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Indiana State Department of Health

Environmental Public Health Home > Disaster Information > Directions For Treating Drinking Water In Small Quantities Directions For Treating Drinking Water In Small Quantities

In emergencies, or as a temporary measure, water from contaminated or suspect sources can be disinfected by either chlorination or boiling.

  • Secure safe drinking water from an approved or emergency source if possible. If not possible, treat all water before drinking.
  • If tap water is not clear, it should not be used. If a less turbid water source cannot be located, allow the water to stand in a container until the sediment settles and pour off (decant) the clear water into a clean vessel.
  • Chlorination - Add six (6) drops of a liquid chlorine laundry bleach to one gallon of water and mix. Chlorine bleaches are inexpensive and can be secured from most grocery, discount, or drug stores.
    1. Wait thirty (30) minutes after adding the chlorine before using the water for drinking or cooking purposes.
    2. If this treatment does not give the water a taste of chlorine, the above quantities should be doubled. Repeat the addition of chlorine until a slight taste of chlorine is present and use this amount for future treatments.
    3. The taste of chlorine is not particularly unpleasant and it will be evidence that the water is safe to drink.
  • Boiling -The water may also be purified by boiling.
    1. Bring the water to a full boil for at least five (5) minutes.
    2. Cool and aerate the boiled water by pouring it through the air from one clean container to another, or mixing rapidly with a clean utensil. Aeration will reduce the flat taste cause by boiling.

One of the above treatments should be continued until water of unquestioned quality can be secured. Remember that the safety of water cannot be judged by color, odor, or taste. The organisms that cause water-borne disease cannot be seen.

Contact your local health department or Environmental Public Health for assistance or advice.