Everyone needs water to survive, and if we can’t get it easily out of a tap or have another clean water source, the issue of water becomes critical. There are many methods of collecting and finding water, but you must make it safe for drinking. Once you boil water, it is always best to run it through a water filter first. Many people become sick due to water-borne illnesses when they drink polluted water (and yes, even seemingly clean water sources, such as a pristine-looking river or lake, can have pathogens that make humans sick).
Water filters tend to be expensive, and have a limited lifetime, which could become critical as water supplies dwindle, meaning the water you are using is less pure. Here are a couple tips to maximize the life of your emergency water filters, so you can use them safely for a longer period of time before using the next one.
Remove sediment before filtering
Any sediment or larger particles in the water you are filtering will shorten the life of your water filter as they will begin to clog the filter. Always strain water through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove the large particles first.
Clean the filter
Some filters, such as Berkey filters, can be gently cleaned to remove particles once the water flow begins to slow down. Read your instructions to know if your filters can be cleaned and reused.
Never use sea water
While there are some purifying systems designed specifically for salt water purification, trying to purify sea water will either ruin your filter or seriously diminish its effectiveness. Make sure you are using non-salt water at all times.
Some filtration systems have O-rings that need to be lubricated with a food-grade lubricant from time to time, unfortunately, many people don’t realize this even needs to be done! Again, check your filtration device to see if yours needs O-ring maintenance. You don’t want to have to replace an entire filter, simply because the O-ring wasn’t maintained properly. If you are worried you will forget when an emergency strikes, tape a note to your filtration device to check and/or lubricate the O-rings according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Recommendations… or not
Unfortunately, there are many websites that will try and sell you specific filters and systems based upon which company will pay them the most to sell it. Do your own due diligence and don’t take the advice of a single salesperson or website prior to making your decision. Ask people who have actually purchased a system for emergencies, ask if they have tested it, and any pros or cons. You don’t want to have a TEOTEAWKI situation and then discover you got scammed by someone who wanted to make an easy buck off you.
The right size filter for the job
Don’t buy a smaller filter and system than what you really need. You will end up changing filters more frequently and running through your supply much faster when you discover your system you bought for a six person household was really only meant for a two person household. Six filters meant for six person household will go much further than six filters meant for two.
Enough filters on hand
Especially if you use the same water filtration on a daily basis, make sure you always have enough filters to get you through a prolonged emergency situation without electricity. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of “oh, this filter is finished, I’ll grab a new one this week.” But what if the emergency struck today? You would suddenly find yourself without any filters, despite having a filtration system ready to work for you in just this kind of scenario. The safe rule of thumb is to have at least a year’s supply of filters on hand at any time.
While not specifically to prolong the life of your filter, but will prolong the life of your water filtration in an emergency, try and avoid systems that use only one kind/size of cartridge that are not interchangeable with another brand. Not only are they often overpriced, but it will be much more difficult to barter. If you have a proprietary system, make sure you have at least a year’s worth of filters on hand.