Hopefully, you’ve made your preparedness plans and built your supply stash, including food and drinking water. You have enough water that an emergency water purification plan isn’t an issue. Maybe, you even bought a Big Berkey Water Filtration System as I suggested.
But what if things aren’t going as planned? You had enough water saved for a month, but the emergency lasts longer. You have the Big Berkey but no water for using it. Or something happened to your precious water supply, possibly destroyed, contaminated, or stolen. Now what?
- Locating Water for Emergency Water Purification
- Safe Drinking Water Options and Emergency Water Purification
- Outside Sources for Emergency Water Purification
- Determining How Much Water You’ll Need
- Survival Water Storage
Locating Water for Emergency Water Purification
When the emergency is worse than planned for and you start running low on supplies, you need a backup plan. It’s time for important survival skills including finding and purifying water. You need to know where to look for one of the most basic and important survival resources.
If faced with a survival situation, relying on stored water isn’t always an option. Even if you have water and you’re sure your survival situation is short term, you need a backup plan.
Anything might happen, so when you’re sure it’s safe, start looking for supplemental food and water. Never wait until you run out of supplies. If you’re facing a possible life or death situation, the best defense is preparedness.
Finding water and food resources at the disaster beginning is vital since locating alternative supplies might become difficult. Locating another source for food and water, in the beginning, lets you rely on stored supplies when times get tough.
The unknown is why I stress making preparedness stocking a habit and learning all the survival skills you can.
When considering your survival options remember the rule of three for surviving:
- Three minutes without shelter.
- Three days without water.
- Three weeks without food.
If you always keep filtering and purifying tools close by, there are several ways for finding safe drinking water.
Safe Drinking Water Options and Emergency Water Purification
In a situation requiring finding water or a source for emergency water purification, look in and around your home. For immediate use, you have several sources for approximately a three day supply of drinking water for the family. If collected properly, the water doesn’t need any purification.
- Hot Water Heater
- Toilet Tanks
- Ice Bins and Cube Trays
- Bath Tubs
- Canned Foods
But, to guarantee the water’s safety, you must use caution and follow a few simple steps. I cover each of these options in greater detail. Other water sources require emergency water purification methods.
Important Note: Don’t forget your pets and other animals when planning for your water use.
Hot Water Heater
Household water heaters hold from 20 to 100 gallons of water. Since the water in the heater comes from the tap, you have a source for clean drinking and cooking water. However, if you don’t follow these steps your water quickly becomes contaminated and unsafe for drinking.
At the first sign of an impending water supply problem, follow these steps:
- Turn off the gas or electric that runs the water heater.
- Close the main water supply valve to avoid pulling contaminated water into the house.
- Open the drain valve on the water tank base and flush briefly to clear dirt and debris.
- Place a bucket underneath the drain valve and a bucket underneath one of the house faucets.
- Open the hot side of the house faucet to allow air in and help with water flow.
- Let the faucet and valve drain until you collect all the water.
- If you see sediment in the water, it is still safe to drink, just filter the water first.
- Keep your water clean by storing in covered containers.
If you still feel your water needs disinfecting follow my steps for clean drinking water.
If you’re like me and don’t use chemical treatments in your toilet tanks, you have another source for clean water. You’ll get several safe gallons of drinking or cooking water by utilizing the toilet tank water.
Turn off the water valve located at the toilet base. Turning the valve off prevents water from being lost. If you’re in a position of looking for water sources, you must do everything possible to avoid waste.
Never use the bowl water or any tank water that looks discolored.
Unless you know that no chemicals were ever used in the tank, DO NOT use this as a water source. This is especially true in apartments and other rentals. If you have no idea if the previous tenants used chemical cleaners, do not use this water for drinking.
Ice Bins and Cube Trays
Your freezer’s ice bin or the ice cube trays won’t deliver large amounts of water like our previous sources. But when it comes to water for survival, every little bit helps.
