Water Supply After SHTF

Dirty drinking water

Water is what makes life possible on earth. The Earth’s surface is made up of 71 percent water, and the adult human body is 60 percent water. In an average situation a normal person can only survive for 3 days without water. Most items people cook require some amount of water. It is essential for all functions of human life in some form or another.

Keeping that in mind, if you’re primary water source is disrupted how will to get water? Is the source clean and drinkable right from the source? If not how will you clean it to make it drinkable? Looking throughout history one of the worst killers after a large scale disaster is disease and most disease after a disaster centers around polluted water. Let’s go through some of the things to consider about water collection, purification, and storage.


Before you worry about anything else the first order of business is the collecting of water. Most people reading this will likely not have an open water source within 200 yards of their home. There may be a creek or retention pond relatively close, but that would be a long walk carrying water when the average person needs 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) a day……when inactive. So you need something closer. One of the easiest ways is rain collection. This can be done with a bucket or a barrel, but you need to make sure it is clean and stays that way. Most people know about BPA so if possible plan ahead and buy a storage item that is food grade and BPA free. Of course in a pinch you can make almost anything work. You can easily place a bucket under a guttering down spout, or tie up a tarp that slopes to a point that spills into the storage device. If under the down spout, it is advised to let it run onto the ground for 15 to 30 mins depending on amount of rain to wash the bird droppings of the roof and not into your storage device.

Alternatively you have water in your water tank, toilet tank, and if you have one your swimming pool or kiddie pool. The first 2 will not give you a lot of water, but something is better than nothing in a dire pinch. If you have a swimming it should be chlorinated to kill bacteria already. If you have a kiddie pool, that water should not be considered safe to drink without cleaning it first. It can be used for none consumption purposes though.

How to clean the water

All collected water will need to be filtered or chemically retreated at a minimum but I would recommend boiling it all before consumption as well. It will for sure need a straining to remove the grit and debris from it. It might be good for watering plants, straight from the source, but not consumption.

  • A good first start is to filter the water through a bandana, tee-shirt, or something to remove the larger particulates in the water, but make sure the item used is clean.
  • Filtering can also be done through a store bought filtration system like a Sawyer or Katadyn portable filter. You can also build a filtration system, if needed. If you will due a pre-filtering this will extend the life of these better filters.
  • Chemically treating the water will also make it drinkable, but chemicals will not remove debris and it will taste nasty. Many people throw in some flavoring to mask the bad taste, but to me it just tastes like nasty cherry flavoring. It’s water though and you need it.
  • None of these treatments will get rid of harmful chemicals in the water either. So if your water source is downstream from a chemical plant I would try and find another source. If the situation is bad enough that you’re getting water from a river or stream the chemical plants safety protocols probably aren’t working.

How to store the water

  • Ideally you want to store water in a food grade, BPA free containers, but unless you’re prepared nearly anything will do.
  • Trash cans will hold water, but you must clean and bleach them to get them as clean as possible. Of course there are chemicals in the plastic that will leach into the water, and is harmful to you. It takes a good amount of time to make most people sick so it’s better than nothing……for a time.
  • 2 liter soda bottles work great, once washed out and clean.
  • I wouldn’t recommend milk jugs unless they are for a short time use. Milk jugs are made to breakdown after a short amount of time.
  • 5 gallon bucket – Like the trash can, it needs to be spotless and unless food grade it will have leaching issues.

Potable vs Non-potable

  • Potable – Drinkingwater, also known as potable water or improved drinking water, is water that is safe to drink or to use for food preparation, without risk of health problems.
  • Non-potable – Good for watering your garden…maybe, but do not drink, or cook with it.

Whether you get your water from a river, creek, pond, lake, or rain it must be cleaned in some fashion before it is drank. If you’re collecting from a river or creek you also need to be aware of what is upstream from you. If people are using the water as a restroom, drinking out of it is extremely risky.

Stay active, pay attention, and get prepared.

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