilizing containers. If they bottles are scrubbed out well the addition of either, in a strong solution will kill most everything. Just fill one bottle with a strong solution and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour that into the next, and the next , until you're done. Leave a drop or two in the bottle will go a long way towards adding some disinfectant to the water you're going to use.

It only takes a few ppm of either to keep the water disinfected once the bottles are sterilized.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ChrisInGa

·
Forum Administrator
Joined
·
7,015 Posts
Great job! This should be required reading for someone just starting out. Water is job number one in the world of prepping. This thread is worthy of a Sticky!
 

·
Forum Administrator
Joined
·
7,015 Posts
Bumping for new people that want water knowledge.
 

·
Getting There!
Joined
·
11,458 Posts
Got a dish washer? many of them have a sterilize cycle to heat the water up for several minutes.
Yes, I do have a dishwasher. I am a little concerned in the Jet Dry I guess. My bottles are very clean now.

I brew too. I used OxyClean to soak the labels off and to clean the bottles and Star San to sanitize them.

After reading the OP I began to wonder about the actual life in my tap water that might reproduce while the bottled water is in storage.

So, I discovered that the pot that I bought to make laundry soap in holds an even 12 brew bottles. I have a pot going right now that are just about ready. It is slow, but I'm certain that there are no introduced contaminates in the water in the bottles right now as they are just coming to a boil.

I wasn't sure about the pressure building up, so I'm going to cap them after the boil. The lid to the pot just covers the tops of the bottles to keep anything from flying in. Flies are here. :(

Bottling them while hot will be... interesting.

Next batch I'll cap a few before the boil to see if they hold up.
 

·
In memory of Rokitdog
Joined
·
14,951 Posts
The water I store ( besides store bought bottled) is well water! Has some traces of sulphur in it but has been deemed safe to drink. But it also contains algae so I treat my water with tincture of iodine before storing! Pretty cheap considering how many gallons you can treat with a tiny bottle. I have all my bottles dated and refill them every couple of years but in the end I could keep them stored indefinetly if need be and just boil it later just to be safe!
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top