Eight Deadly Survival Myths About Water

Eight Deadly Survival Myths About Water By “Just In Case” Jack

When things go wrong, the first item your average Joe citizen is going to stock up on is water.

It’s easy for Joe American to buy a five-gallon jug of water and assume the proverbial storm will pass within a day or two.

As preppers, we know better.

We know all too well the very real danger of complacency and, more, we know how easy it is for the water supply to become contaminated. Whether by act of God, foreign bodies, domestic terror or otherwise, the water supply is an easy target for The Worst Case Scenario.

Worse still, there are those unfortunate individuals who buy into the insidious rumors circulating around about what it means to purify your own water.

If there’s one thing worse than complacency, it’s the propagation of dangerous misinformation.

While the average Joe knows the myths, ultimately it’s the survivors who know better.

Here are eight of those dangerous urban survival myths that you would be wise to unlearn.

Myth 1: Boiled Water Is Boiled Water

One of the first things most everyone knows to do when he needs water is to boil it. After all, he reasons, boiling water will fully eradicate most, if not all, dangerous germs and microbes lurking just below that crystal-clear surface.

Not only is this categorically wrong, it could cost you and your loved ones everything.

While it’s true that boiling water is a simple and effective way to cleanse your water, it’s important to understand that the hotter the water gets the cleaner it will be. It’s all too easy to get that pot steaming and assume that the water is ready to consume.

The most important thing to remember when boiling water is that it is less about the duration of boiling and more about temperature.

Water fully boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to instantly cleanse your water of just about any common microorganisms. If bringing your water to a full boil is out of the question for whatever reason and you have a thermometer handy, you can alternatively heat it to 160 degrees for 30 minutes or 185 for three minutes.

Myth 2: All Boiled Water Is Not Always Created Equal

Another dangerous myth about water purification is that boiling is a cure all. Something you need to consider is how dirty the water actually is. While boiling will effectively cleanse standing water or rain water, it won’t do you any good to boil chemically contaminated water.

Simply put, you aren’t going to boil that pesky depleted uranium residue out of your water.

The same principal applies to dirty water.

If the water you are attempting to purify is visibly dirty or murky, you should filter the water before attempting to cleanse it. It’s all the better if you are in a situation where there are commercial filters available but, if not, you have options.

One easy way to get the muck out of your water is to filter it through a clean shirt or a towel. If a filter isn’t available, you can additionally just let the water sit until the sediment sinks to the bottom of the container and pour the clean water off of the top.

Myth 3: Eating Clean, White Snow Is Always Safe

So, say the world went to hell while you were up in the mountains surrounded by pristine, fresh snow. There’s a common misconception that fresh snow is ready for you to consume.

As an informed survivor, you know that nothing is that easy.

While it’s true that snow makes for a great source of hydration in those dire, icy scenarios, it’s as important as ever to boil your water.

While it’s always a good idea to purify the water you consume, snow presents a different set of problems for the intrepid survivor other than simple contamination.

Paradoxically, eating snow can actually lead to further dehydration and, given the climate you’ve likely found yourself in, hypothermia.

Even though the snow itself might not necessarily be dirty, the energy your body spends melting the snow while simultaneously dealing with your plummeting internal temperature is simply not worth the risk.

Your best bet is to collect the snow and melt it down as it will warm the water as well as kill any germs it may have picked up off the ground.

Myth 4: You Need To Drink 8 Glasses Of Water Daily

A classic piece of mom-advice is that we all need to drink 8 glasses of water every day. While someone in a life-or-death, survival situation will likely be aware of conservations necessity, it’s important to know that your body can operate just fine on less water.

While it’s massively important for your well-being to stay hydrated, don’t blow your stockpile because you grew up thinking you needed 8 glasses every day. Cutting back on salt, soda, sweets and many other perishable goods while upping your intake of fruits and vegetables is a great way of keeping yourself hydrated.

The other side of this myth is that it implies drinking 8 glasses is purely about intake. On the contrary, one of the most important aspects of hydration is output.

Hydration is as much about flushing toxins out of your system as it is about satiating your body’s need for liquid. Since the objective is to rid your body of toxins, diet, exercise and vitamins are just as important as gulping down your valuable stash of clean water.