Don’t let those cubes of ice go to waste. Place all ice in large bowls, cover with lids and let thaw. The ice in your freezer gives at least a small source of drinking water.
If you believe you’ll have a compromised water supply and you might need emergency water purification, you can prepare. During hurricanes, blizzards, floods and other natural disasters, fill all your tubs with water beforehand.
Bathtubs range in various sizes and can hold anywhere from 40-gallons of water to over 110-gallons. If you have a tub or two in the house, you have a great emergency water storage container.
This prepping method is especially good for those living in hurricane prone areas where fresh water is an issue. Scrub and disinfect the tubs as soon as you know the storm or whatever disruption issue is heading your way. Then fill those tubs water as full as possible with water.
A tub is harder to cover and keep dirt out, so you may need to filter your water before drinking.
During a disaster aftermath or any form of survivalism, you can’t waste any liquids, including those found in canned foods. These liquids not only mean hydration, but they’re full of life extending nutrients. In the first power or water disruption days, use your fresh vegetables and fruits, a good source of water. Also use up your juices, milk, and meats as they are a nutrient rich water source as well. Try to avoid letting any fresh food go to waste whenever possible.
Outside Sources for Emergency Water Purification
When the disaster lasts longer or is more disruptive, you may need to seek outside sources for emergency water purification.
There are several options for water sources outside your home:
- Rain Collection and Snow Melt
- Streams, Creeks, Ponds, Rivers, and Lakes
- Local Fresh Water Springs
- Below Ground Sources
Before an emergency survival situation strikes, learn all you can about the area where you live. Knowing the location of ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks, and streams is key to finding a source for emergency water purification.
Take time to find these valuable water sources and document in a notebook, so you have a quick reference. Make notations of how to get there, the best place to gather the water, and which seems the safest source.
One item I suggest having in your stock of survival gear and supplies is a fold-up wagon. These things are the best invention, especially for preppers. Fold-up wagons collapse completely, taking up little space. The handy tool stores easily in a closet, your car trunk or back seat, or any other small space.
When it comes to hauling stuff, this little powerhouse can carry a large load. You can easily haul several extra water jugs between your water source and home. If you can afford it, I highly recommend having at least two or more. They come in handy when having your family help you move things.
Rain Collection and Snow Melt Emergency Water Purification
The first step to finding a water source in any survival situation is setting up a barrel for collecting rain. If you’re in a cold climate, gathering snow is another safe option.
Rainwater and snow falling through unpolluted air, directly into a barrel made specifically for water collection provides perfect drinking water. Sadly, this isn’t always a safe option especially in and around cities.
Water flowing across roofs and open-air surfaces before running into a barrel are contaminated and a health hazard. Even in an emergency water purification situation, always purify water from these sources before drinking.
The question I get most about harvesting rain for drinking water is, “What type of collection barrel do I need?”My answer is, “The one best suited for the task and the cheapest containers are recycled barrels.”
The best containers are closed barrels or an open-top barrel with a removable, full-sealing lid. Closed barrels protect the water and keep children, birds, and animals safe. It also helps prevent a disease carrying mosquito infestation.
Use dark colored containers that keep light out. Used food-grade barrels work well as water collection vessels. Since companies can’t reuse the containers for food storage due to contamination fears, you can find used barrels locally.
When using rainwater for drinking, lowering contamination risks is essential. Keep your barrel clean by removing overhead tree branches and debris in your gutters and on the roof. Using a layer of fine mesh wire keeps bugs, leaves and other debris from getting into the water barrel,
As I mentioned earlier, you want a barrel that’s light proof with a tight seal to keep mosquitos from breeding. You also need a diverter for keeping the first rainwater flush out which carries most of the contaminants.
Streams, Creeks, Ponds, Rivers, and Lakes Emergency Water Purification
Many areas have the common commodity of ponds and private lakes. These small bodies of water play an important role in the local ecosystems. Private lakes and ponds provide sanctuary for fish, birds, insects and other creatures which are important to nature’s natural balance.
