There are several ways to filter water using natural materials when there is no commercial water filter available. In effect, you are copying Mother Nature by allowing water to run through layers of natural materials to trap suspended particles and organic materials.
The very simplest filtration system involves running water through a cloth or some other tightly woven material.
In some cases, you can find the rudiments of supplies needed to build a filtration system in which water is poured on top and allowed to run out the bottom after passing through layers of gravel, sand and charcoal .
- 1. Punch a small holes in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket
- 2. Place a layer of course gravel in the bucket
- 3. Layer pea gravel on top of the course gravel
- 4. Layer sand on top of the pea gravel
- 5. Layer 4 pounds of activated charcoal on top of the sand
- 6. Place another layer of sand on top of the charcoal
- 7. The top layer is pea gravel placed over the sand
- 8. Place bucket over clean container or set one bucket inside of another bucket
- 9. Pour water into the bucket and let it slowly filter through the layers into a second container.
This filtration system will purify approximately 480 gallons of water, which will support a five person household for about six months. After purifying 480-500 gallons of water, the charcoal should be replaced.
One of the important characteristics of filtration systems is that they can be adapted to anything that can hold layers of gravel, sand and charcoal. For example, a 2 liter soda bottle, a PVC pipe length, or a large can will also work for work filtering.
In fact, if you don’t have a bucket, a rough filtration system can be made by wrapping birch or other bark into a cone shape and tying it so it won’t open up. Then layer the inside of the cone with:
- 1. 2 inches of pebbles
- 2. Gravel
- 3. Charcoal
- 4. Sand
Whether using a 5-gallon bucket or a cone, you will need to let the filtered water run through the layers of material into a second container. Be sure to visually inspect the water before drinking it. If it does not look clean, you will have to run the water through again.
Charcoal can remove many toxic compounds. Activated charcoal has been treated with oxygen to create many tiny pores in the carbon material. Activated charcoal can be obtained by:
- Purchasing online
- Purchasing at a pet supplies store
- Purchasing all natural charcoal (chemical free) at a specialty store
- Making your own
Making charcoal is not difficult, but you will need to do it before a disaster strikes. There are a couple of methods called direct and indirect, and the reference in footnote provides a lot of information.
Charcoal that is not activated is called “low grade” charcoal. If you make or buy it, the charcoal may need to be broken into smaller pieces. If you need to do so, make sure the charcoal dust is washed off before it is used in the filtration system.
It takes approximately 20 grams of charcoal to purify a gallon of water.