Myth 5: Only Standing Water Is Dangerous

Another popular myth is that as long as your water source isn’t stagnant, it’s safe to consume. The ill-informed survivor will look at a stream gurgling through the woods and over rocks and assume that it’s naturally clean.

As with all water consumption, the name of the game is purification.

As is the case with any water, even moving water has a source and you can’t know what’s stewing around in that source. Unless you want to risk a run-in with giardia or any number of other water-born sicknesses, you need to make sure your water is safe first.

Myth 6: Drinking Small Amounts Of Salt Water Is OK

Salt water, even in minute doses will actually speed up the dehydration process.

It’s the idea of reverse osmosis that comes into play.

The salinity of the water you would drink from the sea is much greater than the natural salinity of the water in your cells. So as you drink the salt laden water, the water in your cells will move through your cell wall membrane to try and dilute the recently ingested sea water. This means your cells and body will lose water by drinking a glass of ocean.

However, it can be used to cool you down as long as you don’t swallow any.

Myth 7: All Cacti Are A Source Of Water

While it’s true that there is water in many types of Cacti, its typically not as abundant as most are lead to believe. Plus, the water tends to be acidic and bitter, which can lead to unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea and vomiting (both of which accelerate the dehydrating processes).

Myth 8: You Can Always Count On Urine In A Pinch

Yes and No.

In a very extreme situation you can drink urine once, possibly twice but it’s really not a long term solution. Urine is waste for a reason, and even though it does have some amount of water in it, if you continue to recycle it more than once then it’s going to become more and more toxic.

You’ll quickly realize this is happening when the color of your urine continues to get darker and darker as you get more and more dehydrated.

In the end, drinking urine follows the laws of diminishing returns. The more you drink the harder your body has to work to process the toxins, making you even more dehydrated, which then negatively accelerates your already limited survival time.

Potential Life Savers: Your Water Survival Tools

Now that we have covered some of the most deadly survival water myths, it’s worth a quick mention about some helpful solutions.

There are two primary survival tools that I keep with me at all times. A portable water filter and a bunch of water purification tablets. While these two tools won’t make sea water drinkable or make urine pure, they will open up a much wider array of water options, when options are limited.

While a portable water filter can’t locate water for you, it will greatly increase your chances of survival. A portable survival water filter protects you from most dehydration enhancing sicknesses caused by drinking bacteria laden water.

So don’t leave home, travel, backpack, bug out or stay home without one.

-“Just In Case” Jack

About the author:
Jack’s an expert survivalist and prepper with an engineering and military background. He’s a dedicated family man and a proud American. Jack wants to help you to be prepared for anything. Trust me, when TSHTF you’ll be happy you met Jack. Sign up now to win a free Life Straw at SkilledSurvival.com

In an Emergency, Your Life Could Depend on It: Check your Water Filter

Berkey Water Filter

Our tap water has a heavily chlorinated taste.  Instead of buying bottled water, we use our Berkey Light Water Purifier on a daily basis.   Now that we use it all the time, I realized there is some maintenance that goes will using a water purifier, no matter what brand you use.

After using the filter for about three months, I noticed a reddish coating on the water filter elements, so we disassembled the unit.  I started reading about cleaning your water filter.  I also spoke to the “Berkey Guy” to get some information.  The reddish tinge around the water filter elements might be caused by iron in the water, and should be cleaned off.

How to Clean your Water Filter

  1. Take apart the unit and clean the black filter elements under running water will a scrub sponge such as Scotch Brite.  A stiff brush would work as well.  If it seems clogged, follow instructions that came with your individual unit to “prime” the filter.  (As a quick explanation, priming involves holding the filter against a faucet and allowing the water to flow through the filter.  Not all water filters require this-follow your own manufacturer’s instructions)
  2. Do not use very hot or very cold water as this may damage the filters.
  3. Clean the containers with soap and water.  Rinse thoroughly.

How to Tell if the Filter is No Longer Working

The best way to test the water filter is to add red food coloring to the water and allow it to run through the unit.

