Water for Survival – What Happens When Your Water Storage Runs Out?

water for survival

When I was around 11 years old, the family had a big reunion in Mexico.  I have some distant relatives who own a really big orange plantation about 2 ½ or 3 hours outside of Monterrey Mexico.  The reunion was great.  It was at a great location.  We met distant family that we really never knew.  And we had a lot of food and a lot of fun. 

We stayed late in the night, so family members made reservations at this rural motel. Now think about the kind of motels that you might find in a rural setting.  I’m not talking about chain hotels or motels, like Motel 6.  I’m talking about going through rural America and you see an independent motel and it just seems like a little hole in the wall.  Most people would think to themselves, “I’m not gonna stay there!”

Now, think about a rural motel in Mexico! 

Obviously, it wasn’t what you’re used to when you think about staying in a motel or a hotel.  It had two beds, but I would have rather been camping with my own gear!

One of the first things we noticed were the signs in the restroom.  You had to know Spanish.  These helpful signs weren’t written in English.  The signs said, “don’t use the water, there are parasites in the water!”

Your Water Source Matters!

What the heck!  Who has to deal with this type of thing?

When we visited Mexico, we never really would drink the water anyway.  But this took it to another level!  You don’t really want to take a shower or brush your teeth with parasites!

So we slept that evening and at the first sign of daylight, we were out of there!

We don’t deal with parasites in the water where we live!  We’re very used to going to the faucet,  turning it on and having all the water that we want.  But it’s going to be a different story if there ever is an emergency where water is not available to us.

Think about water boil notices.  Some communities dealt with that in Houston during Winter Storm Yuri.  But even at that, it’s very rare.  And even when that happens to us, most people just  go to the store and get water.  And, if it is needed, companies rally to bring water in so everybody has enough water.  

But in an emergency situation, that’s not going to be the case!

Water Storage Is Vital!

As preparedness minded people, we know the importance of having water storage and having multiple ways to make water potable.  This article isn’t about the need to store more water or get another piece of gear.

The question that I would like to ask is what are you going to do when you run out of water and you can’t simply turn on the faucet or go to the store?  What water source do you have around you that you can access to keep you and your family hydrated, healthy and clean?

Those of you who have a water well are in decent shape if your well has water and you can get it up the well.  But people in cities and even in the suburbs will have a really rough time.

Where are you going to find water?

There are a few places where you can get water in an emergency situation if you live in a city or the suburbs.  Here are some examples.

  • Use a 4 way sillcock key wrench to access outside water faucets around big buildings, schools and churches.  
  • Drain your hot water heater tank and your toilet flush tank.
  • Use the water in rain barrels in the backyard.

You should still use a water filter in these options.

But the issue with the above examples is that you are talking about a relatively small amount of water that will get used up quickly.  

What do you do if you need to find water for the long term?

This is going to be the dilemma for those living in the cities and suburbs in a true SHTF situation.  It is kind of scary if you think about it.

Retention Ponds and Purifying Water

The suburbs are filled with retention ponds.  Communities put these in as water features, but also to control flooding.  So when the rains come down, the water from yards and streets run-off into these ponds.  This means that the water in these big retention ponds are filled with all sorts of nasty things you don’t want to drink.  Really, this isn’t something you want to put through a Lifestraw to drink!  We are talking about chemicals, oil and possible sewage (in a flood) that will find their way into this pond from your neighbors yards and their vehicles.  

You still might be able to make this water drinkable.  But you would have to do some serious processing if you want to be safe.  I would do multiple levels of pre-filtering, then distilling/boiling and then filtering again.  It takes quite a bit of time and fuel/power to distill or boil.  In a long term emergency situation, this will be a fulltime job for someone.

Another possible way to get water in a long term situation is to use a catchment tarp.  I wrote about this a few years ago and I still think it is relevant.  I mean, it will be my go to during rain if I’m ever in a long term survival situation.

You can see that this is a big topic that really needs a lot of consideration.

In the meantime, you need to be storing water.

The Easiest Entry to Water Storage – Water Bottles

The easiest entry point for everyone is going to be stocking up on cases of bottled water.  One 24 case of 16.9 oz water bottles equals 3.17 gallons of water.  That’s not a ton of water, but it is a start, especially if you have the room in your home to stock-up on cases.  You don’t want to put these cases in a hot garage or shed.  They need to be in a climate controlled environment.

As I’m editing this article, the city of Houston is under a water boil notice because one of the main water plants lost power and their water pressure went under what is safe to deliver clean water to residents.  The issue has lasted more than 24 hours in a city with over 2.28 million people.  Schools were closed and of course, stores ran out of water bottles.

This can happen anywhere nowadays.   You just need the water plant in your area to break down and not be able to get the parts that it needs to be able to repair things and you’re out for a while!  I have a feeling this will happen more and more as infrastructure fails and utility companies focus on making a profit.  

Your Water Collection Needs

As someone in preparedness, you should take the time to do a little math and figure out how much water you have on hand for your family.  The minimum, and I do stress minimum you need is 1 gallon a day per person.  That is only for drinking, cooking and brushing your teeth.  Most people waste more than that with a single flush of the toilet!

