Having to drink wild water

This guest post is by Dale Martin and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

In virtually ever facet of preparedness and planning, especially if money is not a problem, there are items you can buy from a commercial supplier. For most of us, however, money is somewhat relevant.

Thus, most of us are constantly deciding on a variety of issues. There are items we can buy commercially. There items we can do without. There are items we can substitute. And, finally, there are some items we can make.

I keep a deck of cards and a set of dominos in my 72 hour kit. I really don’t have to have them; they are strictly a comfort item. They would be an example of items that I could do without easily.

A person might really want to have top-notch electric lanterns or good quality oil lamps for his household emergency lighting. But, if he already has a lot of candles, he can substitute.

Fish traps are a perfect example of a prepper item that can be homemade, and the home-built versions are almost always superior to the commercial made ones you see in sporting outlets.

How does water filtration and purification figure into this arena? Good water is obviously important. It might not make a lot of difference what brand of hunting knife you have in your survival bag, but having good water is critical. Should we bite the bullet and buy a good commercially made system, or is a homemade or camp made system just as good?

Water has a relatively good history in the USA.

Most of us living in the United States are familiar with the little signs that are posted outside of our cities. The signs are posted even outside very small towns. These signs have been there so long that we usually no longer pay attention to them, much like the City Limits signs. They have just become part of the normal landscape that we pass every day, and no longer really notice.

The signs are water quality signs that will say something on the order of “The water in this city is rated Superior”, or some such wording. We are all so used to having good water that we rarely give it a thought. Just turn on the tap, and we have all we want. Contamination? Most of us never give it a second thought. Even a simple “boil water” notice for any particular municipality is unusually rare.

Of course, there are always exceptions.

In 1980, there was a hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania that was traced to a feces contaminated well.

A cryptosporidiosis outbreak occurred in Georgia in 1987 that originated from a contaminated public water filtration system.

In 1993, there was a massive cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Milwaukee. Over a span of a couple of weeks, over 400,000 people became ill with fever, stomach cramps, dehydration, and diarrhea. Over a hundred people died. The cause of the epidemic was never officially named, probably because it was the largest water-borne disease outbreak on record, and no one wanted to take the blame. A sewage treatment outlet a few miles upstream was strongly suspected.

Even small things can sometimes throw a kink in the works. In 1997, something as simple as a contaminated drinking fountain at the Minnesota zoo caused over 350 cases of cryptosporidiosis. Sadly, most of the victims were children.

Most of these events didn’t make big news, even though there were fatalities.

However, given some sort of society altering event that put our water system out of commission, even for a few weeks, drinking what we will call “wild water” would be a wake up call for most of us on just how fragile our society can be in some instances.

As the rest of the developing world knows only too well, there are water borne diseases by the hundreds, if not by the thousands. There are so many water-borne illnesses that simply listing the names of all of them would fill a lengthy paper on the subject. Some are caused by protozoa, some by parasites, and some bacterial, and some viral.

Perhaps the most commonly known of the Protozoan infections are Amoebiasis, Cryptosporidiosis, Cyclosporiasis, and Giardiasis. Giardiasis is perhaps the best well-known as it is (rightfully so) the bogey man of many articles about the dangers of drinking untreated, wild water.

There are also parasitic infections such as Dracunculiasis and Taeniasis.

And, let’s not forget the bacterial infections such as Cholera, E. coli, and Dysentery.

Hepatitus A is perhaps the best known of the viral agents that is water-borne, although it can be transmitted in food as well.

Whether these diseases are caused by protozoa, parasites, bacteria, or viruses will make little difference to the miseries of the infected. Virtually all produce nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, abdominal cramps, and dehydration. As if that weren’t bad enough, for an extra measure, some of these water-borne illnesses add blood to the vomit as well as the feces. Not exactly a cheerful picture.

Let’s look at Giardia, in particular.

Giardiasis (or just Giardia), which is also sometimes called beaver fever, is caused by a protozoan parasite called Giardia lamblia.

Giardia exists in two forms: an inactive form called a cyst, and the active form called a trophozoite.

The inactive cyst can survive easily for long periods of time in fresh water lakes, streams, ponds, and the like. It only takes ingestion of around 10 cysts to begin an infection. And remember, they are microscopic. Ten cysts (or maybe hundreds) could be in a single drop of water.

Then, the fun part starts. Stomach acid activates the cyst, and it develops into the active trophozoite. See the following photo. Looks like a smiley face, doesn’t it. Surely nothing that cute could be harmful, could it?

The trophozoite attaches itself to the lining of the small intestine with a sucker and starts causing the symptoms. Giardia is kind of like the monster in ALIEN that incubates inside people, changes, and then starts all kinds of havoc. (At least, it is small and doesn’t burst out of your chest like in the movie)

Photo of giardia


The nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating, and fatigue begin usually in about seven days, although it can be longer incubating. Fever is not common, but possible. It is the most common form of waterborne parasitic infection. To make a long story short, Giardia is extremely unpleasant.

Even if your wild water doesn’t have Giardia, take a look at the following microscopic picture of typical pond water.

Typical wild water under a microscope

Notice the thousands of organisms in the photo. All these microbial little critters are in just a tiny drop of water. Just a tiny drop. Just think how many of these things would be ingested if we were to drink a coffee cup full of this wild water.

Are all the organisms in this photo harmful? Maybe not. But, would we really want to drink them even if we knew for sure they were relatively harmless?

Whatever the event might be that ruined our traditional water supply might not matter much. Regardless of the event, we would have only a couple of choices. (1) Purify water using a commercially made product like Berkey water purifiers. (2) Filter water through a homemade or camp constructed filter.

