Practical Prepping Blog

Preparations for a very uncertain future. . .

Without Water – You Die!

I read once about the Survival Rule of 3s:  ‘You can live 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, and 3 minutes without air‘.  I’m not sure about the veracity of that statement, but I’m reasonably certain that those numbers are ‘in the ballpark’ anyway.  Seeing though, as no matter how severe any foreseeable crisis might be, I highly doubt it it will result in the total removal of all breathable oxygen in the planet’s atmosphere, WATER should be your first priority.

It’s easy to say that any self-respecting prepper should have several hundred gallons of water on hand in case the SHTF (Stuff Hits The Fan…except the first word isn’t ‘stuff’), it’s quite another to actually do that.  Water is heavy (about 8.3 lbs/gallon) and takes up lots of space and seems readily available at the faucet, so most beginning preppers make the mistake of putting off their water storage plans until they acquire food or communications gear or guns and ammo.  This is a potentially fatal mistake.  Remember: Without Water – You Die! So, let’s begin our Practical Prepping Blog with a plan to manage water resources during an emergency, because, during said emergency, there’s a good chance that dependable whoosh of water from the faucet might be replaced by an even more frightening onomatopoeia: the dry gurgle.

1.  Drinking Water

It is said that a person requires about 2 gallons of water a day.  One for drinking and cooking, another for washing and, shall we say, waste disposal.  As with any ‘rule of thumb’, the numbers can be debated, but, in this section, let’s concern ourselves with the drinking/cooking gallon.  At a minimum, I believe you should have at least 3 weeks of drinking water for every person in your house – about 20 gallons per person.  If you’re in an apartment and space just won’t allow 20 gall/person, come as close to that number as you can.  You can do this most easily by purchasing bottled water by the gallon – a 30-pack of those 16oz bottles might be convenient, but take up way too much space.  If you live in a house, especially one with a garage, I recommend buying a new 55 gallon plastic drinking water drum and storing it in a corner of the garage.  Don’t trust a used plastic drum as you can never be sure what was in it prior to your getting it home.  They are usually blue in color and have a seal-able lid.  Several places online sell them, but it’s better to purchase one locally because the shipping charges are outrageous.

When filling your 55 gallon drum or smaller plastic 5 gallon water cans, wash them out first, fill them from the tap, then add 6-8 drops of unscented bleach per gallon as a disinfectant – even if your municipal water supply is already chlorinated.  Although the water should last longer than a year, I always change the water in my 55 gall. drums every spring – but that’s just me.

2.  Alternative Water Storage.

Assuming you have enough advanced warning of an impending disaster, like an approaching hurricane or brewing civil unrest, there are other means of storing drinking water before the aforementioned Mr. Dry Gurgle rears his ugly head at your tap.  You can use 2-liter soda bottles or large iced tea containers if properly cleaned of residual sugar and other meterials that promote bacteria growth.  To clean them, wash the insides out with warm water and dishwashing soap, then rinse thoroughly.  Fill the container about one quarter filled with warm water, then add about a teaspoon of unscented bleach and shake.  Rinse bleach solution out and you’re ready to use the bottles to quickly get tap water before it gets shut off.

Another means of storing water if an emergency is imminent, is by means of a large plastic bag that fits in an average bathtub and fills through the tub’s water spout.  They hold impressive amounts of water- between 65-100 gallons depending on the size of your tub.  The one I own is called a WaterBOB but there are others.  Just google: bathtub emergency water storage.

3.  Water Filters

OK, you’ve stored enough water for three weeks, got your bathtub water storage for extra security and peace of mind.  Time to think about a good quality water filter.  Why?  Again, see the title of this post.  You can never have enough water, and having a good filter allows you to use captured rain water or other sources of water like streams as drinking water in the event of an emergency of extremely long duration.  Be sure to follow the directions supplied by the manufacturer as to what types of water sources to use and avoid.  Properly used, a good water filter will supply drinking water from questionable sources for a long time.  Remember to order spare filter elements.  The PracticalPrepper has a Berkey Light water filter that he uses on a daily basis to purify our tap water.  Its elements are washable and re-usable and it filters out almost all ‘nasties’ found in questionable water, like giardia, a protazoa.  There are other quality filters, both table top and portable available at camping supply stores or on the net..  Shop around for the one that best suits your needs, and buy it.

4.  Chemical Disinfectants

If your budget won’t permit you to purchase a good water filter this month, then you can fall back on chemical means (and/or old fashioned boiling) to purify alternate sources of drinking water.  Once again, chlorine bleach can be used to disinfect questionable water.  The amount to add to water varies with where you get the information, but 8 drops per gallon seems to be a commonly recommended amount to add to water.  read up on the subject – you might find a better answer.  After adding the chlorine, shake, then let the water stand for about 20 minutes.

Iodine, another halogen for you chemophiles out there, is another chemical means of disinfecting water.  There are several manufacturers of iodine tables to add to water.  Just follow manufacturer’s recommendation.  Keep in mind, though, that iodine, while more effective than chlorine, leaves an aftertaste in the water that many consider unpleasant.  And it should not be used by folks with thyroid problems.

5.  Washing/Waste Disposal Water

Finally, we come to the subject of  washing and flushing water.  No way around it, if you don’t have the space or means to store washing and flush water, you’ll have to use your precious drinking water for that purpose.  If that is the case, try to save any water you might wash and rinse with in a bucket for later use in the toilet.  You can also limit the amount of water you use for washing dishes and utensils by stocking up in paper/plastic plates and plastic forks and knives.  At the PP bunker/home, we have a 15′ above ground swimming pool we plan to use as a source of flushing/washing water.  If you can do the same, you’re in luck.  Just remember to store sufficient chlorine to keep the water reasonably clean and bacteria free.

Finally, a rain cistern, if you have one in your garden, can be used as an emergency source of water.  Here’s where a filter and a means chemical purification can possible provide emergency water in a pinch.

March 4, 2010 - Posted by | Food, Water, etc | ,


  1. Can’t agree more, so many people, especially those who live in areas prone to natural disasters, never take the time to sit down and think “where is my next tall glass of water coming from?”.
    Having grown up in hurricane country and now living in Tornado Alley where we also have debilitating snow storms, I have my priorities set:
    1. Water
    2. Secure the home
    3. Food
    4. Have a written plan that your wife and kids know about (the most important after water being a plan for where to meet in case the house burns down/a sudden blizzard strikes while the kids are at school/take your pick of bad day and bad cell phone coverage)

    Like the site, keep up the posts, I’m reading ’em.

    Comment by Ohio Sean | March 22, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the kind words and glad you like the site. I’ve got a few more posts as ‘drafts’ that I will finish in the next few days.

      Yeah, I like your list, especially the written plan. Kids have to know where to go and hear it several times so it sinks in. Good planning.

      Comment by practicalprepper | March 22, 2010 | Reply

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