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By May 6, 2012 Read More →

Purifying and Storing Water for Emergency Prepardness


There are so many ways to purify and store water it is hard to know where to begin.  First and foremost, it is very important to understand that a person can go three weeks without food, and ONLY three days without water.  So when it comes to storage for disaster situations, water should always take precedence.  So think about that for a few minutes.

What exactly have you done to store water for you and your family should disaster strike?  If you ran out of your stored water, do you know how to purify more?  In this article I plan to share with you a beginning into purifying and storing your own water for any phtf (poo hits the fan) scenario.  That could be job loss, water contamination, natural disasters, EMP, and many other cases.

How Much is Enough:

If you have read about water storage, I am sure you know the basic recommendations of 1 gallon of water a day per person.  I do not, let me repeat, do not agree with that number.  A person’s water intake depends on many factors.  Their body weight, their climate, their day to day activity, or if you drink alcohol daily.  (Bet you never considered that one before ;))  Or if you own pets, they have to drink to.  Knowing what you and your family members needs are is a very important factor to calculate your  needs for your water storage.

Every day you lose water with things you do like: exercise, working, sweating, or urinating.  So you must replace these fluids daily to maintain good hydration.  According to the Institute of Medicine, about 80% of a persons total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages, including caffeine beverages, and the other 20% is through foods.  The general recommended daily intake of water for women is 2.7 liters (91 ounces), and for men is 3.7 liters (125 ounces). That amount would of course increase if you do more strenuous activities that cause you to sweat. Children, nursing mothers and sick people will need even more than the recommended amounts.  That being said, most people only store enough water for drinking. Well, what about cooking, washing your body, or your clothes?

These are things you might consider when you begin to store water because I guarantee: drinking the water isn’t the only thing you will do with your stored water.   So thinking of it this way, it is safer to store at minimum 2 gallons of water a day per person.  If by chance, you don’t use it then you have more for tomorrow. :)

Storing Your Water Safely

Water-StorageOne year is the longest you should store your water before rotating it out for new water.  I would suggest to rotate your bottled water from storage with some new bottle water every 6 months.  Not because it won’t be safe to drink, but this ensures you don’t have water sitting there for longer than one year.  Also, be sure to check the dates on the water you purchase for storage to make sure they haven’t already been sitting on store shelves for a year.  Stored tap water should be rotated every 6 months.

Store your containers in  cool, dark places.  Never store plastic containers in direct sunlight.  Plastic bottles have chemicals in them that once heated can enter your drinking water.

Obviously, keep your drinking water and foods away from your gasoline and other harmful chemicals.  (if ya need to be told that then there’s a problem here lol).

Storing some containers with water in your freezer is also a good idea. If you lose electricity then the frozen water bottle will help keep your foods colder longer. We store a few in our deep freezer down stairs. Remember to leave some space at the top of the bottle because the water will expand once it forms into ice.

Remember to label your water with the date so you know when to rotate it.

What is Safe to Store my Water in?

No matter what you store your water in, make sure it is cleaned thoroughly with soapy water  and then sanitize it.  To sanitize, use 1 tsp of non scented chlorine bleach to one quart of water. Pour it in your container and shake to sanitize all areas then rinse thoroughly with clean water.

One very popular way to store water is in55 gallon drums that are approved for water storage.  If you have limited space, you can also purchase 3o gallon drums.

If you would rather have a movable  method for your water containers, they make 5 gallon square containers as well. Or a collapsible 5 gallon water container.  These are more so for camping trips.

If you still would rather have a smaller option, shelf reliance offers a small stackable brick that can stack up to the ceiling if you so desire. These are BPA approved and can store water for 15+ years.

If you are preparing your own water storage containers verses buying them:

The safest containers to use are two- liter plastic soda bottles. Do not use old fruit juice bottles and milk jugs store fruit sugars and milk protein that can’t be removed from these containers and store bacteria in the plastic making it unsafe to drink from them.  You should always, always use food grade water containers that are approved for food or water.

Water Filtration and Purification:

There are more than a few ways to filter/purify water and I am sure I will miss some of those ways so please feel free to add them (or better ways) to the comments below if I miss your preferred method. :)  It is important to know that a water filter and a water purifier are not the same thing.  Filters remove particles and sediment, while purifiers kills bacteria and virus’.

