How to Treat Water in An Emergency

Treat Water

By learning how to treat water in an emergency, you’ll be able to make an informed choice about which method is best for your needs.

Refer to the article on Top Water Filters

Pump Filters

Pump filters are generally easy to use for chemical removal and flow-rate ability.

A pump treat water filter, much like a drip filter, uses sand as its filtering medium—the sand in a chamber with intake tubes.

The user attaches the pump mechanism to one end of the intake tube and the other end to whatever water source is used (i.e., stream, river, etc.). The water pulls through the sand via an internal pump located inside the chamber of the filter itself. The water then travels through the other end of the intake tube and into the storage container.

The sand acts as a mechanical barrier while filtering out any bacteria or parasites found in the receiving water source.

The pump filter also removes any chemicals present in the water itself. Filtering happens when the sand chamber is surrounded by another chamber filled with activated charcoal granules. The charcoal acts as a chemical barrier, allowing only pure water to exit out of the filter.

Pump filters: filter water from ponds, rivers, and streams.

Pump filters are a means of purifying water in the wilderness. However, pump filters are prone to clogging. Because of the clogging, it is good to have a secondary filtering method stored with your pump filter.


Over the last few years, a trend is using activated charcoal to filter our tap water at home and in restaurants. The process of filtering water through activated charcoal is called adsorption. It means that the molecules in the charcoal attract contaminants from the water.

We need to understand that activated charcoal works for different things. It can be found in water purifiers and can help with food storage. Charcoal is well known for its medicinal properties; some people use it as a detoxifying agent.

This filtering method works best if you have a large amount of activated charcoal, like an entire box or bag full. Filtering also depends on the volume of water that you are filtering.

Start with an airtight container.

The container should be large enough to fit all of the activated charcoal but small enough so that the charcoal can breathe and allow air to pass through. If the container is too large, it won’t hold all of the charcoal and will not be as effective at filtering. For this experiment, use a container containing about 2 quarts or a liter of water (1/2 gallon).

Next, pour water into the container, and add the activated charcoal to a pile. To ensure that the charcoal filters are completely saturated, you can add more water.

It is essential to know how long you will be using this filter. Suppose the container is exposed to contaminants for a long time (several days, for example).

When using more frequently, it needs to be changed more often than only once. If you want to reuse the container and charcoal, let the water sit in the container overnight so that most of the water evaporates.

This method of filtering is not perfect. It will not remove 100% of contaminants from water, but it does let you use tap water and remove most chemicals that could put your health at risk.

Gravity Filters

Gravity filters purify water through the use of gravity and sand. Sand is placed in a bucket with a hole at the base—the water filters into another bucket.

There are many different types of filters available today for filtering water.

  • slow sand filters
  • ceramic media filters
  • rapid sand filters

Slow sand filters are an effective means of filtering water. They are also commonly referred to as a Trickle filter. And made from layers of sand with gravel in between. They still require considerable maintenance over time even though they are well known for their efficiency,

Ceramic media filters or slow sand filters use a slow percolation to remove toxic and chemical substances from water.

Rapid sand filters can produce ten to fifteen liters per hour and are known for their efficiency in eliminating bacteria and small micro-organisms from water.

Gravity water filters reduce the amount of contaminants left in the water using physical and chemical means.

When using gravity and rocks (usually sand), particles harmful to the human body filter out of the drinking water. They are filters that are incredibly easy to use and do not usually require any special maintenance. That is why many people choose them over other filterers.

Gravity water filters are known to use gravity and sand to filter out particles from water. Sand and rocks in a bucket, and as the water pours down the bucket, it causes the sand to filter into another bucket.

While the contaminated water sits in the first bucket, the particle-free water rests in the second bucket. Some gravity water filters also use pre-filters to remove larger particles.

Gravity water filters are handy in areas with small parasites or other harmful objects present in drinking water.

Because gravity water filters use gravity to filter out particles, they do not require any external energy sources. That makes them an efficient and effective filtration technique.

No maintenance is needed for gravity water filters. However, some gravity water filters require frequent cleaning, and a sand filter changes every year.

Gravity water filters are more effective than slow sand filters in filtering out small particles because slow sand filters require several days to be effective. Some slow sand filter variants can take up to two weeks to be fully effective. Gravity water filters can be fully effective in under an hour.

Gravity water filters are relatively inexpensive to use.

Bottle Filters

All you have to do is unscrew the cap and put it inside. After that, fill it with water from any source and screw the lid back on. It will let only clean water come out! It’s a useful tool for hiking, camping, or any activity that requires water.

This one is top of the line compared to other filters because of its big capacity. It can take the place of a 2-liter bottle or even a 2.5 liter one and still have room to spare.

Bottle filters are very lightweight and portable. They are made out of plastic, making them very easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and durable. If taken care of properly, these filters can work for you for a long time.


Boiling water is a long-standing tried and valid water filtration method that has been around for ages. It’s a method that will never go out of style because it just works as a water filtration method. Boiling removes pathogens from water that commonly cause sickness.

Boiling water will make water safer to drink.

Since pathogens cause disease, boiling water will kill disease-causing micro-organisms in the water like bacteria and viruses. No matter where the water is from, boiling will kill pathogens, letting you know you can drink it. Boiling is an excellent method for making suspect or questionable tap or stream water safe.

When boiling water, be sure that you boil it long enough to kill any bad stuff in it. You will need a rolling boil to kill micro-organisms in water. When you don’t boil the water long enough, there is a possibility that you could get sick from pathogens in the water.

How long you should boil water depends on how much water you have and the contaminating items. To boil off one gallon of tap or stream water, bring it to a boil and let it roll for at least five minutes.

The boiling time should be longer than 5 minutes if the suspect water supply contains something other than micro-organisms. How much longer you boil depends on what the contaminant is.

When boiling water is from a stream, boil longer because the water contains bugs and dirt. Bacteria and viruses don’t like bug guts and heavy metals that are in rock.

If you are unsure how long to boil your suspect water, let it roll for at least 10 minutes. That should do it. If the water comes from a pipe, not a stream or lake, only boil 3-5 minutes to be safe.

All you need to boil water is a metal pot and a source of heat. The water does not need to have chemicals or iodine added to it. Chemicals can kill the good microbes in the water that help your digestive system function.

Boiling is a great way to make suspect water safe to drink.

Treat Water – Wrap Up

Of the many ways water can be filtered, choose the method that will work for your needs. There might be times one method will work where another might not work as well.

By you taking time to learn how to treat water in an emergency, you can adapt and use the water filtration method as needed for your different outings.