There are a lot of options doing either. Obviously, we would want to begin with the cleanest looking water we could find, rather than just dipping a bucketful of some stagnant, mosquito filled pool. Even then, you can’t always tell by looking. There might be a dead deer in the water just upstream from where you collect what looks like clean mountain water. And, sometimes test results of grungy looking water show it to be clear of any problems. Boiling, regardless of what filtering or purifying you do is always a good option. In short, we would all try to push the odds in our favor at every point.

The following photo shows a VERY WELL MADE camp style water filter made from a 2 liter soda bottle with alternating layers of finely grained charcoal, clean sand, rocks, and a bottom layer of clean cotton cloth for the final drip.

Photo of homemade water filter.

In this camp made filter, the layers of charcoal, gravel, and sand are packed as tightly into the bottle as possible in order to make the water (through the force of gravity) filter through the layers as slowly as possible. The longer it takes for the water to filter through from top to bottom, obviously, means it is doing a better job of cleaning than if it just flowed through quickly.

The following photo is a close-up of the layering of the same camp filter. (Forgive the mediocre photography.)

Before I filtered some typical pond water through this filter I even added a couple of normal paper coffee filters in the top (not shown in picture) to give this homemade filter a little added advantage.

The filter operated just about as I expected. I apparently had packed the layers in fairly tightly, as it took a while for the water I poured in the top to filter through into a container below.

However, it was obvious when the now filtered water was held up to the light, that the water still had impurities in it. They were clearly visible to the naked eye. Under a microscope, the water still had the appearance of typical pond water; lots of microbial life.

Frankly, I was surprised. I didn’t think it would be totally pure at all, but I did think it would be much closer to pure and clear than it was.

Also, the homemade filter had another problem. The first few buckets filtered in this less than desirable fashion. After that, the filter became even less effective as it clogged with pond water residue.

And lastly, reconstituting the filter with fresh sand, charcoal, and gravel requires a fair amount of clean water.

We have all seen these designs for homemade filters in survival literature for many years, but sadly, the best I can say about actually using one is that they are better than nothing. Any kind of filtering is superior to drinking wild water as it is, but you most definitely would want to boil the water vigorously to kill the microbes after you have filtered it. That still won’t do anything for contaminants, toxins, and pollutants that might also be in the water.

As a “make it yourself” type guy (see the end of this article for my credentials), I am somewhat surprised. I didn’t expect it to be perfect, but I did expect it to be better.

Now, let’s move on to commercial models.

The following photo shows a Royal Berkey water purifier. It is about 2’ tall, and around 9” in diameter.

It is basically two metal buckets, one of top of the other. Inside the top bucket are the filters. They come with two filters, which is probably what most people use. However, they having fittings for two more black berkey filters. Thus, you can use 4 filters for faster purifying if time is of the essence.

Much like the homemade variety, you pour water in the top, it moves through the filtering product, and trickles into the catch bucket on the bottom. It comes with a spout for ease of retrieval of the purified water.

All of this can be put together in 5 minutes, which is definitely not the case in the homemade variety.

The following photo is the black berkey filter itself that you use 2 (or 4) in the top bucket.

Royal Berkey water purifier

Black Berkey filter

I have read the test results on this filter until I am blue in the face, and these reports are not just the ones that Berkey touts in their ads, but independent labs. To make a long story short, it is roughly equivalent to filtering wild water through a rock. It takes a while to filter through, but it is pristine when it comes out the bottom. This old country boy was very impressed.

Secondly, two filters in this Royal Berkey will purify (and, technically it is a purifier, not just a filter) 6000 gallons of water before they need to be replaced. That is a MASSIVE amount of water.

On the move? Transport is not a problem either. The top bucket even fits into the bottom one for moving.

So, the “just as good” question at the beginning of this article is definitely answered. As badly as I wanted it to be otherwise, the commercial model Berkey is so far ahead of anything most of us could make that it is simply not worth it to attempt. Bite the bullet, and buy a Berkey.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dale Martin grew up in the piney woods of East Texas during the 1950’s and 60’s. Outdoor skills became a natural by product of many hours and days spent in the field.

While in college earning a business degree, Dale enhanced those skills by taking several courses in primitive anthropology. Later, Dale spent a number of years researching both primal and modern survival skills and techniques. Dale developed skills regarding snares, traps, firearm silencer design, military history, and other “off the beaten path” disciplines.

  • In 1987, Dale wrote TRAPPER’S BIBLE, and followed that up with INTO THE PRIMITIVE in 1989.
  • In 2001, Dale was contacted by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and asked to write an article about deadfalls.
  • In 2007, Dale was contacted by THE HISTORY CHANNEL for his input into one of their MODERN MARVELS segments about trapping.
  • In April of 2011, Dale published EVERYMAN’S GUIDE TO OUTDOOR SURVIVAL.
  • He is also the author of the science fiction novel SAFARI WORLD as well as the historical civil war narrative THE SHOT.
  • He is co-author (with many others) of the compilation book EVEN MORE DANGEROUSLY FUN STUFF (FOR LITTLE BOYS WHO NEVER REALLY GREW UP).

This contest will end on August 7 2012 – prizes include:

First Place : 1 Year Subscription to AlertsUSA, 1 Radiation Safety Package consisting of the following;  (1) NukAlert Radiation Monitor and Alarm (5) Radsticker Peel and Stick Dosimeters (1) Box Thyro Safe Potassium Iodide. All courtesy of AlertsUSA. A $150 gift certificate for Federal Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo. And a British Berkefeld water fillter system courtesy of  LPC Survival. A total prize value of over $700.

Second Place : A six pack Entrée Assortment courtesy of Augason Farms, a Nukalert courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply and a WonderMill Grain Mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $550.

