Safe Water to Drink – Having Enough Stored and Ready

You probably don’t think about this as much as you should, safe water to drink! Water and water storage is a big topic in the preparedness community. We all know it! But how much do we truly store? How long would our water storage really allow us to survive? Then, the ugly truth smacks us in the face, it doesn’t matter how much water we have stored, at some point, just like everything else, it will run out. We can do without many things, but preppers need to know how to get clean and safe water for their survival.

We don’t talk about this enough or have the skills necessary to filter and purify water because it comes so easy to us. It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t have water coming out of our faucets to drink, to flush our toilets, brush our teeth or take a shower. We need to go deeper than just purchasing a water filter or two. We need to have a good understanding of the topic so we can work from a place of confidence when we are in a survival situation.

Not Having Confidence in Water

The inhabitants of ancient Jericho realized that something was wrong with their water. They weren’t in a short time survival situation, they were in a long term survival situation because of their water!

When I say Jericho, I mean THAT Jericho, the one you learned about in Sunday School. The one Joshua and the Children of Israel marched around and the walls came tumbling down. In the Book of Joshua, after the Israelites conquered the city, Joshua pronounced a curse on the town. “Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, ‘Cursed before the Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.’” Joshua 6:26 NASB

Jericho stayed uninhabited for hundreds of years, until the time of Ahab, King of Israel. In 1 Kings 16:34 we read, “In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”

Cursing Even the Water

But the inhabitants of Jericho soon realized that having a city that looked good on the outside didn’t mean everything was OK on the inside. When the Prophet Elisha came around, they asked for his help because they realized something was very wrong!

19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.’” 22 So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.

2 Kings 2:19-22 NASB

The actual issue was that something in the water was causing the women to not get pregnant. This was a long term survival situation because if women didn’t reproduce, the population would dwindle down to nothing. They asked Elisha for help and he prayed that the curse would be lifted. The salt and new jar really didn’t have anything to do with it. We can guess it was for effect, maybe a point of faith. You don’t purify water with salt and a new jar. It had to be a God thing! For more of Elisha, watch the video below.

Using Your Head and Using Some Faith

Readers of my site know that I’m a person of faith. I believe in prayer and it is a big part of my devotional life. But the Lord has also given me a brain. And when it comes to having safe water to drink, I want to use my head and the skills that I’ve learned to have clean, safe water for my family.

Like the people of Jericho, I know that everything can “look” OK, but that doesn’t mean that everything “IS” OK! Just because the water looks clear, doesn’t mean that water is safe to drink. The best thing to do would be to test every water source by sending it to a lab. But in a survival situation, that won’t be an option. So what are you going to do when there isn’t a prophet around?

What Do You Need to Know?

When most people talk about having safe water to drink, they refer to filtering water. That term is a catch all for making water safe to drink. But if you are only filtering water, you might be drinking some nasty stuff still. You also need to know about water purification.

At the most basic explanation, a water filter will remove big particles, protozoa and bacteria. An example of this would be the Hydroblu Versaflow. The small backpacking filter is very versatile and can be made into a family-sized water filter. I made a free PDF and video tutorial about this a while back. But the water filter will only filter out 99.999% of Bacteria, E.coli, Salmonella, and Cholera and 9.99% of Protozoa, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. It will not filter out viruses and metals.

In order to get viruses, you will need to purify water. In an SHTF or survival situation, this usually means boiling water or pasteurizing the water by getting it to 149 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 minutes. The best way to make sure you pasteurize long enough at the right degree is to use a WAPI.

I also shared an idea for obtaining water in an SHTF situation in my article, The Rain Catchment Tarp. And I would also recommend downloading the 2014 edition of The Preparedness Review that includes an article by my friend Gaye Levy on Using Pool Shock to Purify Water. It is a FREE download on Dropbox (you do not need to join Dropbox! Just click the download link on the top right).