These small reservoirs not only sustain wildlife, but they can also sustain human life. Not only does a backyard pond give you nature’s beauty, but it also has several emergency preparedness benefits. A pond supplies water for your emergency water purification plans, and it’s also a food source. When you stock your pond with fish, you have a self-replenishing food source and a natural insect repellent.
A small pond that’s 15-feet by 15-feet and approximately 2-feet deep holds about 450-gallons of water. Four hundred and fifty gallons equals over 2,000-pint water bottles. A pond supplies enough water to keep your family alive whether it’s manmade or natural. Even if you don’t have room for a pond, area ponds can supplement your preparedness plans.
But, with all outdoor water sources, you must proper filter and purify your pond water. Those readers that follow my posts know I am a big supporter of the Big Berkey Water Filtration System. However, if we have need of our pond water for drinking, we use several forms of filtering and purification.
For pond, lake, or river water, our first form of emergency water purification is the Lifesaver JerryCan. It may be overkilling to filter the water this way before running through the Berkey, but I think safety first. These water sources are filthy and full of disease carrying bacteria and other nasties. We run our water through the JerryCan first, then give it one last filtering through the Big Berkey before drinking.
Local Fresh Water Springs
The benefit of fresh water springs is they flow to the surface from underground sources, clean and untouched surface contaminants. A bonus to fresh spring water is it contains natural minerals beneficial to health.
Mineral waters normally have a slightly alkaline pH which neutralizes body acidity, that can help reduced free radicals. People travel miles and all around the world seeking the benefits of natural springs.
The biggest appeal to drinking fresh spring water is the refreshing and clean taste not found in other waters. A source for natural spring water not contaminated by chemicals is the best possible water you can get.
If you want to find a fresh water spring close to your home, visit the website, Find a Spring. Just click on Locate Spring tab and enter your state for a map of springs near you. You’ll find the address, locations, reviews, and other great information.
Below Ground Sources
As a last resort, the ground itself makes a great filter when you’re looking for an emergency water purification system. I wouldn’t recommend it long term, but it works great until you can put together something more permanent.
If you have standing water, move out about 50 feet and dig a pit. If the pit looks muddy once you hit the water, continue scooping water until it runs clear. For ocean water, the same method works, just move farther away from the standing water, about 50 yards. The farther away from the from the puddle you dig, the better the chances for fresh water.
How Stuff Works has a good article on finding water.
Determining How Much Water You’ll Need
Survival planning involves having enough water for getting through an emergency, knowing how to find more and purifying it.
Planning also means knowing how much water your family needs each day. Emergency organizations, including FEMA, recommend always having a minimum of a 2-week water supply on hand.
Each person needs ½-gallon of water per day for drinking alone. If you think you don’t drink that much water in a day, try adding it up. Be sure you include all the juices, tea, soft drinks and other liquids you drink to your total liquid intake. These beverages all add to your total water consumption, and during an emergency, chances are you drink even more.
Add another ½-gallon for personal hygiene, washing dishes, and cooking for your per person water amount. Now each family member needs a minimum of 1-gallon of water each day for survival. But, don’t forget your pets. When calculating what you need, if you have pets, it means you need even more water.
With my water calculator I’ve made calculating water needs simple. I believe that when it comes to water, you need extra, I upped the amount of water per person amount. If you have pets, I also included a box for calculating your total water storage needs.
If you have livestock, that’s a whole other scenario. I didn’t include farm animal water here because this is something you should prepare for separately. If you have livestock, then you need a permanent outside water source, like a pond. Washing dishes is a big water waster. Always keep a close watch on how much you use for dishes or any other household cleaning purposes. Many times, cleaning up with a wet cloth is all you need.
Other Water Usage Considerations
If you want a more accurate number of how much water you need for your family, think about these questions:
- Is your location vulnerable to high temperatures? Those living in warmer climates need more water than others.