Third Place : A copy of each of my books “31 Days to Survival” and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of The Survivalist Blog dot Net and “Kelly McCann’s Inside the Crucible Set” courtesy of Paladin Press. A total prize value of over $200.

Contest ends on August 7 2012.

Water Storage, Collection, Locating and Handling.

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Mar

We have been studying the issue of water for several years.

Living in Texas we not only have to concern ourselves with what would happen during a SHTF event, but, also during a severe drought.

I think all of us here have that gut feeling that one day a water well will be more valuable that an oil well. We just went through the worst five year drought in written history and many believe, because of the spring rains, that we are now in the clear.

Think again.

Most of the lakes in North Texas have recovered nicely but most of them are generally shallower in nature and more quickly subject to reoccurring droughts. Many of the lakes in West, Central and South Texas are still in horrible condition and a handful like (EV Spencer, OH Ivie, Red Bluff, Palo Duro and Champion Creek) are all but empty.

Some major deep reservoirs which hold high capacities of water are in serious trouble…

  • Amistad Reservoir 65
  • Buchanan, Lake 49
  • Abilene, Lake 20
  • Medina Lake 22
  • Travis, Lake 47
  • Corpus Christi Lake 32
  • Choke Canyon Reserv 59
  • Coleman, Lake 39
  • Falcon Reservoir 46

Current % of full pool capacity.

Medina Lake is only at 22% capacity and will probably get completely drained off this year due to down stream irrigation (the primary reason the lake was built to begin with). It was the biggest irrigation project west of the Mississippi 100 years ago. Basically we already have a water crisis in the making even before the SHTF.

We’ve been in a ‘prepared’ position for awhile but always felt we were lacking greatly in the safe drinking water storage area. We had accumulated an assortment of more than 30, 5 gallon plastic water bottles (now returned to the bottled water company for credits) and 100+ one gl. glass bottles. (need to start making wine with these). We have a water bed with 250 gl. of water for other non potable uses.

We also have several 55 gl. barrels set up for rain water collection. BTW, cut in half these also make great potato growing buckets.

We had been to TSC and purchased the 250 gl. tank that was form fitted for the back of my truck for the purpose of retrieving additional water in the future should the need arise. We determined that wasn’t what we really needed so we took it back.

We, of course, also purchased (and kept) the 12 volt and hand (back up) water pumps necessary for competing the fill lifts.

Still we knew we were coming up short on planning for maintaining the needs of our 7 family members.

After searching extensively for a long time we happened to run across a product from a company called Surewater Tanks out of Utah.

They make a 260 upright safe drinking water storage tank with a small foot print, that seemed to satisfy all of our concerns. It‘s oval shaped so it fits through any standard door. We’re resolving theft, contamination and heat breakdown (algae) issues by keeping our water inside.

Unsafe water kills 6,000 people every single day. It is estimated that 80% of illnesses in developing countries are linked to poor water and sanitation practices.

The tank has two faucets for easy filling and water rotation. It’s made of original materials and not recycled plastics thus addressing our health concerns regarding storing water in plastic vessels. We got three of them so I can always put one of them in my truck and retrieve outside water when and if needed. I can fit two tanks in the truck lying down but can only carry the weight of one @ 2100 lbs.

Outside Water Sources:

Having planned well enough to see us through, at least, the first 3+ months of any crisis the need may arise to have to go out and retrieve additional water.

Rain collection water may be highly contaminated. We could use that for flushing down our gravity septic system. Q: What are those people on the new electrical pump septic tanks systems going to do with their waste?

Guess if they don’t have any water stored to begin with it won’t make much of difference for very long anyway.

Municipalities may have had time to put something back together by then but will it be safe to drive to those outlets? They would likely be hotspots for ambushers to operate around. Most muni water really isn’t even healthy to drink now but, in a time of need….This would not be our 1st choice.

We have friends within a few miles who are on wells but they are very deep wells and I question if they will be able to pull water if the electrical grid is shot? We aren’t allowed to drill a well where I‘m located unfortunately.

There are rivers and lakes with 7-20 miles but that water would probably be highly contaminated and not worth the efforts of decontamination? We do have our own 55 gl. gravity flow drum set up for the filtration of any outside water. The pebble rock, sand layered activated carbon type that should provide us with some 3000-4000 gallons of clean filtered water as long as we use H20 from the best possible outside sources.

We have all the water test kits and a variety of chems to clean it up if needed.

Fortunately in South Central Texas there are several flowing springs replenished by some of the underground aquifers. (springs like these can be found in many other parts of the US) These springs offer long term sources for fresh uncontaminated sweet water. Some years ago we purchased a highly detailed map showing every spring in Texas and the average flow rate. This map is the single most importation piece of information in my survival library. If we have to bug out, we know where to go to get uncontaminated water. If we need a long term source of water we will always have several options.

Most of the springs are behind high fenced properties and that could pose a bit of an issue. And, well we’re well prepared for that to. We’re hoping we won’t need to go that route but …one never knows.

What we’ve come to fully realize is that NOTHING else matters if you don’t have good clean water, plans for collection and replenishment, and a good means for cleaning or filtering it.

We can only imagine and never fully comprehend in advance what will take place in only a few days once the faucets stop spewing water. Things have been made so convenient and easy for us that we assume it will last forever. We have all taken so much for granted during this holiday vacation we’ve all been enjoying.

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”—Benjamin Franklin

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com   A total prize value of over $600.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution”  and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company.  A total prize value of $107.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

Well Mining for Water

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Mike M

It’s a well known fact that in order to survive, the need for a clean, fresh source of water is paramount. In any survival situation, water should be in your top three must haves. Shelter is absolutely paramount and so is water – the average human can survive without food for weeks or even months, but two to three days without water and your body will shut down. As someone who works in a water treatment plant I know both how hard procuring, cleaning and distributing water is, and how many people take it for granted and don’t even know how much they actually need it for survival.

