In a survival situation, water collection is one of the most crucial skills you will need to have. As a rule of thumb, people can go weeks without food but only a couple of days without water. This is why reliably obtaining clean water is one of the most important aspects of any survival prepper’s plan. It may seem intimidating initially, but water collection and storage are much simpler than you think.
In Week 1 of our Baby Steps to Preparedness series, you bought water for yourself and your family. You’ll do that again this week. But buying jugs of water is only part of being properly prepared, so this week, we will talk about other methods of collecting and storing water in a survival situation. In fact, by following some basic steps, you can keep many gallons of water for a long time and will be sure to have ample drinking water should an emergency survival situation arise.
Week 3 Shopping List: Water and More
How did you do in Week 2? This week, we’re back at the grocery store. Here is your list:
- One gallon of water per person in your household
- One can of meat per person in your household
- One can of fruit per person in your household
- One gallon of water for each of your pets
- Sanitary pads
- One package of pet food for each pet
- Baby food
Now that you have your list, head to the store.
A Note About Sanitary Products
Remember that if you have a baby and include diapers in your preps, you must keep rotating them out. Babies grow (really fast!), so if you buy a Size 2 diaper now, make sure you use them before your baby graduates to the next size, or it will be wasted money.
It’s wise to consider buying some cloth diapers to keep in your kit and diaper covers. You can use cloth diapers for more than just your baby’s bottom, and they can be adjusted in size as your baby grows.
Also, even if no one in your family is menstruating, sanitary pads are good for your kit. They are useful for more than just menstruation, making them a good medical supply to have on hand.
Preparedness Kit Action Steps
Now that you’ve done your shopping, here are some things to focus on this week.
- Make a video of everything in your home. This is critical for insurance purposes if your home is destroyed or damaged in a disaster.
- Send a copy of this video to a friend or family member who lives out of town as a backup copy.
- Mark each food and water item in your kit with the date purchased to ensure things are rotated in a timely manner.
- Research homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to find the best coverage for your belongings.
People often forget about insuring their belongings for a possible disaster. I may need to interview an expert on this topic for a future article.
Essential Preparedness: Collecting Water
You’ve probably learned of the horrible East Palestine, Ohio disaster unless you live under a rock. I won’t recap it here, but it is heartbreaking, to say the least. Water is absolutely critical for survival, and if you aren’t prepared with a way to collect, purify, and store water, you will be in for a rough ride.
Here’s what you need to know.
Setting Up and Using Rain Catches
You may find it easiest to use rain catchers and water collection barrels if you live in an area where it rains frequently. Check your local laws before using rain-catching methods because some areas don’t allow them. Crazy, I know.
Depending on the type of rain catch you buy, you can use it in a few different ways. The easiest one to buy is one that attaches to your gutters because it will collect all the rain that runs off your roof into a water-safe barrel.
In addition, you can get rain catchers with funnels on top that direct rain directly into barrels. This method and the gutter method will require you to purify your water before storing it. This is because the water from your roof and gutters may contain bacteria, bugs, and other debris, and even the funnel method may have bugs flying in from the opening.
You can use several methods to filter and purify your water, and it can then be stored in separate containers, transferred to the main collection tank, and sealed. Most people who store water prefer hard plastic containers that are easily stackable and can be rearranged. This makes indoor storage convenient, but you’ll want to find durable BPA-free containers.
A potentially hazardous chemical called BPA can be found in certain plastic containers, and it can leach into water over time, making it an unsuitable material for water storage. The use of this chemical is not common in modern water containers, but it’s still a good idea to make sure.
Water Collection from Natural Sources
Animals in the wild continuously drink from natural water sources, as you’d expect. Whether it’s surface or underground water, there are ways to collect and safely drink it.
First, you should try to avoid salt water for drinking water. Purifying ocean water is possible but much more difficult than getting good fresh water. Instead, look for rivers and springs instead, if possible. Don’t discount water found underground, either. Some caves have natural water reservoirs, and people have dug wells for centuries to pump water out from underground.
Getting water from these sources is more difficult, but it may be worth the effort because the water taken from wells is usually very clean. If you can boil it first and let it cool before drinking it, that’s your safest bet.
When dealing with freshwater sources, running water is typically cleaner than stagnant water. This means the water you get from a creek or stream should be fresher than that of a pond or a puddle. If you can avoid it, it’s best not to drink straight from any natural water source because even the cleanest-looking stream can have harmful bacteria in it. Instead, you should collect and purify it.
You can also use a portable filter straw, like a LifeStraw, for drinking straight from these sources. If you have two of them, one can be used on the go to stay hydrated, while the other is used in a full purification and storage setup.
Water In Extreme Environments
It can be difficult to find natural water sources in extreme environments, but it is not impossible. A freezing area, for example, might not have a good flowing water source. There’s a good chance you’ll be surrounded by snow in such areas. Water can be boiled from snow and ice, giving you clean drinking water. However, don’t eat snow and ice outright, as they can make you even colder.
Water may seem impossible to find in desert areas. Your best option in this type of environment is to seek out areas with vegetation of any kind. This includes cacti and trees, even if they’re sparse. Many cacti hold water within their branches and in their fruit, and where there’s any amount of flora, you can be sure you’ll find some form of water.