After you figure out how much your family needs a day (1 x the amount of family members you have in your household), you should divide the amount of gallons you have on-hand by that number to see how many days you can go.

I can tell you, unless you have a huge water tank in your backyard, you don’t have enough!

You then need to decide how much water you want to have in-case of an emergency.  

But ultimately, you need to think about where and how you will replenish your families supply in a long term scenario.  That’s the one no one wants to think about!

Water Treatment – A True Survival Skill

Water treatment is a true survival skill that everyone should know. It is one of the most important aspects of survival, as water is essential to life. As we already mentioned, water can contain many contaminants that can make it unsafe for human consumption. By learning how to treat water properly, you will be able to ensure that the water you drink is safe and clean. Learning how to treat your water is an invaluable skill and will help keep you alive in an emergency situation.

In a true survival situation, where all that is around is contaminated water, you might have to go through several processes to get drinkable water. But first, let’s understand the difference between water purification and water filtration.

Purification vs Filtration

Many people use water purification and water filtration interchangeably. They are similar in that they make water safe to drink. But they do have their differences.

Water filters remove solid contaminants from water. These contaminants include solids like dirt, sticks and other material. The water usually goes through a medium to remove these solids. In a primitive filter this might be a selection of different sized rocks and sand. In a pinch, you could also filter through a t-shirt or a shemagah (large bandanna). You can also purchase a water filter like the Hydroblu Versaflow that uses many hollow fiber tubes with tiny 0.1 micron holes. The tiny holes in these types of filters help to remove 99.9999% of bacteria like Giardia, E. coli, protozoan cysts and Cryptosporidium.

Watch my video on how you can turn the Hydroblu Versaflow into a family sized filter that will give your family a lot of safe drinking water in an emergency.

Although water filters work well, they don’t filter out viruses and other chemicals. For that, you will need to purify water.

Water purification includes taking questionable water and making it safe water. It is a more thorough process. At the most basic level, boiling water is the desired process for purifying water. This has been done for thousands of years and is still done today.

The problem with boiling is that is takes fuel to get the fire hot enough to boil the water. One alternative is to pasturize water. In my article, WAPI – What Is It and Why Do You Need One, I shared…

“A WAPI is simply a small polycarbonate tube that contains a special wax. A washer or metal weight on the small device keeps the WAPi submerged as it is placed inside a pot of water that is being heated. As the water reaches the point of pasteurization, the wax at the top of the tube melts and moves to the bottom of the tube. Once all the wax is melted and at the bottom of the tube, the water is sufficiently pasteurized and ready to drink.”

Emergency Water Supply

Putting It Altogether for Your Emergency Water Supply

In a true survival situation, when you are living in the city and need water to drink and have to depend on questionable water sources, you will need to incorporate several processes to make sure you have potable water for your family to drink. Here are some steps you might have to take.

  • Gather your water supply. Remember you need one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Pre-filter your water. This will remove the biggest of solids from your raw water.
  • Filter your water through a water filter. Again, remember you are trying to remove as much solids (bacteria) as possible.
  • Use a wapi to pasteurize and treat your water.

The above process will take time. In a survival scenario, it might be a full-time job depending on how many people you have in your group.

Other Methods of Water Purification

There are other methods of water purification that I haven’t mentioned here. Some of these include chemical, reverse-osmosis, distillation and the use of ultra-violet lights. However, for this article, I focused on what would be more reasonable in a survival situation with limited supplies.

Making Water Safe to Drink

Clean water is essential to our health and well-being. This increases in a survival scenario. The Preparedness Community always highlights that you can only go three days without water. You don’t want to find yourself desperate to find fresh water to drink. It might be real important to your survival to know how to treat the water that is available to you so you and your family have enough drinking water to stay hydrated, for cooking and hygiene.

2 thoughts on “Water for Survival – What Happens When Your Water Storage Runs Out?”

  1. Boiling will not remove chemicals that have a higher boiling point than water. In fact boiling will concentrate those chemicals. Making maple syrup and tomato sauce is an example of this.

    Distillation doesn’t remove chemicals that have a lower boiling point than water. Distilling whisky is an example of this.

    Removing dangerous chemicals is problematic, and would require multiple processes to guarantee success. Best to try and find a water source unlikely to be chemically contaminated.

  2. Thanks Todd for sharing this.
    Water is a very important topic to be covering.
    I remember living through the flood of 93 here.
    I didn’t have nearly enough water stored when the
    water plant was closed and there was no water.
    People stood in line with water jugs for hours to get water
    when there was no longer bottles of water being handed out.
    I moved out of town and had well water and only came back
    to help others in need. That option is currently not available.
    I am always aware even though I have lots of water stored
    in every place imaginable or unimaginable here. It is a constant
    concern I have.
    in a long term situation for myself and my animals, not to mention if
    family members come here, the water won’t last that’s stored.
    I keep adding to it, have two small ponds dug, and in the spring adding
    more water catchment and will dig a cistern.
    Nonetheless, I still have to purify the water outdoors and what comes out of the
    tap with a Berkey and a Wapi if need be.
    If all the water runs out then it’s on to other resources.

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