Procuring and cleaning water is talked about in great depth for SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situations. Water can be collected from lakes, rivers, steams, and ponds for a viable fresh water supply. You can build various devices to collect rainwater. There is even discussion of using or building devices to distill fresh water from sea or ocean water. All these sources are viable BUT they aren’t the only sources of water. There is an abundance of water all around us from existing infrastructure you can use as a good and even a renewable source of clean water.

Most cities have centralized water supplies and piped distribution networks. Anyone who lives in an urban area probably takes advantage of a centralized water supply. This isn’t true for rural areas. Most people who live on a farm or live in a very small community will have their own private well for water supplies.

A well will give you groundwater. Groundwater, in most cases, is the cleanest source of water you can have. Groundwater supplies, as compared to surface water supplies, almost always have next to no turbidity (dirt in the water that can house chemicals or harmful micro organisms), are much less likely to be home to pathogens (micro organisms that cause disease), and are a renewable supply of water.

In any SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation, if you come across abandoned farmhouses or a small abandoned community, it’s almost guaranteed that there will be a well or wells in the area, a direct conduit for YOU to get water. There are two types of wells you’ll encounter. Dug/Bored wells, or drilled wells, and you can get water from either of these wells. I’ll tell you how to recognize them and how to get water from them.

Bored/Dug Wells

A well that is bored or is dug will be easy to recognize. They are generally very large around, at least three to four feet, and are characterized by having a circular concrete riser. To help, you, this is what these wells generally look like:

A dug well will have different lid configurations but generally the above is what they will look like. It’s very easy to get water from these wells. The hard part is getting the lid off, especially if it’s a full concrete slab lid like pictured above. Bring a few friends with you to help you drag the lid off. From there, it’s as simple as lowering a bucket on a rope and hauling up all the water you’ll need.

Drilled Wells

Drilled wells are a different story. If a well is to be done today, usually it’s a drilled well. This is because drilled wells usually provide more (pumped) water as they can access deeper aquifers, while also providing greater protection from surface contamination. Drilled wells are usually 4” to 6” in diameter, and are characterized by an iron casing sticking up out of the grass. Generally they look like this:

Because drilled wells tend to be narrow and could be deeper, getting water from them is more difficult. You need to bring some tools with you to get the cap off. As well, they usually have submersible pumps. Usually the submersible pumps are located a fair distance below the actual water level so you can still get water from this well. You may have to navigate around something called the pitless adapter. This device is what connects the top of the tubing from the pump through the iron casing to run the water line into the house.

There are two ways that you can get water from this well. You could tie a string or rope to a weighted bag that can fit down the well and lower it, fill it with water, and pull it back up. This will get you small amounts of water at a time and will take you a while but you’ll still be getting water. The other way is to use the inertial method.

This involves raiding a hardware store, if there’s one nearby. You may want to have some of this equipment on you but it’s up to you. The inertial device is simply a check valve and a stiff tube or stiff pipe. The check valve should be a ball check without a spring that can move freely. Attach it to the bottom of the stiff tube and make sure the valve is directed to allow water up the tube and not back out.

Make sure you have enough tube or pipe to reach below the water level, and the check valve end goes first. Then start pushing and pulling. With each down stroke, the valve will open and allow water in the pipe, and the up stroke will bring the tubing higher and close the valve. Each stroke you make will push water higher up the tube until it starts coming out the top where you will collect it.

Obviously, the second method depends on specialized equipment and your own mechanical knowledge, as well as your physical strength (the deeper the well the heavier the pipe will get as it fills with water).

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to tap all resources you will need to get water. Water is one of the most important things for survival. Your body needs it, it’s necessary for cleanliness and as well for first aid (clean your cuts!). There are a lot of wells out there. Many rural out of the way properties will have wells. Look for them, and practice your well mining, because groundwater is one of the cleanest and most abundant water supplies we have.

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com   A total prize value of over $600.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution” A total prize value of $28.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

How much water is enough?

This is a guest post by Tom Sciacca of CampingSurvival.com :yes: .

If you like food as much as I do, it’s hard to imagine that our body can actually go weeks without food. It wouldn’t be fun, of course, but it can be done. But without water, our bodies can get into serious trouble quickly – just a matter of days before dehydration can set in. So why is it that many people keep lots of extra food stored in their houses, but neglect to store any water?

This subject came to mind recently when my cousin told me about having to endure a power outage with no drinkable water. Since power outages often impact water treatment facilities, tap water can be unsafe for drinking. The situation was made worse by the fact that her child had vomiting and diarrhea, which meant that there was an even greater need for drinking water, as well as water for cleaning, sanitation and hand washing.

For instance, a mixture of water and chlorine bleach would have greatly assisted in sanitizing around her child, helping to ensure that others didn’t also get sick. And obviously, you wouldn’t want to clean up after such a mess without being able to thoroughly wash your hands. (As a dad, I know that’s NOT fun!) Finally, water for food preparation is a supply you’ll need over and above what you plan to drink.

Now if you look at the conventional wisdom out on the internet, you’ll find guidelines such as the following:

 A normally active person needs to drink at least a half-gallon of water every day. Hot environments can double that, and children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.

 Additional water should be stored for use in food preparation and hygiene.

 Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day. You should have at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your household.