  1. The most popular way of purifying water by far is boiling.  This kills all living things and gets rid of any chemicals in your water.  According to the Wilderness Medical Society, water temperatures above 160° F (70° C) kill all pathogens within 30 minutes and above 185° F (85° C) within a few minutes.   Be safe and boil at a rolling boil for at least 2 minutes.  This method takes a lot of time and also a lot of fuel depending on the amount of water.
  2. Store bought filters are excellent, but be sure to carefully read what they filter out. One pricey but excellent filter that has been used in Africa safely for a long time is the British Berkefeld System. A few others are Berkey Water filters, Katadyn water Filters, or Aquamira.
  3. I prefer water filtration systems with ceramic filters because they last a long time and you only have to wash them out on occasion to reuse.  You can do this many times before having to replace the filter, but they still have to be replaced for safety reasons just like any other filter.  You should also know that ceramic filters only filter organic contaminates for sedimentary water.  They don’t have any activated charcoal to filter out chemicals.  This shouldn’t be a problem, unless the water runs a risk of being contaminated by a nuclear plant, farmers who use pesticides, or you live near any chemical waster plants.  So do your homework and know whats in or around your water sources.
  4. For portable water filters for camping or bug out bags I would recommend Katadyn. This is my personal choice based on reviews, experience, and other people recommendations.  The hiker bottles are great, but will only filter about 200 gallons per filter. That can become an expensive replacement if you plan on using it as a source for filtering water on a regular basis.  Here is one that will filter 13,000 gallons of water, Katadyn.
  5. Bio sand filter: This is often used in third world countries and has saved a lot of lives.  There are many different ways to build these, so you will have to do research online. Here is one bio sand construction guide and also a you tube video.  This method is good for filtering out sediment in water and other organisms, but know that you still need to BOIL the water after it is filtered.
  6. Chemical Purification: Typically there are two ways, iodine and bleach.  Both can be unsafe to your health, but will work if in a pinch.  You can buy purification tablets, but read the directions carefully and make sure not to use them after expired, they become ineffective.  If you purify your water with iodine, make sure to only store the water in dark bottles in dark, cool places.  Iodine is sensitive to light.  While this works, some people can be allergic to iodine so the alternate method would be chlorine bleach.  For a 2% iodine tincture, add 5 drops to every quart of water if it is clean.  If it is foggy add 10 drops.

Dangers of UN-purified water:

  • Cholera and typhoid:
  • Dysentery: severe diarrhea, bloody stools, fever
  • Flukes: Lives in stagnant water.  If ingested it will infect your blood, live as parasites and cause disease.
  • Leeches: If swallowed the can and will attach themselves in your throat or nasal passage.  Then they will suck the blood, cause a wound and move onto another area. The wound can become infected quickly.
  • Giardia: Entering the water through fecal matter. Giardia is a parasite that attaches to the intestines of humans and animals.  Symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, weight loss.
  • Cryptosporidium:  Spread through infected fecal matter.  Symptoms include severe headaches, low fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.
  • Hepatitis A:  Symptoms are inflamed liver, weakness, anorexia, nausea, jaundice, vomiting.  Severe cases may result in liver damage or death.
  • E.Coli:  vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever, abdominal pain

When you are filtering water, it is a good idea to remove as much large particle as possible to prevent clogging your filter system.  You can do this by using the clearest water you can find.  If you can’t find clear water, then strain the water through a bandana, cheese cloth, panty hose or just a piece of cloth/fabric.  Anything you have to remove large particles before running it through your filter will make your filter last longer. Another way, if possible, is to let the water stand overnight so the particles settle to the bottom before pouring into a filter.

These are just a few ways to store, filter, and purify water in disaster situations.  Always educate yourself in multiple ways of preparation and remember to practice using your knowledge.  If you don’t know how to do it when you need it, then you could find yourself in trouble.  Build or buy your filters now so you have them ready and on hand when you need them! I hope this article has helped you learn some of the basics of water.  Just a reminder, always have more than one back up plan in case your first plan fails.  Think smart!

Keep it Spicy,

Jalapeño Gal!!

Visit my store: Jalapeño Gal’s Survival Surplus

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About the Author:

Cari is an editor and author for American Preppers Network. Her family currently live in Georgia. Cari spends her free time gardening, canning, testing products for review, helping others prepare and going to the gym. She believes preparedness is about love and taking care of your family. Cari also has her own website where she shares all of her preparedness articles and her recipes for canning, dehydrating, juicing, basic cooking. To have a look and hopefully follow her: Click Here! Please Join My New Blog!

29 Comments on "Purifying and Storing Water for Emergency Prepardness"

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  1. Bonnie Denlinger says:

    I have a few 55 gal containers, that were originally used by a pharma co, for raw product, and i would like to use these drums for water storage, Do you know where I can get liners for the drums that are food safe, I only need about 6 and don’t want to invest in a large amount.

  2. Jim Stachowiak says:

    I recently Puchased a “Lifesaver water Bottle “and was so impressed I Now Look forward to getting a Larger 20,000 litter Jerry can,For a portable filter it can’t be beat

  3. I do have to disagree a bit about the length of time to store your water. While I do choose to rotate my water every year or two, I would suggest that so long as the water went into a container clean and you didn’t do anything dumb like storing the water in direct sunlight or in high temperatures then the water should be perfectly fine to store for long periods of time.

