Water, apart from shelter, can become the most immediate need in a survival situation. Drinkable water is a vital resource. Depending on the level of activity, and ambient temperature, a person can live about 3 days without water. Prolonged activity without proper hydration coupled with malnutrition will quickly lower chances for survival. Finding a way to create and maintain a source of clean drinking water is essential for both short and long term emergency preparedness. Whether you find yourself lost in the wilderness or in an urban emergency scenario such as Katrina and Toledo's water crisis, water is life. Just one day without this precious fluid and we begin to see the symptoms of dehydration.
The EPA states that there are four main types of contaminants to be found in water. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), a federal law that protects public drinking water supplies, defines "contaminant" as anything other than water molecules. We can reasonably expect most drinking water to contain some level of contaminant, especially since minerals such as calcium and magnesium fall into that category. The question is, which of these contaminants are harmful and how much of it is entering my system?

Bioremediation is a technique that uses microorganisms in order to remove or extract certain waste products from a contaminated area. Since 1991 bioremediation has been a suggested tactic to remove impurities from water such as alkanes, perchlorates, and metals.[26] The treatment of ground and surface water, through bioremediation, with respect to perchlorate and chloride compounds, has seen success as perchlorate compounds are highly soluble making it difficult to remove.[27] Such success by use of Dechloromonas agitata strain CKB include field studies conducted in Maryland and the Southwest region of the United States.[27][28][29] Although a bioremediation technique may be successful, implementation is not feasible as there is still much to be studied regarding rates and after effects of microbial activity as well as producing a large scale implementation method.

While reverse osmosis systems are widely used for industrial and commercial purposes, smaller home units can be purchased and installed under the kitchen sink and dispensed through the faucet. Home RO units typically run on a 3-stage system which includes a carbon filter, RO membrane, and re-mineralizing filter for taste. Some systems can include 5, 7, or even 10 stages. While the additional stages offer extra benefits such as pH level balance and UV filtration, a simple 3-stage system has everything required to produce pure, drinkable water. RO systems require frequent maintenance and replacement of filters in order to keep it functioning properly. Read our article on reverse osmosis systems for home use for a detailed guide on how they work and which brands to use.

In a reverse osmosis filter system, your regular water pressure pushes the water through a membrane and additional filters to remove impurities, which are then flushed down the drain. It’s a rigorous filtering process, a GE Reverse Osmosis System filters water three times, for example. Membranes and filters need to be replaced every six months to two years depending on the type of filter and how much water you use.
On May 20, 2013, Kyle McGonigle was on a dock on Kentucky's Rough River Lake. A dog swimming nearby yelped, and McGonigle, 36, saw that it was struggling to stay above water. He dove in to save the dog, but both he and the animal drowned, victims of electric-shock drowning (ESD). Cords plugged into an outlet on the dock had slipped into the water and electrified it.

According to a 2007 World Health Organization (WHO) report, 1.1 billion people lack access to an improved drinking water supply; 88% of the 4 billion annual cases of diarrheal disease are attributed to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene, while 1.8 million people die from diarrheal disease each year. The WHO estimates that 94% of these diarrheal disease cases are preventable through modifications to the environment, including access to safe water.[1] Simple techniques for treating water at home, such as chlorination, filters, and solar disinfection, and for storing it in safe containers could save a huge number of lives each year.[2] Reducing deaths from waterborne diseases is a major public health goal in developing countries.

As with any other filter type water purification method, careful attention has to be taken to pathogen/virus and chemicals size. During hurricane Katrina a lot of the water was contaminated with petroleum based chemicals from flooded cars. What is removed from the water is dependent on the filter pore size. However, it is difficult to beat the lightweight option that water purification straws and bottles provide for most situations.