Emergency Water Storage – the Ultimate Guide

Water (H20) is the main constituent of the body, making up 70-75% of the body’s total composition.  It has many functions within the body, including maintenance of the body’s core temperature, helping in digestion (fats and proteins primarily), cushioning / lubricating organs and joints, transporting nutrients, and flushing toxins.

The primary biochemical pathways that occur in the cells take place in a water-based medium and involve water as some of the co-factors to even run their course.  Water is not only necessary, it is VITAL to all life!

The body loses water everyday via normal processes, but loss can also occur with other events.  Normal loss happens via urination, bowel movements, breathing out (moisture in your breath), sweating, and crying.  Other events can include diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding from cuts/trauma.

In a survival situation, it is important to  remember the “Rule of 3’s”, which states the following time frames: 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food.  This is a great platform to use when prioritizing your needs in a survival situation, along with your location, weather, and tools you have on-hand or find in the field.

One of the biggest concerns of any survival situation is water, as dehydration can occur so rapidly or even quicker if you were mildly dehydrated to start with.  The biggest premise to remember is this: If you are thirsty, then you are already in the beginning stages of dehydration.  You have to obtain water, and fast.  There are three stages of dehydration; mild, moderate, and severe and they include the following symptoms:

Mild (1-4% loss): Thirst, dark colored urine, fatigue, irritability, headaches, dry mouth.

Moderate (5-10% loss): Irritability, confusion, nausea, insomnia, dizziness, reduced urine output, lethargy (extreme sleepiness), and paresthesia (numbness/tingling in the arms/legs),

Severe (10-15% loss): Severe headaches, increased respiration / blood pressure / body temperature, dim & blurred vision, spastic muscles, wrinkles/shriveled skin, painful to no urination, seizures, delirium.

Loss >15% = DEATH

Now to the creative part… how to secure water in a SHTF scenario.

If you are bugging in, you have hopefully put some containers of water back for emergency (i.e. no power, water main break, etc.).  If not, then you better think of some ingenious ways to collect it quickly.  One idea that was in William R. Forstchen’s book “One Second After” (which is a VERY good book I might add, get it!) is using the water you have already “collected” in your pool or hot tub.  Of course, you will have to disinfect and treat the water to make it potable.

You can also use a tarp or plastic sheet and pull the corners up during a rain storm to collect rain water, or have the rain collected on the sheet or tarp spill into a plastic storage bin.  It’s already clean and drinkable, so no treatment is necessary.

I have also seen people use the roof of their home to collect rainwater as well.  A very ingenious method provided you have the right roof and collecting pathway.  You cannot do this with a regular shingle roof (fiberglass anyone?), and this method is typically outside most budgets in our current economical state.  However, this method can be employed for water used in gardening if you grow your own food, which is a completely separate topic.

I do NOT recommend the water in your water heater or toilet reservoir unless it is an absolute last resort, as chemicals and metal substances can be found it these locations.  If you do, you better filter and treat the water extensively.

If you bug out, a river or stream can be invaluable only in as much as you have the means to treat the water so you can drink it without getting sick.  Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Dysentery, etc. can make you sick enough to have severe diarrhea and vomiting… a precious loss of vital water and body fluids.

The mostly commonly used disinfection methods to ensure water is safe to drink is boiling and chlorinating.  These methods can be found all over the internet and vary in their times, amounts and applications.  It’s amazing what you can find while scouring Google with a cup of coffee in your right hand.

A simple metal cup, pot or other small bottle can be used to boil the water and kill all water-borne pathogens.  The general rule is a rolling boil for 5 minutes to kill all “bugs” that can make you sick.

Another way to treat water is chlorination.  This is accomplished with simple bleach (nothing scented or with other fillers… obviously!).  The general method here is 3-5 drops of bleach per 1 quart / 1 liter of water, shake vigorously for a few seconds, then let the water sit for 30 minutes to kill all pathogens.

There are plenty of filters on the market, but how about at home if you don’t have one, but you do have a pool with a filter… AH-HA!  Potential!  Some things you could use for a basic filter include a piece of cloth or clothing, coffee filters, fish tank filters (clean and unused of course), clean sand, cotton, burnt wood from the fire pit to pull out impurities… The possibilities are endless.

As a personal preference, I do not trust UV radiation as a treatment method. I know the mechanics of it and how it kills the bugs.  However, I just do not trust this method; therefore I would not use it.

One last one I can think of is the use of ozone to treat water.  Ozone is made up of three oxygen molecules with chemical bonds that require more stability. As the ozone is introduced into water, it breaks apart looking for more stabile bonds, creating free radicals in the process, which in turn kills the bugs.

This was utilized in the Discovery Channel show “The Colony”, Season 1. 30 minutes of using ozone can kill the bugs and make water drinkable.  The professor in that show was a genius. There are devices that produce ozone for use in hot tubs and pools if you buy that option.

The last method is rare but usable… distillation.  Cody Lundin used this method on “Dual Survival” (Season 2, episode 9) when they were stuck on a pacific island, and he had found enough garbage to make a “still” to turn ocean water into drinkable water.  Not often used, but another method to keep in your bag of tricks if needed.  Others include a solar still and collecting moisture from plants/trees with a plastic sheet or bag.

I am sure there are plenty of methods that I have negated in this article.  So… what are your ideas?

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7 thoughts on “Emergency Water Storage – the Ultimate Guide”

  1. Good post, good ideas.

    I live in a fairly humid environment with lots of green growies around. If you are in a similar area water can be collected by 1) digging a pit in a fairly sunny location, 2) placing a cup or can in the bottom of it, 3) lining the pit with fresh vegetation, 4) placing a plastic sheet over the pit and securing the corners (rocks, bullets, large sticks, etc), 5) placing another rock (or whatever you have) over the center of the cup, and 6) let the sun cook the water out of the vegetation – it will condense on the bottom of the plastic sheet run down to the depressed center and drip into your can. This is similar to the condensation method noted above.

    Learned all kinds of neat stuff in Ranger school (even if it was 30 mumble years ago).

  2. Remember its about being properly hydrated, and that includes a lot of things besides just plain old water. Especially when you are sweating.

  3. I agree that water is a critical resource and that sources need to be found quickly in most situations. But here in the arid west most of the sources you quote won’t work or aren’t available.

    Here’s a great tip that I gleaned from the internet: Make sure you carry 2-4 “shamwows” or similar with you in your bug-out-bag. Fasten them around the tops of your feet/lower ankles in the early morning. Most mornings (but not all) you should have dew in the grass. Simply walk around until the shams are saturated and wring them out in a cup. Repeat. Be sure to boil the water (or otherwise purify it) as there will be bacteria or worse on the grass that will come off with the water.

    — Bowser here in Drought Land

  4. Some great ideas. I agree with the solar still idea, and the shamwow idea. You will not get much of a yield on the water amount, but depending on your locations (Bowser), some is better than none. Thanks for the input everyone!

  5. One thing that works really well I learned from watching Discovery. Dig a pit where you can pee in. Put a cup in the middle of the pit (after the pee) and put a sheet of plastic over it. Finally, lay a stone on the plastic over the location of the cup. The water will evaporate and will get into the cup via the plastic, also works with sea water


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