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Water treatment, english Water treatment, spanish
Fact Sheet: Post-Disaster, taken from the Red Cross website.

Water Treatment:

Many people have asked the Red Cross for information and suggestions on
treating water after disaster strikes. The following information is provided to
address those questions.
In addition to having a bad odor, and taste, water from questionable sources may be contaminated by a
variety of microorganisms, including bacteria and parasites that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera,
typhoid, and hepatitis
. All water of uncertain purity should be treated before use. To treat water, follow
these steps:
1. Filter the water using a piece of cloth or coffee filter to remove solid particles.
2. Bring it to a rolling boil for about one full minute. (Boil 3 minutes at elevations above 5280 ft)
3. Let it cool at least 30 minutes. Water must be cool or the chlorine treatment described below will
be useless.
4. Add 16 drop of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water, or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water. Stir
to mix. Sodium hypochlorite of the concentration of 5.25% to 6% should be the only active
ingredient in the bleach. There should not be any added soap or fragrances. A major bleach
manufacturer has also added Sodium Hydroxide as an active ingredient, which they state does not
pose a health risk for water treatment.
5. Let stand 30 minutes.
6. If it smells of chlorine. You can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add 16 more drop of
chlorine bleach per gallon of water (or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water), let stand 30 minutes, and
smell it again. If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, discard it and
find another source of water.
Past information that has changed and is no longer recommended
1. The only agent to use to treat water should be liquid household bleach. Other chemicals, such as
iodine or products sold in camping or surplus stores for water treatment that do not contain 5.25%
hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
2. The only accepted measurement of chlorine (or water treatment agents) is the drop. A drop is
specifically measurable. Other measures such as "capful" or "scant teaspoon" are not uniformly
measurable, and are not to be used.
3. There is no difference between treatment of potentially contaminated water that is cloudy or clear.
If local public health department information differs from this advice, the local information should
prevail. For more information, contact your local Red Cross chapter and ask for a copy of the brochure
entitled, "Food and Water in an Emergency" (A5055).
Water stored in metal containers should not be treated, prior to storage, with chlorine. Chlorine is corrosive to most metals. Only very pure water should be stored in metal containers. Write down on the container when you prepared the water.

Locating Safe Drinking Water

After a disaster, it is possible that water supplies will be temporarily cut off or become contaminated. Because you must have water to survive, it is important to know how to locate and purify drinking water to make it safe.

Water Sources

In the home. Melt ice cubes, and use water from the hot-water tank, the toilet tank (not the bowl) and water pipes.

Hot water tank. Turn off the power that heats it, and let the tank cool. Then place a container underneath and open the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. Don't turn the tank on again until water services are restored.

Toilet tank. The water in the tank (not the bowl) is safe to drink unless chemical treatments have been added.

Water pipes. Release air pressure into the plumbing system by turning on the highest faucet in the house. Then drain the water from the lowest faucet.

Outside the home. Rain water, spring water, and water from streams, river, lakes, and coiled garden hoses can be used after it is purified.

Water Beds

Avoid water from water beds as a source for drinking water. Pesticidal chemicals are in the plastic casing of the bed and chemicals have probably been added to the water to prevent the growth of algae, fungi, and bacteria. The water is safe only for hand-washing and laundering.

Purifying Water

Boiling and chemical sterilization are two ways to purify water.

Any water that is obtained from sources outside the home or water that does not appear clear should be sterilized. Non-sterilized water may be contaminated with the parasite Giardia.

Straining water. Strain water containing sediment or floating material through a cloth or paper filter before beginning the purification process.

  • Heat sterilization. Boiling water is the preferred method of purification because disease-causing- microorganisms cannot survive the intense heat. Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Pour the water back and forth from one clean container to another to improve the taste. Adding a pinch of salt could also help.

  • Chemical sterilization. In some situations, boiling may not be an option. The alternative is to treat the water chemically. Plain household chlorine bleach may be used. Be sure the label states that hypochlorite is the only active ingredient. Bleach containing soap or fragrances is not acceptable. With an eye dropper, add 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water (16 if the water is cloudy), stir and let stand. After 30 minutes the water should taste and smell of chlorine. At this time it can be used. If the taste and smell (and appearance in the case of cloudy water) has not changed, add another dose and let stand. If after one half hour the water does not have a chlorine smell, do not use it.


Store the water in a clean and sanitary glass or plastic container. Plastic containers are good because they are lightweight and unbreakable. Metal containers should be considered as a last resort because they may corrode and give water an unpleasant taste.

Water that local officials report has been contaminated with toxic chemicals or radioactive materials cannot be purified using home decontamination methods.

Facts About Water

Water is the single most abundant substance in the human body, making up to 60 percent of an adult's weight and up to 80 percent of an infant's weight. A person can live several days without food, but just a few days without water. It is second only to air in importance to life.

Because water is so important to human survival, never ration it. Drink at least 2 quarts per day, as long as supplies last, and look for alternative sources.

What to do about water from
household wells after a flood
Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency  
Dehydration danger for older adults
Dehydration (extreme thirst) can be life threatening. Make sure older adults have enough good drinking water and that they drink it. Older adults can be at risk for dehydration because of
a decreased thirst sensation and do not feel the urge to drink as often as younger people.
medications that increase the risk of dehydration.
physical conditions that make it difficult to drink.

Also, exposure to microorganisms in unsafe water can make people sick, and may cause diarrhea which increases the risk of dehydration.

Signs of dehydration:
Dry or sticky mouth
Low or no urine output; concentrated urine appears dark yellow
Lack of tear drops
Sunken eyes
Lethargic or comatose (with severe dehydration).
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Water treatment