Water is the second cornerstone of all the building blocks (right behind shelter and fire) within the world of preparedness and survival, and is right next to the air we breathe in importance. Water is more important than food, because we can last longer with a good supply of water and little food than we can with little to no water and a good supply of food.
To that end, it’s important from time to time to revisit the importance of planning for the supply, purification, and amount of water needed for each person in your family or team. It’s really not that difficult to prep a good water supply that will last through most situations when remaining in place, and the purification tools available are relatively cheap on average, and only basic information is necessary to properly purify water for human consumption.
Water that’s not purified, or ‘non-potable’ water, such as captured rain water, is useful for hygiene (so long as it’s not ingested) and saves the purification agent (if only using a filter and not a purifier) used for water to be consumed. Be careful, though, in warm weather, to keep saved rain water covered to minimize parasite growth.
A good rule of thumb for storing water is to obtain several six to ten gallon water jugs with spigots, such as those used for camping (some folks like the 55 gallon plastic water drums to keep in their basements or garages, and that’s fine as far as it goes. Remember they’re not too mobile as they weigh more than 440 pounds when full!) They are very reasonably priced, and when determining how many to get, simply having one or two per person in the home is usually sufficient for most disaster/emergency conditions not expected to last more than a week or ten days.
When you purchase your containers, take a quarter cup of bleach, add it to the container, and then add about a quart of tap water. Shake the container so that the heavy bleach mixture gets into any small crevice for about a minute, and drain. Allow the container to dry thoroughly before adding more water for storage, and you have disinfected your container of any possible pathogen or vector larvae (this is an old service method taught to me and we were required to do this every time we were issued different canteens or water containers. It’s a great way to prevent illness or parasitic internal adhesion).
When you fill your containers, fill as completely as possible in order to have as little air as possible in the container. It should be understood that the person filling the containers should have disinfected their hands as well as the working area (such as a mud sink or the head of the hose or spigot) used to fill the containers. Once the water container is sealed with as little air as possible, store the water in a cool, dry, place not exposed to direct sunlight. The water will last for years. If you’re anxious about it and don’t trust the water, change it out every nine to twelve months and use the old water to water your garden or house plants or to wash the family dog. DTG experiments have included drinking water stored for well over a year with no adverse effects when treated and stored as described.
For water purification at home, I’ve opted for the Sawyer brand of water purifier in conjunction with others for non-stored/prepared water that will fulfill my personal needs when on the move. I got mine at Great Lake Survival Company, here. I like having a bucket that will purify over a million gallons for home emergency use. Simple, too. Dump the water into the bucket, and gravity feeds it through the purification element. Everything that comes out is potable. The kit lets you use your own bucket, too, so you can rig it any way you’d like. I bought a food grade six gallon bucket, used the provided drill (by hand, because the plastic bucket isn’t thick), and then assembled the hose in about a minute. Bam! Covered at home. And, because it stays empty, I could, if I needed to do so, take it with me in a vehicle for short term emergencies.
Some of the agents you can use to purify your water:
- Stabilized Oxygen – This one is the most expensive, about $20 per bottle, and I keep a bottle in my ‘go bag’ and one in my water bladder case. Basically, for 100 ounces (my water bladder size), I put 128 drops in filtered water to purify. I use the brand pictured, but there’s many out there that do as good a job. I’ve used this with ‘wild’ water (that which is found in running streams or spring fed ponds/small lakes) after running the water through a strainer, and have never had any ill effects. Some folks don’t like it, but it’s still a viable option. Have a care: It is caustic, so putting a drop or two on your tongue will burn the inside of your mouth.
- Bleach: If using bleach to purify water, the bleach must be unscented, uncolored, with no additives whatsoever. Then, 8 drops of bleach per gallon of clear water; 16 drops of bleach for cloudy water. After adding the bleach, let it sit for 30 minutes or so. Personally, I would wait 45 minutes, but that’s me. I’d also add some flavor, just as I would with water purified from Water Purification Tablets like we were taught by our squad leader in days of old, but it’s not essential to do so.
- Water Purification Tablets: Pretty much best used when mobile or in temporary location when you might have to go mobile quickly. The picture above is USGI, but there are plenty of commercial offerings out there. Pros are that it does a great job on a quart or two of water, cons are that you have to let it dissolve in your canteen/water reservoir, shake it, and let it sit for at 30 minutes and it tastes really bad. See the earlier note on adding a flavor agent.
If you want better water from your city system, or your well, you can purchase a variety of water filters/purifiers that range in price from very inexpensive to very expensive. Just as anything else, you get what you pay for, so buyer beware. Listed below are a few that DTG has experience with and recommends:
Zero Water Filters: The Zero Water system costs under $80 for it’s gravity fed filtration system and removes all dissolved solids from the water. DTG staff use this in their homes and reports are all positive. It does NOT remove pathogens or bacteria. That’s where the two step process of filtering and purification comes in (along with, for me, the Sawyer Bucket System).
Berkey Water Filters: The Berkey models are on par with the Zero Water, and have a full range of gravity systems that can range into a few hundred dollars. There are also web sites that demonstrate using the Berkey filter elements to make an ‘on the cheap’ model that will work fine, however ‘rustic’ it may look in the kitchen.
Sawyer Water Purifiers: The Sawyer systems are really good for personal use in a ruck, on a harness, or in the home. They’ve got just about everything covered, and it’s my preferred system. Your mileage may vary, and that’s fine – just make sure you have some purification/filtration capability!
There are many more water systems on the market, some less expensive; some unbelievably high in price; the objective is having good, potable water to see you and yours through an emergency. Planning now will ensure you have something that will become priceless in a disaster situation.