Long-term survivalists find themselves in many environmental settings, but the common denominator is often the desire to be close to fresh water. A person needs it to drink, cook, bathe, do laundry, perhaps wash prospecting finds, and even fish and swim in as recreation for family members.
Dangers in Raw, Natural Ground Water
In raw, natural ground water there are dangers. These include:
- chemicals, such as nitrogen and phosphorous from agricultural runoff,
- microorganisms feeding on pollution that can cause disease,
- heavy metals, such as mercury and arsenic, which have implications to human health, and
- toxins caused by algae.
The survivalist does not cause this situation. It is the reality of living on a planet with a lot of people, who are doing a lot of things to make a living.
Here is a little about me and the information provided in this article. I earned a PhD and am retired from my career. The content in this article is provided as general information only. The ideas expressed are solely my opinion. Such opinion is based upon information I consider to be reliable.
Popular Television Survivalists Not Shown Steps To Clean Water For Indefinite Stay
Popular television programs on survival have given many helpful hints as to how to treat water in an emergency. Bear Grylls Man versus Wild, Dave and Cody Dual Survivor, Ruth and Myke Man, Woman, Wild, and the pioneer of survival shows, Les Stroud Survivorman have informed and entertained. What one of these will do to stay alive one more day until rescued is not the same as what he or she would do for an indefinite stay at that location. Not one of these survivalists has really reported on the magnitude of the problem of finding potable water nor shown the steps needed to clean up natural water in non-emergency settings such as those typified by a person(s) who enters the wilderness with a plan and prior preparation.
The Presence of Toxins in Water
Water is the universal solvent, and as such, starts collecting contaminants as soon as it leaves the cloud. The major cause of mercury in drinking water is from volcanoes, and the major man-made source is Asian coal-burning power plants. The new U.S. regulations will not control those sources of contamination.
Some Toxins Cannot Be Avoided
Unfortunately, even toxins other than mercury cannot be avoided entirely in the drinking water, as some are not removed by screens, activated carbon or silver water filters, or chlorine treatment. Some toxins are even made more toxic by boiling. Furthermore, some toxins cause physical symptoms of poisoning almost immediately.
Effects of Toxins
The cumulative effect of some toxins may shorten life from the irreversible damage to the telomeres of the DNA. Water-borne toxins, radiation, mercury and methylmercury, and micro-biologicals are among the threats to the health of people in the field. As a whole, toxins are colorless, tasteless, and odorless. It has long been known that water-borne toxins threaten the health of humans and livestock. Some neurotoxins have been implicated as a significant environmental risk in the development of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Experts have recognized that the toxins are not removed by conventional water treatment procedures, such as boiling or chlorination. It is for that reason that in 1998 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) included freshwater cyanobacteria and their toxins on the first Candidate Contaminant List (CCL).
Technological Advances in Toxin Contamination Detection
The problem of securing uncontaminated drinking water has been recognized since civilization. The magnitude of the toxin contamination has only been appreciated during the last few decades because of the technological advances in detection, such as by high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). The development of analytical methods, such as HPLC, and more recently, the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and the protein phosphatase assay (for microcystins and nodularins) has made the quantification of total and individual toxins possible. About one new toxin is discovered every few months. It was always there but only recognized as better detection techniques were applied.
Cyanobacteria (a.k.a. blue-green algae Cyanophyceae) comprises unicellular to multicellular prokaryotes. The presence of toxins in these microorganisms assists them in disease prevention and predatory defense. This blue-green algae may have lived in that water since the water source originated, maybe even as long as a million years. The exact chemical conditions of the water– including its nutrients, pH, and UV exposure to direct sunlight and temperature– will determine which of the over 100,000 species is present and which of those is dominant at the time of year.
Cyanobacterial populations may be dominated by a single species or be composed of a variety of species, some of which may not be toxic. Measurements of samples taken at the same time from different parts of a lake may show wide divergence in cyanotoxin content and concentrations.
The Puzzle of Whether Water is Potable
The puzzle for the consumer is whether the available water is potable. The problem is there is no visual test for cleanliness. You assume there will be some microorganism life present in the water, but you cannot tell if it is toxic. Typically, the consumer will draw the water from where it is clearest in appearance. Then, they will filter the draw with a common camping, fine screen, silver or carbon filter, and finally, for the very cautious, they’ll boil it to be sure it is fit to drink. Unfortunately, those procedures still do not guarantee pure drinking water. Some toxins get by all of those screens and are actually made stronger by boiling. Research has recently proven this. The equipment to test for this has been developed only in the last several years, and it is expensive bulky laboratory equipment that is unrealistic to take into the field.
No Adequate Methods of Testing for Cyanotoxins But Steps to Mitigate Toxins
There are no adequate methods of testing for the cyanotoxins in the field setting. Nevertheless, there are methods to mitigate the dangers to human health while in the field. However, what I intend to do here is to describe the water conditions that most typically correlate with safety for drinking, and the steps you can take to mitigate the toxins that may be present.
Toxic Cyanobacteria (Beware the Bloom)
The toxicity of cyanobacteria was originally brought to the attention of scientists by farmers and veterinarians through reports of animal poisonings. In most reported cases, afflicted animals consumed water where there was an obvious presence of a cyanobacteria scum on the water surface.
The cyanotoxins are a diverse group of natural toxins. Toxicity can have hepatotoxic, neurotoxic, and dermatotoxic effects, or general inhibition of protein synthesis. Throughout the world, it appears that liver-toxic (hepatotoxic, microcystin-containing) freshwater blooms of cyanobacteria are more commonly found than neurotoxic blooms. Liver-toxic blooms have been reported from all continents and almost every part of the world where samples have been collected for analysis. Mass occurrences of toxic cyanobacteria are not always associated with human activities causing pollution with resultant eutrophication.
Location, Timing, and Duration of Blooms
Massive blooms of toxic cyanobacteria have been reported in Australian reservoirs with pristine or near-pristine catchments (watersheds), and toxic cyanobacteria have killed cattle drinking from oligotrophic high-alpine waters in Switzerland. The location can vary widely.
The timing and duration of the bloom season of cyanobacteria depends largely on the climatic conditions of the region. In temperate zones, mass occurrences of cyanobacteria are most prominent during the late summer and early autumn and may last months. Those are often the months when most consumers need water. In regions with more Mediterranean or subtropical climates, the bloom season may start earlier and persist longer. In dry years, in tropical or subtropical areas of China, Brazil, and Australia, cyanobacterial blooms may occur almost all year round. Blooms of cyanobacteria have even been found in winter under ice in Scandinavian and German lakes.
Tomorrow, before we delve into how to search for and more effectively treat ground water for improved safety, we will look further into the factors that increase cyanotoxin production. An understanding of the toxin is necessary in order to minimize risks when selecting water sources and working to increase your family’s chance for survival.
- Water Treatment Options: How to Avoid Poisoning From Toxins- Part 2, by AJS (Active on 11/30/18)
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 79 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances.
Round 79 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.