homestead purifying water

The Homesteader’s Guide to Purifying Water

Access to clean water is literally a matter of life and death. It’s even more challenging for offgrid homesteaders who must find and purify their water.

Ah, water! Everybody knows that you can’t live without it.

What often gets overlooked by people who aren’t accustomed to living off the land, however, is the reality that if your water isn’t properly filtered and purified, you can’t live with it either.

At its core, homesteading is about making the most with the least. To make it in this lifestyle you’ll need ways to live comfortably while being as self-sufficient as possible.

You’ll have to find creative solutions to problems that most people wouldn’t think twice about while living on the grid.

According to the Scientific American, when a person doesn’t eat and doesn’t drink anything, death tends to occur very quickly…

What happens when the people in question have access to water but not to food? Well, they’re able to survive a lot longer.

In this article we’re going to go over the most common sources of water, a few methods of purifying water, and we’ll also give you some advice on how to choose the right water purification methods for yourself.

So if you’re trying your hand at homesteading and you’re wondering what your options are for clean drinking water, then you’ll definitely want to keep reading.

What Will Your Water Sources Be?

The secret to effective water purification starts with careful consideration of your water sources. Of course, not everybody will have access to every type of water source on their homestead, but knowledge is power.

Here’s a quick overview of the most common water sources in nature.

Well Water

More specifically referred to as “groundwater”, well water is one of the more reliable methods of accessing water. There is the old-fashioned sort of hand-dug wells of “Jack and Jill” fame with buckets or hand pumps, and there is also the more modern machine drilled wells that often come with piping and powered pumps.

The advantages of this water source include convenience and the ability to draw water in more remote locations.

On the other hand, the time and expense of getting it set up, the need to hire seasoned professionals to set it up, and the tough decisions you have to make with the set-up for powering the pump are all reasons why homesteaders sometimes steer away from this option. The additional need to consider safety concerns for pets, children, and potential contamination, are probably further weaknesses with groundwater.


Rainwater has a number of advantages as a water source. For one thing it doesn’t cost much to capture and use, it isn’t restricted to location (unless you live in a desert), and it’s there for the taking as long as you have an effective means of storage and filtration.

Many folks who homestead still opt to utilize rainfall for the purposes of gardening and feeding livestock as a type of supplement to their other sources of water.

The weaknesses of this strategy start with the possibility of pollution, issues with climate and location in places with less annual rainfall, and the potential for bylaw government restrictions.

Surface Water

These are ponds, streams, rivers, and springs that you may have access to on your homestead. For obvious reasons, this is one of the more convenient water sources a homesteader can have. As always, you’ll want to check up on your local laws to make sure that there are no restrictions in place concerning your use of this water.

Methods Of Purifying Water

Now that you’ve identified your likely water sources, here’s a quick overview of the more common water purification methods.

Boil It

Boiling water is a classic, time-proven method of purifying water that goes back a long time. The reason for this is that the heat from boiling water will kill the viruses, protozoa, and bacteria.

  • Make sure that the water isn’t cloudy. If it is, let it sit for a while before filtering it.
  • Bring it to full boil for 1 minute. If you’re at an altitude above 5,000 feet, then it will need to boil for 3 minutes*.
  • Cool the water before pouring it into clean containers.
  • Add about a pinch of salt for every quart or liter of water for taste.

*Maybe. For a full guide to boiling water, and how long you REALLY need to boil it, check out How Long Should You Boil Water.

Bleach It

Although drinking bleach isn’t generally recommended, the liquid chlorine in common household bleach is a surprisingly effective means of water purification. Although not just any bleach will do. The bleach you use can’t have additives and it has to have a liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) percentage between 5.24% and 6%.

  • If your water is cloudy, let it sit and then filter it.
  • After finding a clean dropper and your bleach, add roughly 2 drops of bleach for every quart or liter. For water that’s cloudy or really cold, you will need to double this amount.
  • Stir the water and then let it sit for 30 minutes. If you don’t notice a slightly chlorine smell, then repeat the process and let it sit for 15 minutes before using
  • If you think there’s too much chlorine, transfer your water into another clean container and then let it sit for several hours before using

Tincture of Iodine

For those with a preference for more chemically-based solutions, tincture of iodine is another effective solution to killing potential contaminants when you purify your water.

However, the negative with this is that iodine is limited in its ability to kill off pesticides and certain types of pollution.In addition, tincture of iodine does change the taste of your water, so be prepared for a different flavor than you might be used to.

  • If your water is cloudy, then let it settle before filtering it
  • Locate a clean dropper and your tincture of iodine. Use 2 drops of the tincture of iodine per quart or liter but use 10 drops if your water is cloudy
  • Let the water sit for a minimum of 30 minutes before use

Pro Tip: Ingesting too much iodine can be dangerous so always be sure to follow the instructions.

Purification Tablets

What if instead of painstakingly measuring your levels of iodine by the drop, you could purify your water by opening a single package? Well, if you like having a simple approach, purification tablets are an easy way to purify your water without any hassles.

  • Filter the water after settling if the water’s cloudy
  • Have the water in a clean container that has a clean cover
  • Carefully read the directions on the purification tablets. Usually only 1 or 2 tablets are needed.
  • Let the water sit for a minimum of 30 minutes (or according to package instructions)

Water Filter Pitchers

Water filter pitchers aren’t going to remove bacteria, virus, or protozoa, nor will they make unsafe water safe, or filter out most chemicals. What they can do is make safe water taste better, remove many aftertastes, and feel better in the mouth. Essentially they “polish” already potable water.

For example, if you have clean water from a known source, let’s say rainwater, a good water pitcher can remove any plastic taste from the container.

To use a water pitcher, simply fill them from the top and once they drain through you can drink.

Final Thoughts

With so many purification options at your disposal, it can be hard to pick one. As much as factors such as expense and accessibility must be considered, your best options ultimately depend on your water source.

Is your pond near a field where pesticides are used?

Are you relying on rainwater in a relatively clear countryside?

Do you have a shallow, hand-dug well that’s located fairly close to grazing grounds?

Is the plan to get your household water needs met through both rainwater and a nearby stream?

Basically, the unique features of your water source may require different approaches when you’re purifying your water.

After that, your next course of action is to take a look at your purification methods. Between tincture of iodine, purification tablets,bleach, and boiling, you’re free to mix and match as needed.

Water purification isn’t rocket science, but a little bit of know-how can make a huge difference. As you embark on your homesteading journey, don’t forget about the quality of your water.

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Sergeant Survival

I spread the news of disaster preparedness and homesteading skills to the masses. My mission is to teach the keyboard commandos out there some real life skills.

1 Comment

  1. Ah, it’s good to know that water filter pitchers won’t actually make water safe. We’d like to dig a well on our property. We’d definitely need to purify it before we could drink it.

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