Berkey Water Filter test

If working properly, the filtered water will be completely clear.  If the red food coloring is not removed, then it is time to replace the filter.


Portable Water Filters

The same thing applies to individual filters such as the Berkey Sport Bottle.  I’ve also used the Lifesaver filtration bottle., as well.   The parts should be cleaned and left to air dry completely between uses.  Reassemble only after it has dried thoroughly.  I’ve made the mistake of storing a portable water bottle and it developed mold.

The Berkey Guy also reminded me that the sport bottle filter should not be left out in an overheated car or allowed to freeze.  Extreme temperatures will warp the filter.

Whether you use your water filter on a daily basis or only on emergencies, taking proper care of it will help ensure it functions properly when you need it, for as long as possible.

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What You Need to Know about Water Contamination

Drainage Canal

If the power grid were to go down for a period of time, municipal water filtration systems may not function properly.  Most of us have heard of “Boil water” ordinances in our own cities when a section of town gets a water main break.  That’s because the water in the area becomes contaminated and is no longer safe to drink.  This can happen in a widespread area if the power grid were to fail for a period of time.

The idea for this post started when reader Dave from Florida sent me an enlightening email about how our water supply is vulnerable.  He works as wastewater operator and therefore has good insight on city water supply systems.  Dave was agreeable to parts of his email included in this article.  Thanks Dave!

Purification Process

Most cities get their their water supply from an aquifer deep underground.  Water normally goes through several stages of the purification process before it gets to your tap.

Sedimentation – Treatment plants pump water into a reservoir as a holding area to allow large solid particles to settle down.   The clear water above the sediment will then be ready for the next stage.

Filtration – The water will go through various materials such as gravel, sand and carbon to remove the smaller particles that affect the taste and appearance of water.

Disinfection – The water is then pumped to a water plant where they will disinfect the water to get rid of bacteria and viruses before it can become potable.  Most areas add flouride.   Opinions vary on the wide use of flouride, as many believe that flouride MIGHT be good for your teeth, but is not meant for ingestion.   But that is for another post.  For now, we will stick to the subject of city water.

When water is cleaned at a plant, chlorine is used to sanitize the water, but it is also largely removed before the water leaves the plant so it doesn’t kill the fish in the streams. Chlorine is considered a pesticide and can be harmful if ingested in large amounts.  Chlorine a.k.a bleach sanitizes the water to make it drinkable.  Regulation states that the water plant has to test the water from time to time at the furthest leg from the plant to ensure that that there is enough chlorine in the water as it gets further away from the plant.  It might make more sense to add chlorine somewhere in the middle between the plant and farthest leg however that would be too expensive.  So the plant increases the chlorine amounts to make sure the farthest areas get enough.  On the downside, if you live close to the plant you are getting much higher doses of chlorine.

backflow preventerThe Role of the Backlow Preventer

Once the water is disinfected it is ready for consumption.  We now take a look at a little known appliance that is installed in your home as it is built and then forgotten: the backflow preventer.   These devices are very important and yet, get very little attention.   The backflow preventer makes sure that water that gets in through your pipe will not go back out through it.  It makes the water flowing into your house a one way stream.

This is important because if the city loses pressure, then the flow can reverse and the outgoing pipes would suck the water back like a siphon.  The backflow preventer is supposed to keep this from happening.

Backflow preventers normally have a lifespan of five years at the very best. Most are only good for two. That means if your house is older, it is very possible that the backflow preventer is not working at all.

Our tap water is safe to drink as long as it never comes in contact with unclean water.  However, “cross connections” can occur.  A cross connection means potable water coming into contact with contaminated water.  For example, a cross-connection can potentially happen if you leave a garden hose lying in puddle of mud.

As long as the backflow preventer is working properly, your cross connections won’t affect you.  But what happens if it stops working?  When the water lines lose pressure you can actually watch the hose drain a giant puddle in your yard as the potable water pipes are sucking it past your backflow preventer and into the water system that feeds all down-flow customers.  Even in a non-emergency situation, cross connections can sully your household’s water if your backflow preventer is not working properly.  Since there is no regulation that governs the maintenance of this key piece of equipment, all your water safety disappears as you or anyone up stream from you can easily cross connect your clean water supply with not-so-clean water.  (Dave did mention that business and industrial backflow preventers are regulated, while residential ones are not.)  It is still possible to have cross connections with businesses in the neighborhood, such as restaurants, allowing small amounts of dirty water in.  The reason you don’t hear about any problems is because there is the dilution factor and the chlorine in your drinking water kills off contaminants that accidentally gets in.