Storing Safe Water to Drink

Now, not only do you need to know how to make water safe to drink, you need to know how to properly store water. This is a problem for a lot of families because the minimum (notice I said minimum) amount of water to store for each person is 1 gallon a day. That amount doesn’t include water for hygiene (other than brushing your teeth) and flushing your toilet. So in reality, you need a lot more. But let’s just stay with the 1 gallon amount.

For a family of four, you are looking at 120 gallons for just one month! That is a lot of water! That equates to more than two 55 gallon barrels. Then, you need to consider that you can’t store this water in the garage or outside. Then, water is heavy. You just can’t man-handle a 55 gallon drum of water easily. And you can’t hide them easily either.

You can always buy bottled water and just rotate out the cases. But again, water takes up a lot of space. Those of you who have basements, might be better situated for water storage. Those who live in apartments or small spaces, really need to think this through!

Lastly, it’s already been mentioned, but it is worth repeating, if you are using plastic containers, like water bricks, 55 gallon drums or even water bottles, you want to remember to store your water in cool places. You can’t store water in garages, sheds or even leave a case of bottled water in your vehicle if it gets really hot. Heat wears down plastic. And although plastic containers used for food and drink have come along way, you still want to be careful.

Water Storage Containers

I really like water bricks. They are easier to handle than a 55 gallon drum and stackable. You can also easily hide them in plain sight if you get creative.

One thing that is always talked about in the Preparedness Community is using 2-liter soda bottles. The key here is to get them really clean! The problem with using a soda bottle is the sugar that is left behind. If it isn’t cleaned very well, the sugar will cause bacteria to form.

A 2011 article on shares the proper procedure for sanitizing a soda bottle.

Thoroughly clean the bottles with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap.

Sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Mix the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If the tap water has been commercially treated from a water utility with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using.

A slight chlorine odor should be noticeable in the water, if not, add another dose of bleach and allow the water to stand another 15 minutes.

Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger.


Sources of Water Around You

When it comes to long term survival, you will eventually have to find a water source. Is there water around where you live? You want to know where those sources of water are before the SHTF.

One thing that I like to do is pull up my neighborhood on Google Maps. I then change the view to “satellite” and zoom out. It can show you where there are ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, etc… One thing to remember though, if you live in suburbia, chances are that many homes use chemical fertilizers, weedkillers, etc. on their yards. Some of these chemicals will run-off to those ponds and retention lakes around neighborhoods. It will be very hard to remove these chemicals. In some cases, even using a distiller might not work for heavy chemicals. You need to think this through and weigh your preparedness needs for safe water to drink.

Lastly, having a 4-Way Sillcock Key would allow you to access water from local buildings. This is a cheap tool that every prepper should have in their toolkit.

Water Is Too Important!

When we consider all the plans, gear and stockpile in our preparedness, we need to seriously consider water. Thinking we will always have it coming out of the faucets is a false sense of security. And not only do we need to store it, but we need to understand the dangers of drinking contaminated water. This makes it even more important to know how to filter and purify water so we have safe water to drink for ourselves and our families in a survival or SHTF situation.

What would you add to the conversation? Leave you comments below.

If you would like to watch the devotional that this article is based on, see the video below.


6 thoughts on “Safe Water to Drink – Having Enough Stored and Ready”

  1. Michael

    Did you ever wonder where the 1 gallon of water per person per day came from? Seems it’s from the 1950’s cold war Civil Defense Manuals the bare minimum amount of water needed to hide in a fallout shelter for the two weeks.

    As a retired NCO I know we were required to keep our troops drinking well over 1 gallon of water per day doing field exercises. You could lose your hard earned rank and some pay if they fell to heat exhaustion-dehydration and such. How much water is depended on exertion, temperatures and individual needs. Even in freezing weather you lose water via breathing and sweating.

