Water is the essence of life.  You can live without food longer than you can live without water.   How long you can survive without water depends on your activity level and averege daily temperature. At 90 degrees without doing any work you should be able to survive for about 7 days.  But going without water for any length of time is bad news.  Your body is mostly water and requires water for all of its functions.  Water lost through sweating, breathing, and urination must be replaced or systems start to shut down.  For water preparation there are two major thing you should prepare:

  1. Store drinking water.
  2. Have the ability to clean contaminated water.

Storing water.

How much water should you store?  That depends on how long you think the water system will be down.   You should plan for 1 gallon of water per person per day for survival, or 4 gallons per person/day to include for hygiene usage.  A good rule of thumb is 55 gallons per person.  This gives enough water for about 2 weeks.  Water can be stored in 55 gallon plastic drums that are food grade and cleaned.  You can also use 5 gallon containers or pop bottles.  Do NOT use old milk jugs.  They are not made for long term storage and will break down and leak.  Any tap water stored should be rotated every 6 months to make sure it is good when you need it.  Tap water is usually chlorinated enough to store for 6 months without adding any additives on your own.  Just remember to change it on schedule 🙂  Purchased bottled water should remain safe to drink indefinitely as long as the water is left unopened.  It makes sense to use all three methods for storing water.  If you can stay in your house the 55 gallon drums take up less space.  If you have to evacuate (flood, hurricane, fire, etc) the 5 gallon containers, pop bottles, or water bottles will be easier to take with you.  If you do not know where to buy these materials you can email me (  I have access to them but do not sell them on a regular basis because of shipping costs.  The shipping can be more than the product cost 🙁

Another consideration is what type of food have you stored for emergencies?  If you have dried food you should plan on more water usage per day vs storing canned food.

Cleaning water.

In an earthquake clean water could be out for several weeks.  One of the problems in an earthquake is that the sewer and water lines break and could contaminate the drinking water.  More often than not there is one trench dug and both pipes are run side by side.  Not a problem, until the earth shifts enough to break both pipes.  If this happens even if the water comes out the tap you will need a method to purify it for drinking.  After every major disaster in the news about 2-4 weeks after there are usually cholera outbreaks. These outbreaks are due to drinking contaminated water.  Lake and river water should not be consumed without cleaning them first.

There are several methods that can be used to make water safe to drink.  These include:

  1. Boiling: If the water is murky or cloudy filter it through clean cloths or use coffee filters.  Bring clean water to a rolling boil for at least one minute.  Note: It is advisable to let it cool down a little before drinking ;).  Let the water cool then store in a clean container with a lid.  As long as you have access to adequate fuel this is a safe easy way to purify your water.  It is not uncommon after a natural disaster to need to boil your water for a few days as they clean out the water system.
  2. Distillation: Converting water into vapor and then allowing it to condense back into water.  Many survival manuals discuss creating a “Solar Still” to procure water from green vegetation or dirty water.  The typical description of a solar still describes using a depression in the ground eighteen to twenty-four inches deep and about three feet wide. The green vegetation or dirty water is placed inside along the sides.  A collection container is placed on the ground in the middle and then the entire depression is covered with plastic sheeting.  If using dirty water this can be store in open containers – but ensure it does not contaminate your collection container. Cover the sides of the sheeting with soil or other heavy objects to hold it in place and create a seal.  A small weight is placed on top of the covering directly above the collection container.  This causes the covering to drop slightly in a cone shape so that the condensed water on the underside of the plastic sheeting will pool to the center and then drip into the collection container.  If using plastic it is recommended to place an X of duct tape in the center to prevent damaging the plastic.  Lastly you can run tubing from the collection container to the outside of the solar still and use as a straw so that you don’t have to disturb the cover when accessing the water.  Here is a YouTube video on how to build a Solar Still.
  3. Commercial Filter: A water filter system designed for making water safe to drink.  There are different types of filters that are available.  They vary in price,  speed in which water is cleaned, amount of water cleaned per filter.  Bottle filters are inexpensive and light weight, but do not filter much water (about 40 gallons).  They depend on the squeezing action on the bottle to force the water through the filter.  Hand pump filters can filter varying gallons of water: Katadyn Vario (500 gallons), Katadyn mini ceramic (2,000 gallons), or Katadyn pocket microfilter (13,000 gallons) all have a pump handle used to force the water through a ceramic filter which cleans out microscopic organisms.  As the filters get clogged they can be replaced.  Another type of filter uses gravity to force the water through the filter.  It is not as small as the other types, but does considerably more water (up to 39,000 gallons)
  4. Chemical: Chlorine, iodine, or water purification tablets.  Chlorine (household bleach) is probably the most accessible method of disinfection since it is such a common product in our homes.  The bleach should not have additives such as scents, cleaners or be the “colorsafe” type.  You need to add 1/8th teaspoon to a gallon of water.  Stir it around and let it set for at least 30 minutes.  There should be a slight chlorine smell similar to a swimming pool.  If you do not smell the chlorine then you can repeat the procedure. Bleach does not have a long shelf live once opened so if it does not affect the smell of the water it might be ineffective.    Iodine tincture solution with 2% iodine should be used.  You should add 6-7 drops of iodine to 1 liter of water and wait at least 30 minutes.  Issues with the iodine taste of the water can be remedied by adding vitamin C after the 30 minute wait.  Water purification tablets are the easiest to use: you drop the appropriate number of tablets into a container of water and wait about 30 minutes.  The effective time will vary slightly depending on the clarity and temperature of the water.   Follow the directions on the label.
  5. Sun: Yes the sun can be used to purify water. It just takes a little longer to do. Find some clean clear plastic bottles with the PET symbol on them. Fill them with the cleanest water you can find. Once full place them in direct sunlight for at least 6 hours. If it is cloudy outside leave them exposed to the sun for 2 days. When using this method it is advisable to pre-filter the water to remove any foreign material you may not want to drink. The UV-A light from the sun destroys cell structures of bacteria – purifying the water of any evil bacteria that may be present. If there are chemicals in the water they are left as they were. This process only kills the bacteria.
  6. Old timers way to filter water:
    “Take a new vinegar barrel or an oak tub that has never been used, either a full cask or half size. Stand it on end raised on brick or stone from the ground. Insert a faucet near the bottom. Make a tight false bottom 3 or 4 inches from the bottom of the cask. Perforate this with small gimlet holes, and cover it with a piece of clean white canvas.

    “Place on this false bottom a layer of clean pebbles 3 or 4 inches in thickness; next, a layer of clean washed sand and gravel; then coarsely granulated charcoal about the size of small peas. Charcoal made from hard marble is the best.

    “After putting in a half bushel or so, pound it down firmly. Then put in more until the tub is filled within 1 foot of the top. Add a 3-inch layer of pebbles; and throw over the top a piece of canvas as a strainer. This canvas strainer can be removed and washed occasionally and the cask can be dumped out, pebbles cleansed and charcoal renewed every spring and fall, or once a year may be sufficient.

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