Clean Water in an Emergency

Written by Brandon Garrett

Before we get to priority #4 here is the summary of your top 5 Priorities of Emergency Preparedness. They are:
1. Make a Plan. Review, Rotate, Replace. Make adjustments for family size, age and local community needs. Consider evacuation, communication and staying put.
2. Gather Grab and Go Supplies. 72 hour kits, MREs, food bars, water pouches, water purification, first-aid, storage.
3. Gather Shelter in Place Supplies. Radios, flashlights, first-aid, sanitation, hygiene, warmth, shelter, storage.
4. Clean Water. Water storage, barrels, filters, storage.
5. Shelf Stable Food. Items in pantry, short term and long term food storage items.

Priority 4 – Clean water Having access to clean water in an emergency is critical and almost always overlooked until it is too late. Here are a few obvious points to understand about water:

• Without water you die very quickly
Depending on your health and age, you will live for 5-7 days without clean water. You can live much longer without food.

• Water is heavy and takes up a lot of space
A gallon of water weighs about 8.3 pounds. Water is not easy to transport because it is so heavy. That means your emergency water plan should account for that.

Keep these items in mind when you are planning. For example, you may want to put a gallon of water per day in your 72 hour kit. But, that will weigh about 25 lbs. Are you strong enough to carry that water around? Are your children strong enough? Will it even fit?

The recommended amount of water from a variety of sources (like the American Red Cross) is 1 gallon of water per person per day. That is water for drinking, cleaning, cooking and sanitation. It is not for just drinking. You don’t drink a gallon of water on a normal day, but to be safe and to take of other needs, 1 gallon of water is the recommendation. If you start doing the math on how much storage space that would require for you and your family for 1 year, you will start to understand the recommendations below.

Here is my approach to water and what I recommend. In an emergency, you need to have three ways of getting to clean water:

1. Store water. Every shelter-in-place supply should have water storage. A small word of caution: Don’t try to go cheap on your water storage. Buy a food grade water storage container like a 55, 30 or 5 gallon container and use that. Don’t fill up your old juice bottles or your old milk jugs. They’ll crack more easily and they’re not designed for long term storage.

The barrels and water containers are not to terribly expensive and when the time comes that you need the water, you will be glad you stored water you can actually use. Also, have a variety of sizes of storage containers. Don’t just have a 55 gallon barrel that you never move and never clean out or fill up. Use smaller, easier to transport containers like a 5 gallon stackable. Remember, water is heavy!

Also, you won’t rotate your water as much as you think you will, so make sure you use some sort of water stabilizer that allows the water to be stored safely for 5 years without rotating. We have a Water Preserver that works well.

2. Have a portable water filter. If you do have the water stored but you are not sure if it is safe or you come across water in an emergency and you don’t know if it is safe, that leads me to my second point. These portable water filters are extremely handy and will allow you to clean suspect water that you come into contact with and make it drinkable.

These portable micro filters will remove bacteria and protozoa from the water, but won’t kill viruses. If you have a stream, lake, pond, river or well by your house; you will be able to clean the water from those sources using these filters. Each filter will clean up to 500 gallons of water. That is nearly ten 55 gallon drums worth of water. An impossible amount of water for most people to store. I really like or MSR MiniWorks water filter and the Katadyn Combi. They are also great for backpacking and camping.

3. Have water purification tablets. These are very handy to have around and a small bottle will chemically treat up to 25 quarts of water. They work fairly quickly (typically in less than a half an hour) and will kill bacteria, protozoa and viruses.

Remember that if you don’t have any of these three things, you can still clean water by boiling it. As a matter of fact, boiling is most effective way to clean water except it won’t take out the floaties like a filter will. The problem with boiling water to drink is it uses a lot of fuel that you may not want to use for that purpose. Also, don’t forget to have portable water pouches in your emergency supplies. They have a 5 year shelf life and are very handy to have around.

