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Water is the most critical commodity in a survival situation. A normal, healthy adult can survive four to six weeks without food, as long as there is adequate water. However, without water, the survival time is only a few days.
The experts in wilderness survival indicate that a person should have a gallon of water per day. What then of the promises of commercial 72-hour kits who proclaim that you can survive on two 4.1-ounce packets of water per day? They are lying to you, and this leads one to wonder if the other concepts, techniques and equipment in their kits are suspect, too!
Water for a family of four for 72 hours will weigh 96 pounds. That is sufficient weight that most of us would not care to pack it around in the event of an evacuation. Now what?
The concept I propose is to carry at least 3-4 quarts of water per person (weight 8 pounds) and then locate a source of water—a stream, lake irrigation ditch, etc., etc. But realize that the majority of natural water sources in the United States are contaminated with Giardia—a nasty little cold water parasite that loves the human’s lower colon and is famous for causing "rotten egg" gas and the Rocky Mountain Two Step!
This means that ALL water should be processed before consumption. There are several ways to do this:
1. BOILING. This is the only process that is 100% effective in killing any crawlies, but does not remove any floaties. Water should be boiled for at least 10 minutes at a rolling boil. Tastes terrible.
2. FILTERING. The easiest and most effective method of removing almost all crawlies and all but the smallest floaties. Does not affect the taste of the water.
3. IODINE. 75-80% effective in killing crawlies, but does not remove floaties. The effectiveness of this method depends on water temperature and contact time. Iodine does affect the taste of the water. Avoid like the plague iodine tablets sold as “military surplus.” The reason they are surplus is because they have exceeded the shelf life of 5 years, and the military, by regulation, cannot use them. I once found a bottle of iodine tabs in a person’s 72-hour kit that had expired fifteen years earlier! She had recently purchased them from a local surplus store. When she confronted the manager she was told to use two pills instead of one. Hey, folks, double nothing is still nothing!
4. OTHER PURIFICATION AGENTS. There are other types of water purification on the market and some new techniques, which have varying degrees of effectiveness. Do your research before relying on them!
Water is critical. As a last resort, drink the water. If you don’t you will probably die anyway, and most things nowdays can be cured. Better yet, be prepared to provide your own water supply in an emergency. Personally, I carry a water filter and fresh iodine tabs.
It is the water in your stomach that keeps you alive, not the water in your canteen. All of us go about our daily business in some degree of dehydration. Note, though, that going for days without water does not mean you are just thirsty and feel bad. You die. Your friends stand around a deep hole, put you in the bottom, and then throw dirt in your face. The importance of water cannot be overstated!
By Larry G. Bethers