Tag Archives: water purification

  • A New Innovative Energy Solution

    I don’t know about you, but my public school science fair participation usually involved something growing in a Styrofoam cup and only loosely scientific hand-drawn charts. Precisely none of my entries looked like Cynthia Lam’s, who may have just solved a whole handful of problems with her portable photocatalytic electricity generator and water purification unit.

    Cynthia's photocatalytic generator and purifier

    Her what?

    Apparently, the high school student from Melbourne, Australia, is pretty close to perfecting a portable technology that would produce energy while cleaning water. Not only that, but the by-product is non-polluting and the cost is low. And the implications for developing countries, as well as the rest of the world, are not lost on the ambitious teenager:

    “[N]ot only is there a lack of resources in third-world countries, but also the whole world is facing energy crisis and water pollution. My objective is to find an eco-friendly and economical approach to solve both issues.”

    And that she did. According to her, all you need is titania and light. Basically (if this can even be called basic), water is purified and sterilized through light (through a process called photocatalysis), which then produces hydrogen through water-splitting, which in turn generates electricity. Like I said – basic. Now, I’m not sure which is more impressive: the innovative and life-changing properties of this device, or the fact that it was developed by a high school student! Let’s be honest, when I was in high school, the only reactions I was concerned about was how my friends would like my new clothes.

    While emerging technologies like this invention could radically change the quality of life in poverty-stricken areas without access to clean water and power, Cynthia’s point is crucial: there is potential in her little gadget for even more universal benefit.

    As you know, we’re big fans of alternative technologies around here. Anything that decreases our dependence, even a little bit, on the famously vulnerable national grid is a plus in our book. Remember, it doesn’t take a major national disaster to interrupt utilities service. I’m thinking of two instances in the last year where my family lost access to power and water for multiple days, as a result of a very local storm and some septic hiccups. With a photocatalytic electricity generator and water purification unit (say that ten times fast!), I could have spared myself a freezer full of melted ice cream and funky smelling tap water.

    Cynthia’s device isn’t ready yet. And although we have no doubt that we’ll be seeing her name and her machine again soon, there are loads of other products on the market that take advantage of unconventional means to produce power, purify water, and generally make life bearable in the event of an emergency. Here are just a handful of those unconventional means and ways you can harness them in your own preparations.

     

    Solar – We’ve written about this (with embarrassing enthusiasm) before. We love the idea of using the sun’s limitless and available power to do everything from cook, to see in the dark, to heat our shower water. And if you think that solar equipment is too bulky or expensive to be useful for personal prep, you obviously haven’t checked out our range of solar products.

     

    UV – While it still requires a power source, the idea of purifying water with ultraviolet light kind of blows our mind. No changeable filter, no iodine or bleach, no jerry-rigged collection contraption in your backyard. We’re big fans of these small and light SteriPEN purifiers.

     

    Hand crank – While kids like Cynthia are changing the world with their amazing technology, the oldest and most reliable power source in the world is still human muscles. And by getting back to basics, you can ensure that you’re always able to do what you need to do, regardless of the wattage coming through your outlets. Check out everything you can do with this selection of (wo)man-powered tech.

     

    What alternative power possibilities have you particularly pumped? Tell us about them!

    Posted In: First Aid and Sanitation, Insight Tagged With: innovation, alternate energy, water purification

  • Bleach, Boil, & Bottle: Prepping for Water Trouble

    Thirsty? You’re probably pretty used to just turning on the tap. But three incidents from last month remind us that taking our water for granted can land us in serious hot…well, water. In Winnipeg, tests came up positive for E. Coli in parts of the city’s water supply. That same week, a diesel spill in Lewisburg, West Virginia, shut down the city’s water system in an effort to prevent widespread supply contamination. And in Bladensburg, Maryland, an underground water pipe split, causing a sinkhole large enough to flood homes and swallow cars.

    Solutions to these problems ranged from a mayor appearing on YouTube and advising his citizens to boil their water, to a local restaurateur deciding, “We are going to limit our menu frankly to things that don’t require very much water.”

    Water purification and filtration should definitely be a priority, when it comes to emergency preparedness (check out our water filters and purification systems here!). And it wouldn’t hurt to have a repertoire of meals that don’t require boiling water (MREs, anyone?). But one standard prepper practice would make life considerably easier in a similar disaster.

    water-storage
    That’s right. I’m talking water storage.

    If that tap that you turn on a hundred times a day still works, then storing water can be easy and free. Just be sure that you follow credible recommendations to make sure the water you store is safe to use. Both the CDC and Ready.gov provide handy tip sheets on water storage. Here are a few of considerations highlighted there:

    How much water should I store?

    • The recommended amount is a gallon of water per person per day. Keep in mind that some factors may require storing more (hot weather, children or nursing mothers, etc.), and don’t forget to figure pets into your calculations!
    • To go along with your 72-hour emergency supply kit, plan on storing at least three days worth of water for each person in your home.

    water-reserve

    How should I store it?

