Having a Water Supply During a Long Term Disaster


In a disaster situation, everyone knows they need 1 gallon of water per person/a day.  Due to the bulkiness and weight issues of storing water, it is not always feasible to store water for a long term disaster.  Many survival experts suggest every family have a water filter in order to treat water for a long term disaster.

Due to the importance of having water on hand, it is a prep item that should be viewed as a necessary investment.  Therefore, find the very best water filter than you can afford.  One of the best investments you can make into your preparedness endeavors is to invest in a way to purify water. This is your lifeline when your regular water sources are questionable, so you need to ensure you have water filters on hand. Some suggested items to look into are the Berkey water filteration system, and the Katadyn Water Filters. I use both of these products and regularly use the Berkey filtration system to filter out fluoride and other harmful chemicals.

Ways to Collect Water

Use water barrels to collect rain water.  This is a very effective method of collecting large amounts of water.  Rain collection barrels come in a variety of sizes.  Treating the water can preserve it for up to five years.  The water barrels can be placed strategically around the home to collect water cascading from the rooftops.  This method provides water in a nearby location for the family to use at their disposal. Here are three ways to filter water.

Collecting water from ponds, creeks and streams is another method to harvesting water.  Sourcing local watering holes is a great way to make use of nature and be more self-reliant. That said, transporting water can be time intensive. Therefore, a person can use 5-gallon water cans or a collapsible water container, or whatever they have around the home and use a transport method such as an old wagon, or a garden cart, or a wheel barrow.

Treating Water

Boiling is the easiest and safest method of treating water. Boil the water to a rolling boil for 1 full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This also will improve the taste of stored water.

Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting only the vapor that condenses. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Chemical Treatment of water.  If boiling water is not a possibility, then chemical disinfection is advised for water purity.

Using Bleach

  • Filter the water using a piece of cloth or coffee filter to remove solid particles.
  • Bring it to a rolling boil for about one full minute.
  • Let it cool at least 30 minutes. Water must be cool or the chlorine treatment described below will be useless.
  • Add 16 drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water, or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water. Stir to mix. Sodium hypochlorite of the concentration of 5.25% to 6% should be the only active ingredient in the bleach. There should not be any added soap or fragrances. A major bleach manufacturer has also added Sodium Hydroxide as an active ingredient, which they state does not pose a health risk for water treatment.  Make sure the bleach is fragrance free before it is used.
  • Let stand 30 minutes.
  • If it smells of chlorine. You can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add 16 more drops of chlorine bleach per gallon of water (or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water), let stand 30 minutes, and smell it again. If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water

Purification Tablets

Purification tablets such as chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, micro-pur are different tablets to use when treating water.  These tablets can assist in removing viruses, bacteria, cryptosporidium, and Giardia in the water.  Follow the instructions recommended by the manufacturer.  If a person is using iodine tablets, the iodine must be stored in a dark container.  Sunlight can affect the iodine’s potency.  Additionally, iodine has been shown to be more effective than chlorine treatment tablets.  Please note that chlorine tablets can be used in lieu of iodine tablets for persons with iodine allergies.  Persons with thyroid problems or on lithium, women over fifty, and pregnant women should consult their physician prior to using iodine for purification. 

Here’s a tip for getting rid of the “chlorine taste” in the water: add a vitamin c tablets to the water after the purification treatment has finished.  This is a good tip to keep in mind when children are drinking the water.  They tend to put their noses up at water that has funny smells or tastes.

Safely Storing Water

Water should be stored in a cool, dark place in the home, the vehicle, as well as the workplace.  Use water within the expiration date stamped on the container.  Water can be stored in food grade containers, as well as soft drink bottles.  However, they must be washed thoroughly, sanitized, and rinsed.  If possible, only store water that has already been treated, and ready for consumption.  Tap water would more than likely need to be treated if it were to be stored.

Having water in the home is essential to keeping the body hydrated to maintain proper body regulations.  There may be times when an emergency last longer than three days, so plan accordingly, and have the necessary items needed to purify water for a long term disaster.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published March 25th, 2010
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  • I think you forgot the SteriPEN, it’s a UV light water purifier. Yeah, it needs batteries, but there’s no chemicals and no funny taste.

  • ep

    If people would think, we would have everything for free.TESLA

  • ep- I think the only thing free in this world is knowledge.  All we can do is acquire as much knowledge as possible before a disaster occurs. 

    And having knowledge on how to get water in a long term disaster situation is essential to continued health and survival.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Bill

    Ah, just a little correction.  The old boiling water for a full (insert time frame here) minute myth.  There are no known pathogens harmful to humans that can survive above 190 degrees F.  Therefore just achieving the boiling point of 212 degrees F is more than sufficieint to kill off anything that could be harmful.  This myth leads to the waste of presummably limited fuel resources during crisis.  The moment it boils is sufficient.

  • Bill,

    I appreciate the feedback, but I am still suggesting to my readers that water should be properly boiled for 1 full minute before being consumed. 

    While I am supportive of not wasting our resources, I am even more supportive of properly making sure that water is good for consumption.  And I hardly think that allowing water to boil for 1 minute is wasting resources, do you? 

  • I’m sorry but I too have to disagree with your advice. By boiling it for longer than necessary you are adding a complexity to the situation where the person trying to survive has another thing to worry about. Am I boiling it long enough? Should I boil it more?   All that needs to be done is get it to boil. Period.