What this means for homes and apartments during a disaster

In a grid down situation, when water is not being filtered properly, the failure of the backflow preventer and contamination due to cross connections can become dangerous to your family’s health.

  • If you are a homeowner, check your records to see when was the last time the backflow preventer was replaced.  Chances are, it was installed when your house was built.  Have your plumber inspect and replace it if needed.
  • In an apartment building, your building management may know when the backflow preventer was last replaced.  However, from my experience, most management companies have high turnover rate and generally are not knowledgeable about such matters.  If the manager does not know, check with the maintenance supervisor.
  • Learn how to shut off the city water from entering your home in the event of a disaster.
  • Keep at least two weeks worth of water for everyone in your household.
  • You should have one gallon per person per day.
  • Learn how to filter water to remove sediment.
  • Have a back up stove to be able to boil water.
  • Choose a good water purifier.  In our household, we use the Big Berkey for everyday use, with a set of back up filter units.
  • Set aside additional water for household use.  I am considering keeping a water barrel in the garage to add to our water storage.

Water is such a necessity and should be a top priority for emergency supplies.  Reconsider your water storage today.


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Just Go with the Flow

After months of advising my relatives to get a water filtration system, one of the families finally decided to purchase one.  I had told them about the Berkey, and they thought this is what they purchased.  Well… not really.

From what the family member told me, the booth at the trade show they attended had two filtration systems side by side:

1-  the clear Berkey Light, with the red food dye in the canister above, being filtered clear into the canister below, AND

2 – a stainless steel model right next to it which was not being tested.

They wanted a Big Berkey, the kind with the stainless steel housing.  The salesman started with,”This is just like the Berkey, but these Propur filters are designed to be much better…”  In the end, they paid $239 for the unit and took it home.  Now the adventure begins.  They opened the box, and found nothing was labeled, except for a couple of these small stickers that said “Propur,” and 1 page instruction sheet.  They wanted to make sure they assembled it correctly so they called me and asked me about Propur which I was not familiar with.

Before they arrived, I did a search on the internet and found the Propur website.  It appears Propur has positioned themselves to be a Berkey competitor.  I wanted a thorough review, but I did not find much information on the web.  Thus I decided to test it myself.  I am not an expert, nor I do not have any scientific water purification measures, but I’ve used enough water filters to do a road test.  I contacted ProPur’s Customer Service to see if they could send me published results (similar to what Berkey posted) but they just sent me back to the website.  When I asked where is the unit made, all I was told was “Europe” but nothing more specific.

Propur contents

This is how the Propur unit appeared out of the box

We followed the assembly instructions exactly.  The steps indicated you had to filter two batches of water before it is ready to drink.  Not wanting so waste so much water we filled the top container about halfway with tap water.  We left it alone for about six hours.  After several hours, the water still did not seem to be flowing down.  Not much water was getting purifed.

I called up the seller on their receipt and explained the issue:  not much water is getting through.  The man who answered was not surprised.  He indicated the Propur water filter, when new, will not completely let any water through unless the top canister is completely full.  He said we needed to fill up the entire top canister and let it run through a few times; it may take three days for it to start flowing right.  He also said the top canister will never completely empty out; you will have to keep refilling the top canister close to the top for it to filter properly.  I feel this could be a problem in an emergency if you only have a little bit of water to filter.

Sure enough, once we filled it close to the brim, the unit started running the water through.  We refilled it one more time.  On the third fill up I tasted the water and it did taste better than tap water.   But I was still wondering about its purification abilities, and the amount of contaminants it could filter out.