  4. Amanda S. says:

    You left out Sawyer water filtering systems. After much debate and comparison, They are the way we are going with their awesome price point!

  5. @ bonnie. There are liners you can purchase for the 55 gallon drums that are FDA approved and safe to store drinking water in. I am including a link for you. :)

    I went a head and called them to confirm that they are safe just to be sure :) I hope this is what your looking for.


  6. @ Amanda, I hadn’t heard of the sawyer watering system, thank you for posting that. Is their price the only reason you choose them or do they offer everything you need as far as eliminating bacteria, virus and other contaminates? Perhaps you could post us all a link? Again, thank you for the information, all is welcomed and consumed here :)

  7. @ Jim, that is another one I haven’t heard of. :) Thank you for sharing. Out of curiosity, why do you prefer lifesaver? The price? The items they offer? The usability? Please share all you know about this product with our readers. :)


    • Jim Stachowiak says:

      The Price is a bit high , But the filtration is better than any filter I have seen, and the one I got on eBay can provide up to 1500 gallons of filtered water before needing a replacement cartridge , Look up on youtube ” Testing my lifesaverbootle in liberia” and you’ll see what sold me on them,, There is also videos of the Lifesaver jerrycan’s ” That are fantastic…enjoy

  8. charlotte says:

    Why do you have to rotate your water and change it every year? Does it go bad?

  9. @ charlette. The department of homeland security recommends that we change out our water for two reasons. One is to get an idea of how much drinking water our family actually uses and two, for sanitary reasons. There is always a chance that your water has somehow got bacteria in it from not sanitizing the water containers properly. I know people who do not do this and for them that is great, for my family, we choose to rotate just to be safe. I hope this helps!


    • charlotte says:

      Thanks! Would it kill everything if i did the bleach thing before we drink it?

    • Using bleach kills some, but not all, disease types of organisms. The bleach MUST contain chlorine for it to work.
      That being said, bleach was never intended for human consumption. If it is the only way to do it in an emergency then using that is better than nothing. It would be much much better if you purchased something that was made for the purpose of purifying your water and would be safe to consume. There are many companies which carry chemicals that would purify your water and keep it safe to drink for up to five years (should you choose to store it that long)
      Anytime you use a product in a way it was not intended (bleach) You are putting yourself at risk. If you are preparing for the worst case scenario, then why not prepare in the right way verses putting yourself and your family at risk. That’s just my two cents. :)

  10. Amanda S. says:

    Sawyer water filtration. 

    Google Berkey vs. sawyer and it should bring up a great thread on survivalist boards about the pros and cons.  I can’t afford a Berkey, but I can save and pick these up.  Plus, they are way more portable.  Watch all the videos on all the products, they are great!

  11. Amanda S. says:

    Also, sawyer guarantees their systems good for a million gallons.  After watching the videos and reading the reviews, I understand why!

  12. Awesome, thank you, I will have a look, but by what you say it sounds like i might like this better :)

  13. Amanda S. says:

    Very welcome, it’s why we are all here.  Share information and resources while you can!

  14. Jim Stachowiak says:

    The Price is a bit high , But the filtration is better than any filter I have ever seen, and the one I got on eBay can provide up to 1500 gallons of filtered water before needing a replacement , Look up on youtube “Testing my lifesaverbootle in liberia” and you’ll see what sold me on these, , Also There are other video’s on the Lifesaver Jerry cans that are very impressive , Enjoy

  15. fred says:

    Don’t forget your hot water heaters as a backup storage also. That is why I wont switch to instant hot water system. I have 2 water heaters, only use the last one in the loop to heat water the other just kinda holds it to warm it up. That gives me an extra 110 gallons plus my extra containers of H2O in the cellar, a few gallons of bleach and a box of matches. I will have safe water for awhile.

  16. Nancy Bliss says:

    Why dont I see ANYONE using mason jars for water storage? I would think that some could be “canned” and would keep without rotation? Just saying. I know the jars and lids arent cheap these days, but with all the talk of stuff leaching out of plastic these days…… well, what good is it to survive if you get cancer or something from your stored stuff? Yard sales, estate sales and old abandoned houses are good sources for finding mason jars.

  17. I actually did use mason jars for water when we had emergencies or threats of no water for a period of time, however, I have found that using them for long term storage is unrealistic. Most people do not have the shelf space to store jars of water where food can be. For me personally I would rather fill my jars with food, but again that is just me. If you have the space and want to spend tons of money on jars then go for it my friend!! :)


  18. destiney says:

    now the thing that confuses me is, do you have to boil and filter water or one or the other? i have herd that you just have to filter it and then i have herd never drink water you don’t boil so i am confused.

    • Filtering water gets rid of things such as dirt, rocks, leaves etc while boiling kills bacteria. The confusing part is that there are certain filters that will also *filter out* those certain bacterias as well. It is best, in my opinion to do both. Use the specialized filter and then boil the water as well.