    Boiling it longer is also unnecessary because it uses up your precious fuel source (whatever you are using to heat it) and the water. Its not worth it to calm some fear you have about things living in the water.

    Also, I personally suggest you stock up on that fuel source rather than bleach. There are downfalls to bleach (like poisoning yourself) and the bleach can break down overtime cant it?  In addition, the fuel may be used for cooking food, keeping warm, etc. whereas the bleach is only good for sanitation.

  • BB

    the best advice for geting easy water is go out early in the AM and with a towel run it along the grass or limbs or your car etc…there will be plenty of dew to gather.  Just keep a clean car hehe

    a small rubber squeegie works best for getting the water off smooth surfaces

  • Grea

    Not everywhere has morning dew, we live in the desert and have always been in the habit of carrying water, a couple gallons in the trunk can be the difference of making it to the next town or sitting helpless by the side of the road. All that aside even here we can get ground water dig a hole place a cup or bucket in the center, depending on the size of the hole cover with clear plastic sheeting (like food wrap or a shower curtain) and weigh it down, in the center place a small weight so that the condensation drips down into the catch container, find some shade and let the sun pull up the moisture.

  • Black Rabbit

    actually, for a general info site like this, intended to be read by people from who knows where, you should boil for at least a minute, i would suggest longer. in teaching classes i recommend at least five minutes. this accounts for altitude – water will come to a rolling boil LONG BEFORE reaching proper temperature in higher altitudes, so the “obviously boiling” thing is useless. five to ten minutes boil time. or carry a thermometer with you that you can stick in the water being boiled to keep track. even with a thermometer, i personally would boil it for over a minute to be sure.

  • p.

    using h2o2 (hydrogen peroxide) instead of bleach to sterilize water is a much better alternative. h2o2 is not toxic (the human body produces h2o2 as a first way to attack viruses, bacteria, toxins, cancer cells and all other pathogens) it does not cause cancer – unlike bleach – on the opposite there are reports that it can even cure cancer. it does need to be diluted properly though since in high concentrations it is a very strong acid. 

    • @ P.

      Thanks for the tip! I have actually just started doing research on this and found some other uses for this prep item. I’ll be writing an article about it soon. Thanks agian.

    • Doc

      Whats the ratio to use it, 1 ounce per gallon or what… good info

  • alfacorp

    Research the sun’s ultraviolet light to kill microbes and viruses in water in transparent bottles.

  • Dena

    Per the Outdoor Action Guide to Water Purification on the Princeton University site (www.princeton.edu/~oa/manual/water.shtml), they reference The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis, which states:
    Boiling is the most certain way of killing all microorganisms. According to the Wilderness Medical Society, water temperatures above 160° F (70° C) kill all pathogens within 30 minutes and above 185° F (85° C) within a few minutes. So in the time it takes for the water to reach the boiling point (212° F or 100° C) from 160° F (70° C), all pathogens will be killed, even at high altitude. To be extra safe, let the water boil rapidly for one minute, especially at higher altitudes since water boils at a lower temperature (see page 68.)
    I happened across this today and it made me think of the discussion on this post, so for what it’s worth, here ’tis.
    Thanks again for a very detailed, informative guide. Your information is really helpful and well-written.

  • Kevin

    Hi, I saved water in milk containers, I washed them out with hot water and let dry for few days and filled with tap water, would this still be good to drink? I was thinking of using it for cooking.

    • lopata

      not if they are plastic. milk containers are made from self degradable plastics. use regular soda 2l bottles this plastic will last for centuries.

  • Lou

    New to your site, finding lots of great info.  SteriPens are awesome and portable and fast.  AND there is a version called the SideWinder that is hand cranked and does not need batteries.  I used my SteriPen on a month long trek across West Africa using local water sources and did not get sick once. 

  • JR

    Tess, there is a major problem with everything written here: In addition to the main ingredient, there are ADDITIONAL ingredients in most pool shock, which no one is addressing:

    sodium chloride – no problems there 
    Calcium carbonate is found in antacids, no problems there
    – BUT,  Calcium hydroxide looks bad, tho. This is the exothermic product of calcium oxide and water, according to Darrell D. Ebbing and Steven D. Gammon’s “General Chemistry.” It has a strong base pH and is used for many purposes, often under its more common name, slaked lime. The National Institutes of Health warns that calcium hydroxide is also toxic and can introduce serious health problems as a result of various types of exposure. Ingestion. Accidental ingestion of calcium hydroxide can cause severe throat pain, a burning sensation in the mouth, abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody stool or vomit, rapidly falling blood pressure and collapse, according to the National Institutes of Health. This type of poisoning can also make blood pH too alkaline, which can cause organ damage. Poison control or other emergency services should be contacted immediately if calcium hydroxide is accidentally swallowed. Unless the victim is vomiting or exhibiting other symptoms that would make swallowing difficult or unless directed otherwise by a physician or poison expert, he should immediately be given water or milk to drink. Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/182626-what-are-the-dangers-of-calcium-hydroxide/#ixzz2RJfhonSg
    Calcium chlorite?  I also have no idea if this is nasty, either.

    • lYOD

      If pool shock water treatment has calcium hydroxide in it and is toxic and may cause serious helth problems then why would anyone go swimming in a pool that has been treated thusly?

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