    So in short I suggest you plan on at least two gallons purified-filtered per day for drinking and food preparation. More (3-4 gallons daily) if your using dried storage foods like rice and beans, more if your eating those salty “survival rations” sold to so many as a “Years Supply”.

    Plan on using at least a gallon of CLEAN Safe Water (not purified per say) just not nasty ditch water for helmet bathing with a bar of soap and wash cloth. In order I wash face, hands, arms, torso, arm pits, feet, legs, groin then backside. For brushing your teeth safe Drinking water from your daily drinking supply.

    Not washing will give you serious issues like foot rot and such. These will cripple you as well as ruin your ability to sleep well. Both very important.

    1. Good advice Michael! Thank you!

      I do agree, most people don’t think about hygiene and what not taking a shower/bath/sponge bath could do.



  2. I’ve read that plastic containers used to store water should not be stored on bare concrete, but, don’t recall the “why”. Can you add info on this to your article?

    1. Michael

      Honestly Jose there is little proof that placing your plastic water containers on bare concrete will contaminate the water. The use of plastic liners for IMPROVING the quality of water stored in concrete cisterns around the world is very common for decades now.

      There is some concern that condensation from the thermal mass of the water creating potential mold issues and the general issues of cleaning accumulated dirt and debris from around the often very heavy (and thus seldom moved) water containers. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds so a blue 55 gallon water barrel weighs about 440 pounds.

      Dirt and debris attracts bugs, rodents and other pests. That is a real issue.

  3. Denise

    Great article and information, you are so right. I aquired heavy duty 5 gal jugs and 3-4 15 gal jugs from work. I used a strong detergent and water scrub with heavy bleach and let it soak overnight. Then rinsed well and did just bleach and water and soaked for 24 hrs. Then rinsed thourly air dried the jugs and twist on tops. I did some research and found info on bleach treating the water. They said 8 drops per gallon,so I will use that for my jugs. But I also found a 3-5 gallon pail system. Drill holes in the bottoms of each pail.The bottom pail fill with sand on top of that pail put the 2nd pail on it and fill with pea rock sized pebbles,then put on the top pail and fill with larger rocks.You can pour the water you have found into the top pail and it will seep through the system. Sorry forgot to mention a secure base on legs , bricks or stones that you stack your pails on and place under the base something to collect the filtered water. After that I would boil the water or bleach it. Just thought I would pass that on. For this process you can use if you are on the road and mobile.

    1. Michael

      Denise maybe I misunderstand your 3-5 gallon bucket “water filter”?

      Using it on the road and mobile? I suspect each bucket would weigh somewhere around 120-150 pounds each filled with wet sand or rocks…. Not sure I’d want to transport that in my SUV let alone by wheeled handcart or such. That bottom sand part would be adding a lot of sand to your water?

      As far as filtering several layers of tee shirt would do just as good a job removing twigs and bug bits from your water as this rock and sand filter.

      I am glad your suggesting they boil or bleach that “filtered water”. After the tee shirt filter also boil or bleach it please.

      The smallest frontier filter I’ve seen worth drinking from is a 40 gallon barrel filter with from top to bottom a canvas bug-twig layer, a 4+ inch layer of sand, a canvas layer, a 4-6 inch charcoal layer with peas sized hardwood charcoal, a canvas layer, then 4 inches of sand (to filter out charcoal bits) a canvas layer then clean pea gravel to act as a reservoir for the spigot.

      When you build the structure to keep it high enough to get water out from the spigot please remember it’s going to weigh somewhere in the one ton range. Don’t want that falling on someone. Ours was set inside an hillside-bricked in a bit.

      I’ve drank from that for almost a year when in Africa. I’m still alive 🙂

      Yearly you replace the charcoal so it’s manpower intensive but doable at local tribal level.

      Adding some modern biology to it you can build a Sand Biofilter. Worth looking into as a bit long for a comment. It in effect does what the earth does to rainwater that filters down to the subsoil where our wells pump it back up for our use.

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