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Rural Water Purification

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If you don’t have a water purification station to clean your river water what can be done to clean the water? There are 5 ways to make your water safe to drink:


Boiling water kills any germs that might be in the water.

  • Step 1: Boil water in a pot.
  • Step 2: Allow to cool.
  • Step 3: Keep this boiled water covered with a lid or clean cloth to protect it from being contaminated by flies and dirt.

Adding Bleach

Bleach is strong smelling and contains chlorine which kills harmful germs in the water.

  • Step 1: Buy a bottle of bleach from your local shop.
  • Step 2: Add one teaspoon of bleach to 20 litres of water.
  • Step 3: Allow to stand overnight for a minimum of 2 hours.
  • Step 4: Keep the water covered with a cloth or lid to keep out flies and dirt.

Your water is now safe to drink.

Adding Iodine

Iodine will also kill germs in the water. Please do not use iodine if you are allergic to it.

  • Add 5 drops (1 drop = 0.05ml) iodine to one litre of water.
  • Cover the water with a cloth or lid and let it stand for 15 hours.
  • If the water is cloudy, filter it through a clean cloth and double the dose to 10 drops of iodine per litre of water.

Adding Water Purification Tablets

There are a number of water purification tablets available. These can be purchased from a chemist or camping shop. Please follow the instructions on the pack carefully. When the dirt settles to the bottom of the container then filter the clean water through a clean cloth. The dirt will be left on the cloth. Be sure to keep the clean water covered with a cloth or lid.

Solar Disinfection

Fill a clear plastic bottle with water and leave in the hot sun for two hours. If half the bottle is painted black and it is placed on a corrugated iron sheet, the heating process is speeded up. The combination of warm water and ultraviolet radiation from the sun kills most micro-organisms. This is particularly effective for killing the cholera bacterium.
(Source: “Exploring Water”, Umgeni Water, 1994; “Elan”, Medihelp, 2001; New Scientist Magazine, 2000)

See also

Water Pollution and Your Health
Substances Causing Pollution in Rivers
Water Borne Diseases