Water Disinfection

Currently there is no safe water to drink in North America. NONE. Please be advised boil your water or use the advised filtration systems.

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In North America there are bacteria, viruses, parasites and protozoa that exist. Viruses in North America were not that common twenty years ago. They were in urban area waters but not in outdoor streams and lakes. That has changed. Disinfection is the outcome of destroying those organisms not purifying. The goal of disinfection is getting the water source to a level where it does not cause illness. There are a few ways to disinfect water sources, filtration, heat, and chemical induced. Survive is here to tell you that filtration systems on the market WILL NOT remove viruses despite the company touting it will. Caution on using your filtration systems. They will remove major bacteria and parasites.

The most common organism in North America that caused diarrhea is Giardia Lambia often called Beaver Fever. It is called Beaver Fever NOT because of contamination from just beavers but because of mammals defecating in streams and lakes. It has been isolated in stool from dogs, cats, coyotes, voles, muskrats, moose, elk, deer and even birds. The incubation for Giardia is about three weeks. Drink the water. You will be found in less than three weeks more often then not and at least you will be hydrated and you can be treated when symptomatic. IT IS ESTIMATED THAT 80% OF THE WATER IN North America IS INFECTED WITH GIARDIA. THIS DOES NOT MATTER IF ITS A RUNNING STREAM IN THE TETONS OR A PLACID LAKE IN WISCONSIN.

Organisms (Pathogens) in North America Lakes and Streams

Common bacteria in water sources and their incubation time which is the time of ingestion to the time of first symptoms: Below are a few of the most common.


  1. The CDC and other prominent sources consider boiling time to be one minute and three minutes in higher altitude for killing bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites and protozoa. In studies done they clearly show that death of these organisms die before a rolling boil. The rolling boil is a nice gauge when in the outdoors and most if not all will not have a thermometer on them.
  2. The death of an organism for water disinfection is a combination of time and temperature. So at a lower temperature but longer time will kill the pathogens.
  3. It should be known the one pathogen that seems to be the stubborn pathogen is Hepatitis A. It is advised for this virus to boil the water for one full minute or three minutes at hight altitudes.
  4. Survive suggests error on the side of caution. Allow it to boil for one minute or three minutes in high altitude and better yet keep lid covered if you have one for ten minutes after the boil.


  1. Filtration is excellent however it is not 100% . It will not filter out viruses. Even the well known Sawyer filtration system, the Life Straw and others will NOT keep most viruses out. This also goes to show how much of a low incidence viruses are in the outdoors. I have used these filtration systems for years and have never had an illness. Again Giradia is the most prevalent, and filtration works great for removing it..
  2. Also filters will need to be changed over time. When the filter gets clogged or is overused one must push hard to squeeze water through it. When you force the water through it you can force pathogens through it. Again I have used them effectively however should I get a virus it would be my own fault as boiling is much more effective.

Halogens ( Chemical induced disinfection ) This would include Chlorine and iodine. They are both excellent against bacteria, viruses, cysts and amebas ( excluding Cryptosporidium.

Iodine is effective however please note can exacerbate any Thyroid condition and should never be used in pregnancy.

Chlorine is my preferred Halogen. It is cheap readily available and I can easily put some in a small squeeze bottle. Usually an empty bottle of normal saline eye drops and use that in the filed.

Bleach                                   6%                                       8.25%

Volume of H2O

One quart                            2 drops                                 2 drops

One gallon                           8 drops                                 6 drops

2 Gallons                             16 drops                              12 drops

For better test add a pinch of salt and/or flavoring.

Side note and conclusion

When Survive Outdoors was launched in the late nineties viruses in the outdoors was not an issue. Since then it has become more and more of a concerning problem. In one encompassing study by The University of California they found in urban rivers that feed into the ocean an alarming rate of the following. Adenovirus was detected in 52% of samples, Hepatitis A about 75%.

In Canada and large bodies of fresh water lakes Adenovirus, enterovirus and H1N1 virus were found on surface water. A study done along the Mississippi River  found the Avian flu viruses lasted for  30 days at zero degrees.

In many studies they have found that in colder water temperatures a virus can live much longer, even up to 270 days. The bottom line, viruses in the last twenty years are more and more prevalent in our backwoods streams and lakes. CAUTION and COMMON SENSE.