    • Commercially purchased and sealed water supplies, like our cans and pouches, are the best way to store water, hands down.
    • To supplement store bought water, you can also store your own tap water in clean containers. Don’t use empty milk jugs, fruit juice containers, or anything that ever contained chemicals. Do use two liter soda bottles or dedicated water jugs and barrels.
    • Wash used containers with soap, sanitize with diluted bleach, and let them dry completely before filling them.

    What should I do with my stored water?

    • Keep purification tablets, like our Katadyn Micropur purification tablets, on hand, especially if the bottles haven’t been bleached.
    • Label the bottles clearly with the date and “drinking water.”
    • Store somewhere away from light and high temperatures.
    • Rotate stored tap water every six months.

    Of course, we hope that the tap keeps working the way it’s supposed to. But it’s a smart idea to prepare for every contingency. Let us know how you’re doing on your water storage!

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    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: reserve, water purification, water

  • DIY Solar Still

    |4 COMMENT(S)

    If you were lost in the wild without any clean water to drink, making your own solar still could be a great way to get clean water until you can get back to civilization.

    But what is a solar still?

    A Solar still is a method of distilling (cleaning) water, using the heat of the sun to evaporate water from soil. Functionally, you’re turning the water from the soil into vapor, and then you collect the condensation to drink. Solar stills can range solar ovens to using a simple tarp over a hole in the ground.

    DIY Solar Still

    Distillation does a good job of removing many contaminants and pathogens.  It removes dirt, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. It also removes metals such as lead, copper, and sodium. Distilling removes many things you are likely to find in the water, but not all.

    If something vaporizes at a lower temperature than water e.g. alcohol or gasoline, it will come out in the distillate. This means that distillation is not going to be useful for chemical contamination, especially in a do it yourself situation.

    DIY Solar Still Instructions

    Here’s what I did and what I learned when I made my own solar still. I decided to try a couple techniques for making a solar still that could apply in two different situations. Both techniques use the same materials.

    Materials:

    The Sun

    Bowl (about 12 inches in diameter, preferably larger)

    Mug or Plastic container (think Tupperware)

    Plastic Wrap or Sheeting

    A Weight (a rock, brick, box—anything heavy you can find to hold down the plastic wrap down)

    Shovel (or a tool or rock that can dig a hole)

    Plant Material (shrubs, grass, leaves, etc.)

     

    Solar Still #1: Coffee-Mug Still

    For the first one, I assumed a situation such as an earthquake or flood that leaves you in your home (sheltering in place), but causes a disruption in utilities. While normally you would have safe drinking water stored, in the event that you don’t—or it somehow became contaminated, you may need to make a simple solar still.  

    What I did:

    1. I put salt water in a bowl that is about 12 inches in diameter. I then put a coffee mug in the center of the bowl.  I placed the bowl on a table, directly in the sunlight.
    2. I covered the bowl in plastic wrap and put a weight on the center above the mug to direct the condensation toward the mug.  All that was left was to put it in the sun and wait.
    3. The contaminated water went into the bowl, then the condensation on the plastic wrap drips into an empty mug in the center, filling it with clean water.

    This method worked, but there were a couple major shortcomings.  The first time I tried it, the sky clouded up and I was rewarded with only a few drops of water for a whole day of waiting. The next try was better, but a day of sunlight still only yielded about one quarter cup fresh water. This would require a lot of bowls if you were relying on it for drinking water. I think an increase in surface area would make a big difference in how much water is produced.

     

    Solar Still #2: Pit-Style Solar Still

    The second method I used was more of a survival technique. You might use this type of solar still if you have to evacuate your home in an emergency and live off the land.

    What I did:

    1. I dug a shallow hole in my garden about 3 feet in diameter.
    2. I then filled the hole with plant material and placed a water collection cup in the center.
    3. Similar to the set-up described above, I once again covered the collection cup in a plastic sheet.
    4. I then placed a rock in the center to cause the condensate to run to the middle and drip into my collector cup.

     

    DIY Solar Still

    I did this on a hot sunny day, for the entire day, and collected around one third of a cup of water.

    DIY Solar Still

    What I learned

    The second method is energy intensive, both in terms of physical labor and in terms of the energy required to vaporize the water.  If you’re in a survival situation, you may want to weigh the outcome: the work required may not be worth the water produced. If you’re on the brink of dehydration, any amount of water could help you, so making a pit-style solar still could be well-worth it to you then.

    The Solar Still is a little tricky to get right, as well.  The clouds completely ruined my first attempt. On my second attempt I managed to get water, but it was disappointingly full of dirt from the plants I was putting in the pit.

    Given the right situation, however, I can imagine this process being fairly useful.  In a beach, swamp, or marshy area, the pit-style still would continually recharge with water from the soil. It would work passively and could be fairly productive.

    Since there’s so little water produced from the solar still, it’s important to use more than one method of water collection to make sure you have enough water to keep yourself hydrated. Check out the post “Finding Water in the Wild” for more water collection techniques to try out.

    --Joe and Angela

    Posted In: Insight, Skills, Uncategorized Tagged With: water purification, DIY

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