aide memoire: drinking water management

Water. The stuff of life. If oil is gold. Then water is diamond. Three days without it can result in organ damage and ultimately failure. Keeping the stuff fresh and uncontaminated is nearly as important as getting hold of the stuff. In this ‘aide memoire series’ we, at The WildernessGuide, seek to give snippets of advice and wisdom. In this post it is about water management.


  • Don’t assume ANY water source is pure – even if it is clear. Chemical, Bacterial, Viral contamination cannot be seen.
  • All turbid water will need filtering before purification – not only for visual appeal and taste but for subsequent safe purification. Turbid water shields bacteria and viruses from effective treatment and can clog filters making them less effective.
  • Keep your cup, water bottle and threads on the bottle clean with purified water (flush/flood and over-fill them). This is important. Flushing threads and caps with purifed water should become habitual. One of the ways I do this on my ‘purified’ bottle is to (once the water inside is pure) invert it and unscrew the lid partially so the thread and lid floods and washes clean.)
  • Use separate bottles for collecting and storing filtered water and one for purified water. Do not confuse. Don’t share your water bottle. Keep their lids on. If you are going to flavour the water then flavour it in the cup and not the canteen.
  • Boiling is the best method, then followed by chlorine dioxide (despite residual chlorites)
  • Ensure that water, food and sanitation facilities are located separately with clean procedures between them. For instance never wash hands at the spout of a drinking water container. Take a look at the camp hygiene article for further information.
  • Ensure you have at least one other back-up method of purification. Ideally you should have three if you are working in a high risk/critical environment.
  • If you are storing water for any amount of time (drop sites, RV points, base camps etc) then consider using preservatives in your water such as silver ions (Micropur Forte for instance has silver in it and keeps water potable for up to 6 months.). Always boil ‘old’ water before use.
  • Old ’empty’ water containers often have little amounts of water in them. These can be a breeding ground for legionella. Enure that either your containers are dry before storage or you properly flush them before use.

This article will be amended and added to over time. It does not aim to be complete but as a useful ‘aide memoire

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