Using Filters for Water Purification
Whatever method you use to collect and store water, you’ll need to purify it before drinking it. One means of water purification is by utilizing premade filters or making your own.
Filters use microscopically small sieves that catch larger things like amoebas and bacteria while letting water molecules pass through. Often they use a series of different sized filter media that catches different hazardous microorganisms.
There are plenty of different sizes of premade filters that you can get. For example, LifeStraws allow you to drink straight from any water source you come across. These are great additions to any daypack or bug out bag.
You can sometimes attach those filter straws on either end to a hose and pass water through them to get clean water out the other end. Using this as an in-line filter, you can transfer water from a collection barrel to storage.
Some water filters operate via gravity, with dirty water being placed at the top. As the water trickles slowly through the filter, impurities are left behind, and the water that comes out of the bottom is clean.
Premade vs. Home-Made Filters
It’s worth noting that no matter which method or filter you choose, you must replace them periodically. Every type of filter has a limit on how much water can be passed through it because, at some point, all of the impurities will collect, and water either won’t flow through it or the filter media itself will start to break down, letting impurities through. At that point, it’s no longer effective.
The lifespan of premade filters is typically much longer, and they have exact replacement dates. In most cases, they will last a few hundred gallons before needing to be replaced.
Even if the water is clean and safe to drink, it may still taste bad, depending on the filter you get. Chemical purification and higher-end filters usually remove foul tastes better.
However, if you’re using a trusted filter that’s not too dirty, any water you drink from it should be safe, even if it doesn’t taste good. Drinking slightly gross-tasting water is far preferable to going without any at all.
Chemical Based Water Purification
Utilizing chemicals to purify water can be a more efficient option and should always be done when you’re storing water in a long-term situation. You should even purify store-bought water chemically if you plan on storing it for years.
If you don’t purify water when storing it, even if it’s been filtered, it will start to grow algae and mold on the inside. Even a few microorganisms will multiply over time if they can pass through the filter.
Water purification tablets are the most common form of chemical purification. They can be found almost anywhere camping supplies are sold, and you can easily order them online. Tablets are very easy to use. All you need to do is follow the right ratio, depending on how much water you have. For example, if you have 10 gallons, and each tablet is good for five gallons, you would add two.
One of the biggest advantages of these tablets is that they often eliminate the chemical taste you might get from other chemical purification methods, which can leave a slightly off taste, even though the water is clean.
Bleach is another method that may seem odd to some. This approach seems strange to many people at first because they’re always told not to consume bleach. This is true when it’s not diluted, but not for a large container.
Adding a little bit of bleach to a large amount of water will dilute enough to be harmless to you while also killing off any bacteria or other microorganisms. Be sure to use regular, pure bleach rather than something with added cleaning chemicals or fragrances.
You can also use iodine drops to purify water. Iodine and bleach both kill harmful microorganisms in water. The primary downside to using iodine is that it imparts a strange taste and color to your water.
Iodine is the primary disinfectant in some premade water purification tablets, but you can also buy pure drops directly. Regardless, there is a way to remove the taste. In addition to purification tablets, there are tablets to eliminate the bad taste of iodine purification. You don’t have to do this, but it certainly improves your quality of life.
Be sure to know the ratios you’re supposed to follow, depending on your chemical purifier. You don’t want to use too much or too little because either can make drinking more dangerous.
Purifying Water with Little or No Supplies
In an emergency, you should always be able to purify water without supplies. In many survival situations, you’ll have extremely limited supplies and still need access to clean water.
Boiling the water is one of the most important methods you can use. But with little to no supplies, boiling water is problematic as you need a container and a means of starting a fire.
If you’re an experienced survivalist, you might know how to start a fire using the stick method, but a new survivalist might need a fire starter on hand. Either way, fire is required for boiling water in the wild.
When you don’t have a metal object to hold water, you can still boil small amounts of water using rocks. By heating rocks with divots that hold water and don’t have cracks in them, you can boil the water.
You can also try the distillation method, which is difficult but doesn’t require fire. Distillation involves evaporating and condensing the pure water, allowing you to acquire clean water from almost any source. This method requires you to have some containers, but if you have the right supplies, a condensing system is a reliable way of getting clean water, as long as you have some form of sunlight.
Evaporation works on the idea that impurities don’t evaporate, while water does. A cover is placed over dirty water, and the condensed water is drawn into the center by a weight. From there, the water drips into a funnel connected to a clean water reservoir. The impurities from the water are left behind in the dirty container, while the clean water drips into the reservoir.
Even though setting it up is difficult, it will work reliably if you can find the supplies you need. You’ll need to practice it a couple of times before you get it down.
It is possible to drink straight from the water source in an emergency, but be aware that this comes with a number of risks. Impure water should only be consumed as a last resort.
Keep Your Water Collection Options Open
In a best-case scenario, the water stored in your preparedness kit will be enough to sustain you in a disaster situation. But things rarely go as planned, which is the whole reason preparedness is so important.
By knowing how to collect and gain access to clean drinking water, you will be able to increase your chances of survival in an emergency situation drastically. Keep multiple options on hand, and practice often to ensure you have some purification methods available when needed.