- Do you have teenagers? Teens normally need more water than an average adult.
- Is there a baby in the house? Babies need more water for cleanup and preparing food and formula.
- Does anyone drink more water than others? Making drastic cutbacks to water intake, can cause physical distress.
- Are you caring for an invalid or chronically ill family member? These members need more water than others.
- Are there pets in the home? Pets need about half the amount of water that humans need.
Survival Water Storage
This article focuses on finding water for emergency water purification, but if SHTF, you may need long-term water storage. Once widespread panic sets in, you want to make sure you have plenty of water.
Survival water storage is the most important step of any family survival preparedness plan. While food is important, you can last three weeks without food. Water, on the other hand, you can only last three days. Besides keeping you hydrated, water keeps you clean, grows your food, and helps you cook your food.
Before you start grabbing containers to fill with water, remember, not all outside water is safe for drinking. Unless you’re sure the water is safe, I recommend purifying it before using.
There are a couple of myths out there about treating water before you store it. As long as you’re using a clean, purified source, like tap water, pretreating before storing isn’t needed. Tap water, especially, is chlorinated and safe for drinking.
Myth number two is rotating water every six months. What a waste of time and extra work. The fact is as long as you follow the proper handling and storage procedures, water doesn’t spoil. However, just because water doesn’t spoil, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purify it before using. You can easily purify water by heating, adding purifying tablets or running through a purifier like the Big Berkey.
The Emergency Water Purification Containers
There are all styles and sizes of containers available for storing your emergency water supply. You can choose small stackable 3.5-gallon water bricks and collapsible containers or large capacity 500-gallon water tanks.
Choose your water storage according to your personal preference or by the space you have for storage. Large water storage tanks come in stackable 50-gallon tanks or single 260 to 500-gallon tanks. You’ll need a lot of space for storing these like a garage, storage building, or large utility closet.
If you have limited space, then you need smaller storage containers like water bricks or collapsible bags. These small containers hold from 2.5-gallons to 5-gallons of water. The small containers easily stack in a corner, the closet, even under the bed.
A common myth is, “Never re-use juice, milk, or soft drink bottles and jugs to store water.”
The myth is only partially true. Food sold in plastic containers must be food grade and have a PET rating, meaning some make safe water containers.
If you reuse plastic storage containers, FEMA recommends choosing two-liter soft drink bottles. Never reuse plastic milk or juice jugs or cardboard containers. You can never completely remove the fruit sugars or milk proteins from the containers. This left behind residue makes an ideal bacteria growth environment when storing water.
Even when plastic is food grade, constant exposure to 80° F plus temperatures causes plastics to break down, leeching chemicals.
Reusing plastic food grade containers for storing water is safe as long as you don’t repeatedly wash and reuse them. Reusing old soft drink containers isn’t something I recommend. But if 2-liter bottles are all you have, it’s better than no water storage.
Regardless what containers you use, make sure you have food grade, BPA free containers.
Buy Emergency Water Purification Containers
|Collapsible Water Storage Bucket||Collapsible Water Storage Container||7-Gallon Cube Water Storage Container|
|Water Bricks Storage Containers||50-Gallon Stackable Water Tank||275-Gallon Super Tanker Water Tank|
Knowing how to locate and purify water during any emergency is key to a family survival preparedness plan. With all the advancements in emergency water purification systems, you have multiple choices for making water drinkable. Choose one or any combination of the options that are right for you and your family. Depending on where you live, and your personal needs, some water purification, and storage solutions are better than others.
When faced with a disaster, authorities might advise boiling or disinfecting water or not drinking the water at all. During these times, you may need to depend on your stored water supply or purification methods.
For healthy family members, a single purification treatment is enough. However, anyone with a weakened immune system needs water purified with a combination of methods. The combination might include chemical treatment or boiling followed by filtering through your Big Berkey or another filtration system.