What I Found Out

After a while I found Debunking the Alternative Choice.  The article does not name names but I am sure who the “alternative choice” is, as they themselves claimed their comparison to Berkey all over their website.  I also ran across the informative article Water Filtration Facts-Pay Attention to the Nines.  In looking at the results posted,  Berkey clearly has more 99.9999% of contaminants covered.

food dye in water purifier testThe final test was the food dye test.  I ran water with orange food dye to see if it would filter the dye properly.  Then I waited…  and waited… and waited some more.  There’s that flow rate problem again.  The rate of water passing through slowed considerably.  I never had this problem with the Berkey.

Propur flow rate

After 4 hours, this is the amount of colored water filtered.

It took over 24 hours for the top container’s orange water to get filtered through.  The resulting water did look clear, and was good tasting.  It also worked well with tap water, as long as you keep the top canister full.  However, this final test tells me if I were actually purifying dirty water in an emergency, these Propur filters would take a really long time.  And in an actual emergency, time is something you may be short on.

Ultimately the family who bought the filter decided to keep the stainless steel container since it works okay, but will replace the filters with Berkey’s.  In my opinion, if you are in the market for a water filter, make sure you are getting the real article.  Some final tips:

  • A few dollars price difference is not worth the frustration and lack of confidence.
  • Research the system thoroughly before you buy
  • Review the list of contaminants and pay attention percentages of substances removed
  • Find out the unit’s about flow rates:  in an emergency you will likely be purifying unclean water which may potentially slow it down considerably
  • Purchase from a reputable source.
  • Find out about return policies.


Get the real deal.  Whether bugging out or sheltering in place, you can never have enough clean water for survival: For your water purifier needs, please visit:


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Please Welcome our New Sponsor – The Berkey Guy!

One of my early blog posts back in June 2010 was “Insuring Against 3 Days Without Water” when I described how we decided to purchase The Big Berkey, one of the highest rated water purifying water systems.  It can remove bacteria, pathogens harmful chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, organic solvents, VOCs, detergents, cloudiness, silt, sediment, foul tastes and odors, along with reducing the presence of heavy metals in the water.  I still love my Berkey purifier and that’s why I am delighted to welcome The Berkey Guy as one of Apartment Prepper’s Blog few sponsors.

As you know I only include sponsors that I know and trust.  I like the Big Berkey so much we use it for our regular drinking water needs.  I take tap water and purify it with the Berkey, as I occasionally hear reports of contaminants in the tap.  This way I know for sure it’s safe and I never have to buy bottled water.  If you are in the market for a great water purifier, please visit The Berkey Guy over at Directive21.com.  In addition, they also carry other survival items such as seeds, books, grain mills, etc.  The Berkey Guy also runs a blog and an online radio show on the Preparedness Radio Network.

And even better, they currently offer FREE SHIPPING on all their Berkey products. Check them out!  Please click on the link on the right column, or just click here:

How to Drink Muddy Water

I posted about our water preparedness plan several months ago in the post “Insuring against “3 Days Without Water”  .  For our main water purification system we chose The Big Berkey.  It works very well, but is not very portable.  If we were to shelter in place, the Big Berkey would be the one we’d use.  For a more portable water filter, we decided to try the Lifesaver bottle.  First, why did we pick the Lifesaver bottle?  It is known to remove microbes, bacteria, viruses, chemicals, parasites and fungi.  It also seemed easier to use than other types of portable water filters.  We’ve seen all the YouTube videos where people fill the bottle with all sorts of nasty water from swamp water to algae pool water, pump it a few times and drink it.

Lifesaver bottle

We decided to test it for ourselves.

1.  First we assembled the Lifesaver bottle.

2.  We got some dirt from outside and mixed it with water  in a plastic bowl.

3.  We filled the Lifesaver bottle with the muddy water.

4.  Following directions, pump the Lifesaver bottle a few times, then open the nozzle to let the fresh water drip into a clean glass.

5.  Examine and taste the formerly muddy water.

At first, I was very hesitant and suspicious about actually drinking  the water.  But I saw that the water ran crystal clear with no traces of dirt.   As far as taste, the water tasted like clean, fresh water.   I did not discern any foreign or strange taste in the water.  The experiment was a success.  If we had to run out of our apartment in an emergency, the Lifesaver bottle will be coming with us in case we are forced to drink bayou or puddle water.