This is all well and good for the most basic needs, but I recently contacted a very knowledgeable ecologist and cultural anthropologist about her opinion of these recommendations, and she recommended much more. Back in the times when people hauled water from lakes and wells, she told me, a normal household used over 2 gallons of water per person for cooking, cleaning and drinking. Nowadays, people are so accustomed to having plenty of fresh water around that it’s used at a much higher rate. (Don’t forget that people only bathed once a week in olden times!)

So my latest philosophy is that it is better to plan on 2-4 gallons per person per day. Sure, you may use less, but what if the situation lasts longer than you planned? You’ll be happy you had the additional safety margin.

Now, where should you get the water? Well, for a while, I sold canned water, as it can be stored easily for long periods. But after a time, I began to realize that the shipping cost of canned water made it very expensive for customers to acquire (plus, it’s not exactly a “green” practice to ship water that you can get from the tap), so now I just give advice on how to store it on your own.

 You can buy jugs of bottled water or you can fill up empty 2 liter soda bottles (which you’ve thoroughly cleaned, of course). Make sure it’s a plastic that is safe for food use and don’t use them for an eternity. (I’ll cover safe water storage later.)

 Store the water in a cool dark place, such as your basement, if you have one.

 Rotate your water ever six months or so, by using up what you have in your cooking, washing or even flushing the toilet, then replenish the supply.

Keeping water on hand is not simply a preparation for TEOTWAWKI, but a smart precaution against power outages, storms or any other time we lose basic services. It means you’ll be less likely to panic (like all those unprepared people) and less likely to be demanding assistance from already-overtaxed emergency services.

Of course, having an adequate supply of food is important too, but without water, you’ll be majorly uncomfortable in an awful hurry. Fortunately for my cousin, she and her family came through okay, but the anxiety she felt during the situation helped her recognize that you can never have too much water on hand.

In a follow-up to this blog, we’ll talk about what types of containers are safe to store water in and how to make sure bacteria growth doesn’t ruin your day. See you then!


Tom Sciacca is President of CampingSurvival.com, specializing in wilderness and urban survival.

Let’s talk about water storage

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Cliff C

I’ll start off by saying that I’m in west Georgia and the bulk of our state has been under drought conditions for several years. I believe it was two years ago when our local reservoirs were almost empty (it gave the county a good chance to clean out the old tires (close to 1000) that had been tossed into the water over the years and to clean out the old sunken boats, junked cars and other trash and garbage that has accumulated over the years. The reservoirs have pretty much refilled and since there is no housing boom and so many houses sitting empty they will remain pretty close to full for the foreseeable future.

The only thing that will change that is if the drought continues. Our drinking water comes from a couple of very large pumping stations and several reservoirs around the county. In grid down the pumps would work for an estimated 72 hours before the fuel for the generators will run out and the ability to keep the pumps running will become iffy. The wastewater treatment plant will be in a like situation and they return cleaned water to the Chattahoochee River which is the main source of drinking water for most of Atlanta and a large part of the state.

The river has a natural beginning and is supplemented by opening the dam on Lake Lanier almost daily to keep the river running. We share that river water with 2 other states. Currently Lake Lanier is about 15 feet below full pool and is dropping. So, public service supplied water sources will not stand up to the demand very long after a grid down or disruption.

So, with public water sources in question I have to look around to see what local sources. There are 3 wet weather streams within a mile walk or so from here. Unfortunately, they are exactly what they are named; they only run when the weather is wet. Even though we’ve had some periodic rain showers, it has not been enough to keep the streams flowing.

No public pools, no private pools around within walking distance, no easy water source so, the only option is storing water.

I have tried various methods over the years for putting up water. At one point I had 10 55 gallon drums filled and sitting in the basement. I have a hand pump and put in the chlorine bleach and that left 550 gallons of water available. It took up a lot of space, was hard to move around and when it comes down to brass tacks, 550 gallons isn’t all that much.

I got rid of those and bought a couple of king size water-bed mattresses and built a 2X6 wooden frame around the first one, put in the liner and bladder and then filled the first one (no idea of the total gallons), then put a ž inch plywood sheet over that and built another 2X6 wooden frame to go around the next one, put the liner in and then the mattress and filled it with water. I took all the usual conditioning steps.

Again, this took up a lot of room and the vinyl the mattresses were made of seemed to be reacting to normal light, not just sunlight, so I ended up emptying those and tossing them. On the interesting side, when I cut the bladders up so I could move them they were full of algae. So, another great idea didn’t work.

I bought several of the 8 gallon containers from Wal-Mart. Filled them, stacked them and left them alone. Later as I waked by I saw a small puddle forming and one had sprung a leak. The other 7 or 8 are still intact but that’s still not enough water.

I have a 275 gallon water tank in the basement that I direct the air conditioning and dehumidifier condensate too and I keep it right about the 250 gallon mark. It’s gray water, not for drinking and I don’t believe it could be purified in order to drink but I could be wrong. We have 3 adults, 2 commodes and 2 dogs so we will need a source of gray water just to flush the commodes. We are on a septic system, not sewage, and my system is a pump system so as water fills the main tank it spills over into another 1000 gallon tank and when that reaches a certain level a pump comes on and pumps that water out into the field lines. I consider all that black water.

The pump and alarm (pump failure alarm) are both tied into the mains for the house so in grid down I’m not sure how long it would be before I would have to uncap the 2nd tank and hand pump the water out. Nasty water, it would make a mess and smell but otherwise all the water would come back into the house. I’ve bough a small generator but not sure how long it would hold out or what to do if the pump in the tank goes bad.

Now, I do keep between 40 and 50 cases of bottled water on hand all the time. That’s not going to last all that long when all your food is dehydrated and has to have water to be edible. I have a dozen half-gallon bottles in the storm shelter in case we get stuck there but in the global scheme of things that’s not much water either. I have a “bathtub bob” for each of the two tubs and I think each one will hold about 60 or 70 gallons (too lazy to look it up) and sit in the tub and we will be able to pump potable water from them. That’s provided we get enough warning before the public water service goes away.