Updated February 12, 2015

8 Comments

  1. Tolteca wrote:

    Bug out bag. Try to take foods that do not take water to prepare, I see so many bug out
    bags with things like, instant oatmeal, hot chocolate & soups. The water should be for
    drinking & take vitamins & protein bars. I also take a bottle of fiber, not only is
    fiber needed but it also swells for a full feeling. I came across what is called
    Lifecaps. They are a capsule that has everything needed to survive without food with
    the exception of water. It is full of vitamins & minerals plus Iodine. Anyway, you take
    three of them a day & drink water. I can actually take enough food in one backpack to
    las 6 months because of these little Lifecaps, protein bars, fiber & water. I will run
    out of water in a week so I do carry a small filter & a couple of those straw water
    filters that filter the water as you suck.
    You do not always have the ability or time to heat water to make soup or oatmeal. Anyway,
    after I bought 25 bottles I found a coupon code & bought 75 bottles more. The coupon code
    is… healthcap It will get you 33% off. There are also sites that have those filter straws
    that are cheaper than any of the stores around here. (SLC) I think they are a really good
    idea along with some purification pills. I cannot remember the sites off the top of my head
    but you can Google for aquamira filter straw. Aquamira is the manufacture but do not buy
    off there site because I have found them for almost 1/2 what they want on their own site
    on other sites. Good luck, Gods speed & get serious about your bug out bag!

    April 25th, 2009 at 4:43 pm
  2. trisha wrote:

    How long does frozen water in sealed containers stay fresh??? istore large jugs of water in deep freezers that prevents foods thawing during power failures, can be utilized for coolers & portable water in summer & reduces energy costs by keeping freezer more full than empty

    February 14th, 2015 at 5:21 am
  3. NameKeith wrote:

    what about treated pool water ? Is it safe to drink without treating or are the clorine and other chemicals used in swimming pools make it unusable ? We have a pool that contains 14k gallons – good for washing and flushing the toilet but about for drinking ? Any thoughts on that ?

    February 14th, 2015 at 9:00 am
  4. reid wrote:

    I keep 2 gallons of Clorox bleach that I replace yearly . I use a SHARPIE and write water treatment direction on each jug cause that way I won’t have to try to remember directions under stress.

    February 14th, 2015 at 12:12 pm
  5. gary wrote:

    don,t agree with tolteca’s approach- feel that the kelly kettle that weighs in at two and a half pounds is a better idea. basically it burns anything and can bring water to a full boil in about five minutes so unless you’re on a snow cap or a desert you have fuel to purify water- all you really need is a water source and you would need that no matter what method 0f clean water you favor. as for the fiber pills i’d strongly recommend against them when water intake is redeuced from the norm it’s easy to become bound up you don’t need help from a fiber pill plus the additional intake of iodine cane rasie all sorts of health pronblems with thyroid gland

    February 15th, 2015 at 9:33 am
  6. don wrote:

    Thanks for the tips, Tolteca. Also remember there are several things needed for good digestion, including enzymes, salt, probiotics, and fiber. Enzymes can also be found in fresh food if it is safe to eat.

    February 17th, 2015 at 1:28 am
  7. Elmi wrote:

    Sarav makka Not sure about the cost effectiveness for slnige family homes, but with the raising APARTMENTS and BIG COMMUNITIES in chennai, it would definitely work out a smart idea to have these type of water re-used by filtering IN-HOUSE. Nice thought though How you have been..?.. Good luckRaj

    February 23rd, 2015 at 12:43 am
  8. Farmer wrote:

    Filters have come a long way in the past few years. I’ve bought several including the Sawyer point one and recently the Sawyer Point Zero Two. The later is good for bacteria, protozoa and (some) viruses. Best price I’ve found is from Highwater Filters. Using the Sawyer .02, you should be good in most US locales unless it’s the real end and disease has gone berserk. In that case, filter then purify with boiling or chemicals.

    April 5th, 2015 at 3:26 pm

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