Date Published: 2021-06-16

Purifying and Storing Water During SHTF

Purifying and Storing Water During SHTF

By Adelia Ladson

The Importance Of Having A Reliable Source Of Water

One of the first things you have to consider, when preparing for SHTF, is assuring that you have safe drinking water for your family. The one thing that will take you and your family out without question is dehydration. No ifs, ands or buts. A person will die of dehydration if they don’t have water and it will happen in about three days: four if they’re lucky. That’s why you need to make sure that you have a clean, reliable source of water or a way to make the water, on-hand, safe to consume at your Bug-Out Location or Shelter-In-Place Location.

Where Do You Start?

Basically, water can be found or collected and then filtered or chemically purified or boiled to make it safe for consumption. It can also be collected and stored or stocked as part of your food prep in the form of commercially bottled water. The important thing is that you assess your SHTF shelter and make a decision, now, on what route to water security you’re going to take.

Sourcing Water

It all depends on what and where your SHTF shelter location is and what sources are available to you. You can find a variety of sources of water in suburban or urban environments by thinking and planning ahead of time or when planning your bug-out location, make sure that there is a large body of water near it that you can use as your source. You can also install a precipitation collection and storage system in your shelter location.


Whether you live in a high-rise or a suburban home, finding water is what you’re going to have to do if your shelter property isn’t in a location that is very near to or has a river, lake or pond. You’ll have to get it from anywhere that you can find it even if it’s from a toilet in a public restroom or from a decorative fountain in front of a commercial building. Of course, the ideal would be sourcing it from a lake or pond in a park or greenspace.


The easiest and most simple way to collect water is through precipitation. If it is raining, then all that is needed is a reliable container and snow can be collected and melted, if worst comes to worst in the winter. However, remember, you’re planning ahead of time to prevent the “worst comes to worst.” So, to me, the easiest method is to have several rain collection barrels, or large trashcans positioned to catch the runoff from your roof and under all of the downspouts on your house. This will give you a good replenishable supply of water for non-drinking purposes unless you treat it for potability. Of course, having a swimming pool in your backyard is the ultimate way to collect water.

Water Storage

Having a water storage system or plan will ensure that you and your family have enough water for everyone’s daily requirements and for the cleaning and cooking needs after SHTF. Bear in mind that you need to have enough water stored to provide two gallons of drinking water per family member per day. In addition to the two gallons of water a day, you will need water for flushing the toilet, bathing and cleaning. When storing water you need to consider three things: how to store it safely, how much to store and when to rotate the water supply.

How To Store Water Safely

The first thing that you need to consider with drinking water storage is that it’s stored in safe containers to keep it from being contaminated. If you’re stocking up on commercially bottled water, then obviously they’re safe. Also, if you’re reusing soda bottles that you’ve cleaned, they’re good. If you’re looking to buy containers for drinking water storage, make sure that they’re FDA approved for water storage. You don’t want to just buy any old container because you risk chemical residue being leached into the water. When you’re storing water for other than drinking like for flushing toilets or household cleaning chores, the water that you catch in rain barrels or trash cans can be used as is. The container isn’t that important of a consideration.

How Much Water To Store

Realistically, how much water you store is going to ultimately depend on how much space you have in your SHTF shelter location and how close you are to your water source if you’re not collecting precipitation. Remember, first and foremost, you need to make sure that everyone in your family has the daily requirements of drinking water, which like I said above, is two gallons per day. Then, move up from there into what you need for the rest of the tasks that require water. Organize your water storage plan into potable and non-potable water. Since, water isn’t going to be flowing freely, plan to minimize the amount you use, especially for tasks like bathing, washing dishes and washing clothes. Also, ration toilet flushing or look into a non-flush, composting toilet or similar system.

When To Rotate Water Supplies

Once you have your water storage plan in place, you need to make a schedule of when it should be rotated out. Although, water can be stored for a long period of time, it can’t be stored indefinitely without becoming unsafe to drink or cook with. Water that’s been sitting for an extended amount of time has the possibility of eventually growing bacteria, even if it’s store-bought. With your stock of commercially bottled water, you can generally go by the expiration date stamped on the bottle, as long as you store it in a cool, dark place. For your self-bottled stock, you should rotate it out every six months. The other alternative, if you want to store it longer, is to purify it before you use it for drinking or cooking. Rotating out your water supply that’s for cleaning and bathing is not as big a concern.

Filtration And Purification

Once you’ve found or collected your water supply, unless you want to get something nasty that will make you and your family really sick or kill you, purify what you drink and cook with. Even, if the water looks clear, that doesn’t mean microscopic creepy crawlies aren’t swimming around in it. Rain water is usually pretty safe but my feeling is “an ounce of prevention….”. Having some kind of water filtration and purification system in place is an absolute must! Then, you can source your water from anywhere, even your front yard or street, and make it safe to drink. So, with water that you’ve found or collected, the first thing you need to do is to filter out any sediment by straining through a piece of cloth or a very fine mesh sieve. There are several options when it comes to purifying water. The simplest way is to boil it for a good ten minutes at a good rolling boil. Just good, old household bleach, in large quantities, should already be a part of your SHTF shelter’s inventory. You need an effective way to disinfect your living environment and absolutely nothing kills germs like bleach, which also makes it a very effective water purifier. The ratio is eight drops of bleach to one gallon of water. Another chemical purifying method that I suggest is Rothco Military Water Purification Powder because it will eliminate most bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms that may be found in found or collected water. The powder comes in small packets that can be dropped in your pocket and has a three-year shelf life. There are also self-contained, personal water filtration and purification systems out there that don’t take up much space in your bug-out gear if you’re going to have to travel to your bug-out location. One of my favorites is the Mini Water Filter Straw. With this convenient little piece of equipment, you can actually just stick it into a creek or pond and drink to your heart’s content. You can also literally take it down to a public bathroom, stick it in the toilet and drink without worry. Just as easily as drinking a soda with a straw. It can also be threaded onto a standard water bottle or attached to the collapsible water bag that’s included with it. Another personal filter that I like is the Trailblazer Pump Water Filter, which uses a hand-pump system to pump clean water into a container.

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