I have rain barrels at all my rain spouts but with our spotty rain most of them are sitting really close to empty right now.

So, those were my options and the steps I took. I know I could order a large bladder or series of bladders from the people who make water tanks and they could be filled from the faucet at the back of the house as long as I have a water safe hose. Again this would be time-consuming, it’s not something you want to leave in place just in case (kills the grass it sits on and looks really unsightly but given enough thought and time that would be an option. Failing to get them in or to get them filled will be a bad situation.

So, what other options are there? You can not drill a well here. Most of Georgia sits on a giant granite slab (see the pictures of Stone Mountain if you get a chance to google it) so any digging down is going to be met by rock. Also, since all the houses within the immediate 5 or 6 mile circle are all on septic tanks so black/gray water is going in to the ground water all the time. We also have no idea of how much chemicals have gone in to the ground water over the years from the asphalt manufacturing plant (ah, asphalt in the morning, it doesn’t remind me of war). There is a quarry but the “quarry lake” is pretty much dried up.

So, ideas? We are not bugging out. I have older family members and responsibilities to my neighbors so we’re going no where. I have also been told by GEMA that even though they have an evacuation plan, there is nowhere for people to evacuate to. One state is not going to take all the people from another state in, share their supplies and welcome us with open arms. So, here we sit. Also, all the routes out of here are easily blocked as we saw when we had an epic flood 3 or so years ago and there were no roads in or out of our county that weren’t underwater and if you didn’t have a boat you were going no where.

I’d love to hear what you are doing; what you consider a reasonable amount of water to put up (no way I can see to have a years worth of water on hand unless you have your own well or your own water tower), and how you store it. I believe when the SHTF there are going to be a lot of thirsty people around with no access to potable water. What do you think?

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

Lifestraw water filter system

In my bug out bag, I have two Sport Berkey water bottles, these work great and besides filtering out waterborne pathogenic bacteria and heavy metals the bottles do double duty as a canteen of sorts. But, with clean water being second in importance only to oxygen for survival, I’ve been looking to add yet another water filtration system to my bug out bag.

For utility, I’ve divided my bug out bag into two separate bags, a full-sized backpack being the main bag and a smaller pack (US PeaceKeeper Rapid Deployment Pack) for essential items, you know the stuff you can not live without.

With the two bag system, it is easy to hide the larger bag, or leave it at camp while still allowing me to have those “must have survival items” on my person at all times without having to carry the weight and bulk of the full-sized bag.

But, while the Berkey bottles are great for a full-sized bug out bag they take up to much space in the smaller bag, so I’ve added the LifeStraw water filter system to my kit.

According to my research the LifeStraw removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% waterborne protozoan parasites, and will filter approximately 264 gallons of water.

When I received the LifeStraw in the mail, the first thing I noticed when I opened the package was its weight, or lack of it. At 9 inches long with a 1 inch width, it weighs about as much as a pack of cigarettes, but instead of killing you with toxins the LifeStraw could save your life by eliminating them.

When using the LifeStraw for the first time, it takes a bit of work to get the water flowing up through the filter but once you get the water moving through the straw it is easy to keep it going and to continue drinking. I could not detect any difference in taste (I used clean water for the test) when using the filter than when drinking straight from the cup.

My only complaints are that I would have liked to have had color options when purchasing, a nice olive drab would have been nice. But overall, I think the LifeStraw will be a great addition to my bug out bag and at a price of only $19.95, I think I’ll buy anther one for my car kit…

The Last Resort Water Source

This is a guest post by Kim B

[This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win a number of prizes including an 84 serving storage bucket of Wise Food Storage, 500 rounds of 9mm ammo, a NukAlert a copy of my book The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat and a copy of my CD It’s The End Of The World As We Know It – And I Feel Fine . For complete rules and list of prizes see this post.]

Imagine no water for miles. Not a trickle in any surrounding creeks, streams or rivers. You have used up nearly every drop that you could fit into barrels, bottles and other containers and you know that you are not going to live long if you do not get something to drink pretty soon. You have scoured every square inch but have found no thirst-quenching sources. No water in any wells, backs of toilet tanks nor in water heaters. Zilch! All sources are dried up and your life is “up a creek” without a boat, paddle or life vest.

A few months ago, a drought suddenly hit the entire country and there has not been a soul in sight that would even think to help remedy the situation because the country that you and they live in also turned into third-world nation three months prior. Some still have money but most do not. Things are bad because those that do have no desire to give up any of it to help others for fear that it will result in their own downfall and suffering equal to yours.

The money that pays for their use of electricity runs their air conditioners and buys their water and they like being cool and hydrated. From their point of view, the tradeoff is not worth it because they do not see why they should suffer when you had every opportunity to prepare ahead of time. You would not approach them because you know all of the people around you and they are selfish as they have demonstrated that they are not concerned with the welfare of anyone but themselves.

No matter how many times they refused you when you were in serious need you have not lost heart. You feel bad for them because the dams are running out of water and they are going to lose power within a matter of days. Without electricity, people’s conditioners everywhere will be useless. The tables will soon turn and with limited supplies you will be forced to turn everyone away.

The government has promised to bring water, food and other supplies but no trucks or personnel have shown up nor has word been sent. The situation has been purely frustrating and you are sick of waiting. You have also grown tired of seeing the number of “have not’s” growing while the “have’s” continue to turn a blind eye. Unwilling to sit around any longer, you consider leaving the area because of the news that you received a few days ago of there being a water source located seventy-three miles away.

