What is potable water?

Potable water means water doesn’t contain harmful chemicals or other contaminants and is considered safe to drink. The most common type of potable water is tap water which has been treated by the local municipality. However, this doesn’t mean tap water is safe enough to drink. If the water supply has been polluted or the water pipes are dirty, you need to treat water before drinking or cooking.

Non-portable water is water which is untreated water from rivers, lakes, natural springs, groundwater, as well as untested ground wells. It is hard to judge whether it is safe to drink by our eyes. Even if untreated water tastes good, it doesn’t mean it is portable. It may carry bacteria, viruses, and other types of microorganisms or chemicals which can make us sick. You can use a water test kit to detect what types of contaminants are in your water. And there are several ways to treat non-potable water. After that, you can get safe water to drink, making it potable.

Common methods to treat or purify water

Boil the Water

A basic and common way to treat water is just to boil it. Boiling water for a sufficient time helps to kill most bacteria, viruses and other microbes and this can avoid causing illness. Some VOCs will be driven out, but most contaminants are still in the boiling water. If the water is relatively clean, boiling water is a good method. Well, how to boil water? Actually, there are plenty of ways to boil water. You can use an electric kettle, a stovetop burner or even a microwave to boil water.

  • Fill a kettle, a burner or a microwave-safe vessel with water
  • Connect the kettle to the electricity, place the burner on the heat source or put the micro-safe vessel in the microwave and turn on the microwave.
  • Heat the water to boil and make it at a rolling boil for at least 1 minute
  • If you use a microwave to heat, you may need to stir the water to make sure the water is heated evenly.
  • Allow the boiling water to cool
  • Store the boiled water in a clean container. And you can store the container in your refrigerator. Or you can use an insulated water bottle to store warm water, if you like to drink warm water.

Buy Bottled Water

Another simple way to get potable water is just to buy bottled water. For example, if you have a water cooler dispenser, you can buy pre-filled bottled water for your water cooler dispenser. Sometimes, it is not easy to treat water, buying commercially bottled water is a quick way to get potable water. Most bottled water is considered safe to drink. However, there is something we need to pay attention to, when it comes to buying bottled water.

Some bottled water may be only tap water that has been filtered by using the carbon water filtration system. Some bottled water is distilled water. Some bottled water is reverse osmosis water. And some bottled water has been UV filtered, so the bacteria have been killed. Depends on brands, the water quality varies.

  • Check the water bottle to find whether it has been previously opened and refilled.
  • Notice the expiration date.
  • Cracks are not a good sign and if they are found, it is not recommended to drink the water.
  • Of course, you can boil or purify the bottled water before drinking or cooking.

Use a Water Filter

A good way to purify water is to use a water filtration system to filter water. On the market, there are many types of water filtration systems have different abilities to remove contaminants, like bacteria, viruses, chemicals, etc. The first step is to choose the right type, or it will fail to purify water or just damage the filter itself in a short time. If the water is very dirty, you need to remove these particles first, or they will clog your filter.

  • Whole house water filtration systems – Purify the water at the entry of your house. Once you open any faucet in your house, you will get treated water. Such a system can remove a wide range of contaminants, but not all the harmful contaminants.
  • Faucet Water Filters – Purify the water from your faucet. They may use activated carbon to capture contaminants.
  • Shower Head Water Filters – Purify the water from your shower head. They mostly are water softeners. They soften the water to protect your hair and skin during taking shower.
  • Under Sink Water Filters – They are installed under the sink. High-end models are multi-stage water filtration systems and the core stage is the reverse osmosis stage that uses a semi-membrane to remove contaminants. Reverse osmosis is regarded as the most effective way to purify water. However, they will cause waste water.
  • Portable Water Filters – You can take it out and use it to treat natural water sources, like water from lakes, rivers or wells. When you go outside, they can ensure you to have potable water to consume.

Use an UV Light Water Purifier

If you want to kill bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, you can use a UV (Ultraviolet) light water purifier to kill them. It is more convenient than boiling water. Of course, the supply water should be clearer, or you need to remove solid particles. A UV light purifier is a good way to treat cleaner lake, river and well water. If the water is very cloudy, only using a UV light filter cannot make the water potable. You can buy a single UV light filter. And some reverse osmosis systems have a built-in UV light filter as one of their filtration stages. Actually, UV light filters are different from most other types of water filters, because they use ultraviolet light to kill microorganisms.

  • Turn the UV light and drop the filter into the water
  • Stir the water with the light slowly for several minutes
  • Turn off the UV light and remove it from the water
  • Use the water

Use Iodine

A portable water filter is a bit expensive. If you don’t want to have one, you can use iodine to treat water. You can but iodine crystals, solution or tablets and add some into your water bottles. Bacteria and viruses will be killed easily, but an aftertaste will be left in the water. People with a history of thyroid and pregnant women should not use this method. Different forms of iodine require a different amount to use.

  • Add the correct amount of iodine according to the account of water
  • Stir the water to mix well
  • The iodine will dissolve gradually. After it has dissolved fully in the water, wait at least 30 minutes. If the water temperature is below 40 F, you need to wait an hour before using.

Use Chlorine Bleach

If you cannot boil your water but want to kill bacteria, you can also choose a traditional way. You can buy some bleach and use it to treat water. It contains chlorine which can kill bacteria in the water. Chlorine is widely used in the municipality as a disinfector. However, you need to use the correct amount according to the amount of water you want to treat. If you use too much, the water will be poisonous. If the source water is cloudy, you can use a cloth to filter the water before adding bleach to the water.

  • Generally, 1 gallon of water needs about 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach.
  • After adding the bleach to the water, mix the bleach and the water well
  • Wait at least half an hour before using it.

You also can use household bleach to sanitize your containers you use to store water. Mix 1 teaspoon of bleach and about 1 quart of water to form a sanitizing solution. Use the solution to sanitize the container by pouring it in the container. You can seal the container and shake up the solution to coat the container inside. After that, let it sit for 30 seconds and then use treated water to rinse it before using it to store water.

Call a Professional for Help

If your tap water is very dirty and contains high levels of contaminants (using a water test kit can discover the truth), you may need to ask a professional for help, especially when you find these contaminants are difficult to remove. You can ask your local municipality for help or consult a water technician for further solution.

If you don’t use tap water but live in a rural area, you need to make sure the water you use is safe. You can test your water yourself or ask a water technician for help. If installing a water filtration system is essential, you need to know what type of water filtration to choose from. Choosing the right one depends on what types of contaminants in your water. And water filters have become a common way to purify water at home.


Water quality is important to us. And we need potable water every day. We hope our methods above can help you easily purify water. However, we highly recommend to have a water filtration system installed at home and such a water filter can offer you clean and safe water to drink.

What is potable water and how to make potable water

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *