The Importance of Having an Emergency Water Filter

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In this past year, we have seen many natural disasters strike close to home. There were hurricanes in Texas, wildfires throughout the West, and extreme blizzards in New York. The number one item people affected by natural disasters are in need of is clean drinking water. Clean water may be something that many of us take for granted. Don’t wait for a natural disaster or emergency to hit in order for you to make a plan. It is so important for you and your family to have an emergency water filter. Otherwise you may find yourself quoting the famous lines from poem Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Water, water, everywhere. Nor any drop to drink”.

Methods of Emergency Water Filters

There are a few different ways in which you can filter your water in an emergency. The methods that most emergency water filters use to clean water include boiling, filtering, and chemical treatments. There are pros and cons for each type of filtration method. Find out which emergency water filter method will work best for you. It may even be helpful to pick a back-up method as well. The last thing you want in an emergency situation is to be worried about where your family will find their clean drinking water. 


The most basic way to purify water in an emergency is by boiling your water. Often times when a water source becomes contaminated by a broken pipe or if there is presence of microorganisms in the water a city will issue a “boil water” notice for all drinking water. The way it works is simple; when you heat water hot enough microorganisms that can make you sick will die. The Red Cross recommends you bring your water to a full boil for at least a minute, but recommends longer especially if you are in higher elevations.

Pros to Boiling Water

Boiling your water is an easy, low tech and effective way to make drinking water safe. No water born microorganisms can survive a rolling boil. Thus ensuring that you won’t get sick during a shortage of clean drinking water. Boiling your water is a free way to get clean and safe drinking water.

Cons to Boiling Water

Boiling water may be an easy way to purify drinking water, but it also has its drawbacks. It requires extra equipment such as a large pot, and fuel to burn or access to electricity. This may be problematic if your emergency is a natural disaster and you do not have access to electric or gas stoves. While it does kill microorganisms it does not remove sediment or other particles from the water. Another form of filtering, such as straining through a clean piece of cloth or a filter pitcher may be required. It also may be inconvenient and time consuming to bring your water to a boil, and then wait for it to cool down enough to drink it.

Chemical Disinfection

Using chemicals as an emergency water filter is another common method of water purification. Iodine and chlorine are the two most common chemicals used. You can find iodine in tablet, liquid drops or crystalline form. Most households have easy access to chlorine bleach, although it is important to make sure it is unscented and does not have extra additives. Chemical disinfection is considered effective against all bacteria and viruses (except cryptosporidium).

Pros to Chemical Disinfection

Just like the boiling water method, chemical disinfection is simple and straightforward. No extra fancy equipment is needed. It is an effective way to purify your water. You can purify your water in large quantities when using chemicals as an emergency water filter.

Cons to Chemical Disinfection

Unfortunately, chemical disinfection may not work for everyone. Adding iodine to water can be dangerous and is NOT recommended for people with thyroid conditions, or women who are pregnant or nursing. There is also a chance that you may have a reaction to the chemicals used to purify the water. Iodine tablets may not store well for long periods of time, and things like sunlight can make iodine less effective. Both chlorine and iodine require correct ratios to be effective, so you need to make sure you are measuring the water that you are filtering. Chemicals do not remove particles from the water. If your water is contaminated with sediment, like dirt, it will need to be filtered through a clean cloth or filter pitcher first to remove as many particles as possible. Chemical disinfection may also cause the taste of the water to change.

Portable Water Filtration

The last method of purification which emergency water filters use is filtration. However, do not be fooled into thinking emergency water filtration is easy. Your household water filters, like the Brita or Pur pitchers, are not equipped to filter out all bacteria and viruses from the water. Portable water filters have complex layers of filtering that they can strain out bacteria and protozoa from the water. They can even filter out most viruses. You can find many different kinds of emergency water filters online and at most outdoor stores. They can be found as portable straws, or pumps. The straws are small and lightweight which makes them good for camping or traveling.

Pros to Filtration

Filtration is a great way to remove bacteria, viruses and sediment from your water. Unlike the other methods of emergency water filtering, using an emergency water filter does not alter the color or taste of the water. You can find a variety of different emergency water filter straws or pumps online for a relatively cheap price. These emergency water filters are easy and intuitive for users to learn to use. They are also easy to travel with, making it a truly portable way to filter water in an emergency.

Cons to Filtration

Although purchasing a portable emergency water filter may be cheap, it is an added expense to the water purification process. You will also need to purchase replacement filters and other accessories. Because most portable filters are small and lightweight they also can break easily. This may leave you stranded in an emergency with a broken water filter. Portable emergency water filters do a good job filtering most bacteria and viruses out of the water. It depends on which filter you buy. Not all portable water filters are created equal in terms of how much they can filter out. Portable emergency water filters are also not equipped to filter mass quantities of water at a time.

In Conclusion

Planning ahead and educating yourself on different ways to filter water in an emergency is a smart thing to do. There are so many different ways to filter and purify our water. It is so important to have access to clean water in an emergency. It never hurts to always be prepared with one or two methods to get you through the next “boil water” advisory or natural disaster.

Related Article: Best Portable Water Filter: The Top 10 Reviewed

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