Without the government fulfilling their promises, the thought of a source of water has been the only hope that you have had for staying alive since the drought first took over. Staying, you would be able to pretty accurately calculate your demise. Leaving, you may have a shot. You are scared to go because you have no vehicle and you will not be protected from the burning sun. Without replacement water, the elements are going to dry you out like a piece of hard leather.

If you do not do something to protect yourself, you will have a good battle with hyperthermia on your hands. It would not matter anyway if you did have a car because there have been no jobs for a very long while so you, like the rest of the population that is penniless, do not even have a cent to your name with which to purchase even a mere drop of gasoline. You know that everyone in the country has already tried the trading and bartering scheme and has milked the situation for all that it was worth, from the big cities right down to the smallest of towns.

You really want to pull out your hair but because you would get burned so you leave your greasy strands alone. Packed up and ready to make the trip, you sit down to wait for the sun to get a little lower than it’s current one o’clock position. As you settle in for the next few hours, you start to think about things that would have kept you cool.

Your thoughts take you to the opportunity when you could have taken that bank loan you had applied for but did not because you were not sure that it was the right time to undertake that much debt. You V-8-slap yourself when you see that, with the huge loan you let pass by, you could have had a concrete bunker set into the ground with ten-inch thick walls, a hook up for a solar panel which was led into an air conditioning system setup, a fifteen-hundred gallon water tank cooled by a solar-powered refrigeration unit and so much more.

To get over the loss you caused yourself, you come to that simple small solar generator that you could have instead purchased with a smaller loan. Upset over your actions, you begin to kick yourself. Had you taken the small loan, you could have taken the awesome generator with you on your way to get water.

You dream that while waiting it out during the daylight hours, you have enclosed it and yourself inside a few thick cardboard boxes, completely covered by shade, until nightfall. You keep asking yourself why you did not get it. You repeatedly envision how easy it would have been to tape two washing machine-sized boxes together and cut out a sufficient hole for the back of the machine to stick out of.

You feel deep regret because you would have been able to sleep more comfortably and be ready for each night’s ride. Moreover you would have been able to use your electric scooter for part of the distance and arrive a day or two ahead of schedule. As the time to leave has arrived, you focus upon the task at hand, remembering to grab your water and a few empty bottles that you can use when you get to your destination. You have not urinated for a while so you…

If you were to finish that sentence, without telling anyone, how would it end?

If you have decided not to collect every drop of urine and fill every bottle in your possession with it, at least halfway up, then you just opened the door to Mr. G. Reaper.

On the other hand, if you have chosen to save everything that your bladder would produce then the story continues and leaving to go after water works in your favor. It was while packing that you included a small unit specifically for distilling your urine as it contains a lot of water. You have only to place your urine in the distiller and sit back because the heat during the day is the fuel source that will do the work of extracting a nice quantity of pure drinkable liquid for you.

The fact that urine contains more than 85% water and can be drank after it has been distilled is worth it’s weight in gold. Double distillation is not absolutely necessary but if unsure or leery after the first processing then there is no reason not to give it another go in the distiller. It is okay to drink distilled urine and I like the fact that it is much safer than downing it “fresh out of the bladder” which would make me expel the contents of my stomach. Having no relative odor or taste after processing I would not feel uneasy that I was going to lose my lunch and entertain potentially dire consequences.

Several things should be considered when working with urine. When it becomes warm it will begin to have an odor. The longer that it stays warm or the “hotter” that it gets, the stronger a smell that it will produce. When temperatures are very warm or excessively hot, it would be best to distill fresh urine as soon as possible to keep bacterial creatures from overcrowding and holding a “Stink Fest”. Never touch any part of your hands to your eyes, nose or mouth if urine has made contact with them as you do not want to transport bad bacteria and suffer an infection.

If an all-out drought happens, similar to Africa’s or reminiscent of the Dust Bowl, with all plants and water “gone”, there would not be a lot of choices about where your water will come from.

[M.D. Adds: While drinking urine can help postpone the onset of dehydration it is not a long-term solution – it should also be noted that one of the symptoms of dehydration is a lack of urination. Drinking urine straight from “the tap” without distillation can worsen dehydration because of the high amount of salt in it.]

How about you. Would you drink distilled urine to save your life or see you through a survival situation?

Preparing for Power Blackouts – Plan Ahead and You Can Weather Any Storm

According to dallasnews.com cold has crippled 50 power plants, triggering blackouts for thousands across the Dallas-Fort area. Power outages are nothing new and thousands of homes are without power every year in the U.S. most for only a few hours, but some for days or even weeks – would you be prepared if the power stayed off for several days or even months?

Such extended power outages are a real possibility after a serious hurricane, winter storm or even the result of a terrorist attack affecting the power grid or an EMP strike. The U.S. runs on electricity, without a functional power grid the U.S. would come to a standstill. Without electrical power, gas pumps no longer work, scanners at the supermarket will fail, radio and television stations go off the air and computers fail to connect to the web.

Could you provide for your family?

Everyone should plan for and prepare for the possibility of being without power for an extended period of time, but where do you start. What do you need to put away so the next blackout won’t become a nightmare. Let’s take a look…

Have Safe Water

Every emergency kit should begin with a safe supply of drinking water. Granted, if you are on a municipal water supply your water may not be affected by a power outage, but you should still stock up. If backup power fails at water-treatment plants then that water may become unsafe for drinking or cooking and need to be boiled, or treated before use. Including water in your emergency kit is always a good idea no matter how secure you think your current method of supply.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing at least one gallon of water per day per person for emergency use. A normally active person needs at least one-half gallon of water daily just for drinking they state. You’ll also need to take into consideration age, physical condition, activity, diet, and climate to determine needed qualities. And don’t forget about your pets, they need water too.

