Water is treated for a variety of purposes. For example as part of the normal drinking water supply. In the technical area, water often has to meet special purity requirements. Or in the outdoor and camping area, where not always enough water supplies can be carried along. This is especially the case on multi-day trekking tours – apart from civilization, it is part of the daily ritual to treat water.
Looking for water in nature
Before you can treat water, you have to obtain it first. In some areas it is easy. You can skim water from rivers or lakes and simply collect rainwater. However, arid areas present a challenge. Your creativity and thirst for adventure are required here. If dew forms in the morning, you can collect it with a clean piece of cloth and wring it out into the water container. The cool water is also hidden in the ground. With a simple device, you can condense the soil moisture and collect water.
Regardless of which method you choose – you should definitely treat the water obtained.
Visible and invisible problems
Dangers can lurk in the water. The most obvious signs of pollution are Suspended solids . They make the water cloudy and float as soon as they are stirred up. They can usually be found in natural groundwater and spring water. Specifically, it is dust or whirled up mud, even the finest particles from the air can float in the water. Such pollution is not necessarily healthy, but usually does not cause any serious health problems.
bacteria and Viruses are a lot more dangerous. They can cause various diseases and should be removed carefully. Other microorganisms, so-called Protozoa . They often come from sewage and are also responsible for diseases. You can only rule out any health risk with careful disinfection.
Also Chemicals are among the most common problems. These are often drug residues or residues of cleaning agents and fertilizers. Such substances can get directly into the groundwater – be it through wastewater from companies or from waterworks. Not all reprocessing options are effective against chemical pollution. You should pay attention to this when purchasing a product or, at best, seek out secluded natural sources.
The four ways of water treatment
In principle, water can be treated in four different ways. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages, and a combination of different routes often makes the most sense.
Heat is an easy way to kill microorganisms. There is not much you can go wrong with using this method. You will need suitable fuel and a heat-resistant container for this. Let the water boil for about 10 minutes, longer in higher areas. Because of the high air pressure, water boils at lower temperatures, the method is only safe up to about 1,000 meters altitude.
Boiling the water renders all microorganisms harmless, but not solids. This means that minerals, metals or suspended matter remain in the water. However, these substances sink to the ground over time, so that clean water can be skimmed off. In any case, you have to let some time pass before the water can be drunk, and when it is boiling there is also some time to cool down. The main disadvantage is the high fuel consumption. In addition, the water quickly germinates again after boiling, so it is not intended for storage.
Disinfectant tablets for water treatment are even easier to use. You can buy them in sports and outdoor stores. The tablets kill both bacteria, protozoa and viruses. Make sure to use the correct dosage – too low a dosage may not kill all pathogens, too high a dosage you consume unnecessarily many chemicals.
The tablets are characterized by a long shelf life, they work either with iodine or chlorine. You can taste that too. Chemically treated water does not necessarily taste good, but the method is reliable. However, if there are suspended particles in the water, you should remove them beforehand, as otherwise the chemicals cannot work properly. You have to be patient for the tablets to take effect. The chemicals require around two hours of work. They usually work optimally at a water temperature of 21 degrees Celsius. Very cold water can reduce its effectiveness.
You should be careful with tablets that state silver ions as the active ingredient. It is often assumed that such disinfect. In truth, you cannot sterilize, but are only suitable for preserving water that has already been treated.
Several manufacturers now offer water filters for outdoor use. Clear advantage: filtering is the only method that works against suspended matter. Not all microorganisms are always removed for this. However, this is very different from model to model. Outdoor water filters are available in a wide variety of designs for a wide variety of needs. The lightest variants look like thick permanent markers and are straws that you can use to drink directly from polluted waters. Drinking bottles with built-in filters are also popular. For larger camping projects, there are large models that can easily supply several caravans.
With outdoor water filters, you should definitely pay attention to the service life.
If the filter is used beyond that, it threatens to germinate and the substances that have already been filtered out can get concentrated in the water. It is therefore essential to follow the instructions for use, also with regard to cleaning and maintenance. For your stay in nature we recommend that you only use special outdoor filters. If you’ve already thought about packing your normal household filter, you’d better forget about it. Such filters are made for other conditions and are generally not effective against pathogens in natural waters.
One method that has become more and more handy in recent years is exposure to UV light. This variant is based on a physical principle. UV rays have the property of killing microorganisms quickly and effectively. Bacteria, viruses and protozoa can no longer multiply or cause infections. UV light is also used for disinfection in hospitals and sewage treatment plants.
There are handy models for the outdoor area. These are often made in pen form and have to be immersed in water. The application time depends on the amount that you want to prepare. But it doesn’t take long. Your daily need for drinking water you can disinfect most models within one to two minutes. Water treatment using UV light works relatively quickly and easily. In addition, you do not pollute yourself or the environment with chemicals. Make sure, however, that you have enough batteries in your luggage!
This is how it works: Instructions for treating water
So much for theory – now it’s time to put it into practice. Once you have found water, you need to find a suitable way of treating it. At the beginning you make the distinction between cloudy and clear water. There are suspended particles in cloudy water, which must be filtered out.
If your camping equipment already includes a water filter, you are already well prepared against suspended matter. Alternatively, it doesn’t hurt to pack a couple of coffee filters in case you just find cloudy water. In an emergency, a piece of fabric also filters. Make sure you only use clean fabric. True to the motto “twice is better”, it is advisable to let the water run through several layers. After filtering, the water should be clear.
However, clear water is not yet drinking water. You can only drink the filtered water if you use an outdoor water filter. Otherwise there are still numerous microorganisms in it. Which method you choose for sterilizing depends on your personal preferences. In warm water and away from the mountains, boiling, chemical disinfection and UV light are about equally effective. On long tours you will ask yourself questions about weight, waiting time, reliability and many other factors.
Our conclusion: which option is the best for treating water cannot be said across the board. Usually it depends on the right combination. If you follow our tips, hopefully nothing will stand in the way of correct processing!