I live off-the grid with most of my water provided from a nearby spring, but I still include stored water in my emergency kit. The easiest way to store drinking water is to simply buy bottled water from the supermarket shelf. But it is cheaper to store water from your own tap. I store most of my water in six-gallon water jugs bought in the sporting goods department at my local Wal-Mart for the purpose. But you can use cleaned 2 liter plastic bottles instead.

Some of the readers of The Survivalist Blog, have asked about using milk jugs for water storage, and I always recommend against it. While milk jugs can work short-term, they are prone to leakage and the plastic deteriorates quickly. Milk jugs are also more susceptible to bacterial growth because of milk proteins that are often left in the container even after cleaning. A much better solution is two liter plastic soda bottles.

If using two liter plastic soda bottles the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends sanitizing the bottles after cleaning with dishwashing soap and water, by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, there is no need to add liquid household chlorine bleach to tap water before storage as this water has already been treated by the water utility company. In this case all you need to do is fill the bottles to the top and tightly screw on the cap.

Emergency Food

Next you need food. This should include things your family already eats you just need to store extra for your emergency kit. Canned soups, meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, dried fruits and vegetables and crackers for example will last at least a year if stored in unopened air tight containers.

Self-rising flour, corn meal, sugar, salt, rolled oats and other died goods should be stored in air tight, food safe containers made of plastic or glass to keep out pests and moister. One mistake a lot of people make is not using what they’ve stored. They buy up a bunch of foods for emergencies; they put it on the shelf and end up throwing it out when it passes the listed expiration date.

This can be avoided by implementing a simple food rotation program.

Date each container with a permanent marker or date stamp and use on a first-in first-out basis (FIFO). As each item is used in your normal everyday meals, replace that item with a new product of the same value, date and repeat. If you follow this simple principle you will never have to discard food from your emergency kit and will always have a fresh supply on hand for emergencies. With canned foods this rotation can be automated by building or buying a building a rotating canned food shelf.

I suggest you keep at least a two-week emergency food supply on hand at all times, several months to a year would be even better, but isn’t practical for most people. This food storage calculator is a big help when determining needed amounts, but it isn’t exact and you will have to make the final decision based on your family’s eating habits.

Heating and Cooking

Most power outages in the U.S. happen during periods of extreme weather. For example, in 1993, I was without power for three weeks after an ice storm blanketed my area. Luckily, I had a fireplace for heating and cooking and a supply of wood to keep the fire burning. But, many folks aren’t so lucky and need to make other preparations for cooking and staying warm.

Kerosene heaters can be used for heating and even cooking with certain models, for example the Alpaca Kerosene Cooker. Kerosene can be stored in large quantities for long periods of time without any special treatment. It has been estimated that a gallon of kerosene will provide about the same heat output as a wheelbarrow load of wood!

Kerosene is easy to store and has a longer storage life than does gasoline. I store kerosene in blue cans marked for its use. Mistakenly pouring gasoline into a kerosene heater, could have dire consequences. Following a color coding system helps avoid this possibility.

The main disadvantage to using a kerosene heater is that they can be smelly if not used properly, they have to be refilled every few hours and the wick needs to be replaced every few months depending on how much the heater is used during that time.

The standard fuel container color coding system is blue for kerosene, red for gasoline, and yellow for diesel. I suggest you follow this system. You’ll need roughly two – three gallons of kerosene per day with continues use, so for two weeks you would need a minimum of 28 gallon.

Keep in mind that this is only an estimate and actual usage will depend on several factors. Including but not limited to the type of heater, quality of the fuel, condition of the wick (don’t for get to add an extra wick to your emergency kit) and environmental conditions where the heater is used.

Propane heaters like the Mr Heater Buddy can be used indoors and in my opinion they are safer and more efficient than the kerosene heaters mentioned. I’ve used one of these heaters for the past two winters to heat my travel trailer with no problems what so ever. They work great and I like not having to refill the tank every few hours or needing to replace the wick as is the case when using kerosene.

I drilled a two-inch hole through my floor beside the outside wall and connected a 100 lb propane tank to my Mr Heater Buddy heater via a hose adapter and filter then sealed the hole around the hose with expanding foam insulation. This also has the advantage of keeping the fuel source outside. One 100 lb tank will last me over a month even in the coldest weather, if I keep the heater burning at the lowest setting.

The downside to the Buddy heater are that they are difficult to cook on and you’ll need a stove just for that purpose if you don’t already have a gas cook stove in your home. I suggest a small propane Colman camp stove; these can be found in the sporting goods department at your local Wal-Mart or Kmart.

It is recommended that portable gas camp stoves not be used indoors as the fumes can be deadly. Using the stove in a ventilated area will help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. In other words crack a window or door and have a working carbon monoxide detector if you must use the stove for cooking indoors. And make sure the stove is turned off after use.

Miscellaneous Suggestions

Most of these items can be stored in some sort of bug out bag, five-gallon plastic bucket with gamma seal lid or plastic totes until needed.

  • A good first aid kit
  • A sleeping bag for each family member
  • Several pairs of wool socks for each family member
  • Thermal underwear for each family member
  • A battery-operated or crank radio and extra batteries
  • A deck of cards, jigsaw puzzles, and board games etc.
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Prescription drugs and other needed medicine
  • Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Chemical fire extinguisher
  • Battery powered smoke alarm
  • Battery powered carbon monoxide detector
  • Disposable plates, bowls and utensils (to avoid wasting water washing dishes)

If you have any other suggestions or questions feel free to ask in the comments below. Stay safe my friends.