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How we need to prepare

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Identify what you need to put aside – pt 2 – Water

The first article in our series ‘Identify what you need to put aside‘ is water. Probably the most important yet unrecognised item on our list. Humans, Animals and Plants all rely on water to live and cannot go more than a few days without it. It is essential to our survival.

Although here in the UK water falls from the sky for our uses we cannot rely on this for our survival. Some scenarios we are considering include the possibility we would be unable to access any water or consume any water we can access. That stream running next to your home could easily have dead bodies further upstream contaminating the water. Some animals may be able to consume tainted water but it seems humans long ago lost that capability and that same water could make us ill and kill us. Therefore we must start under the assumption that we will not have access to external water for consumption.

Basic Needs

The average human needs between 2 to 3 litres of water a day just to keep alive and that is if you are just sitting around while you require much more if you are working with even more if you are in a hot environment. We should work on having a minimum of 6 litres of water per day per person just to drink and cook with. This should cover our survival requirements. That means for our survival worst case scenario we need 15 months of water put aside for emergency use. That will keep us in water until we either get out to plant and forage or we simply run out of stores. Many will not have the room for that much water alone so will have to scale down. Remember it is worst case. At 6 litres a day for 15 months, 456 days, is 2736 litres. That is a lot of water and it is just for one person. Multiply that by how many of you are in your group for your total requirements.

So on to our list;

2736 Lr Water (each)

For most that much water will be impractical to store. So you should work towards alternatives. Unfortunately there are no alternatives to water and so you should plan on moving to external water earlier rather than later. To do this you should set up some water filtration systems ahead of time and prime them ready for use or ensure you have a good supply of chemicals to treat the water whilst you get your filtration systems on line.

Water Treatment

There are several ways we can treat our water and make it safe to drink. The best way is to set up a biological filtration system and process it the same way that Mother Nature does. This can be set up now and left running so that we can use it when we need it. The water will have no chemicals in it and can be used for drinking and cooking as well as washing. In most cases it will be better than tap water today. See some filtration systems, here in the water treatment files, which can be set up for our use.

The next way, and the dirtiest, is to use chemicals or the sun to kill any organisms in the water. This will protect us from most of the organisms that will kill us or make us seriously ill but will not protect us from all or contaminants in the water, such as mercury. The normal chemical we use for this is chlorine based bleach although for backpacking and camping out it is more common to use water purification tablets. Sunlight will disinfect the water although that clearly needs the sun which may be an issue, plus it takes longer at about 2 days to kill off the organisms. Simply fill clear pop bottles with water. Lay in the sun and wait. See water treatment files for instructions.

Another way, and the most expensive financially, is to use commercial filtration systems to treat the water. I’ve seen videos of these where water is taken from a cow pat filled puddle in a field, processed and then consumed. There are several versions of these systems ranging from a straw up to a filtration systems that can process several gallons an hour.

A finally method and ironically the most resource unfriendly or the most resource friendly is distillation. This is where you boil the water and when the steam hits a colder surface it turns back into water. This water is 99.9% pure but you lose most of the beneficial minerals using this method. If you boil the water using stored energy such as wood or gas it is quick but very resource unfriendly and if you use a solar still it is slow but very resource friendly.

Each of these systems has advantages in either speed to produce clean water, quantity of clean water, unit portability and cost per litre. Ideally you should have in your stores a mixture to allow you to make choices based on your circumstances. You will also have noticed that in the car kit we had liquids plus water purification tablets and/or a filtration straw marked as preferably both. Whilst in the personal kit we had water purification tablets and/or a filtration straw again marked preferably both. You cannot have too many water purification options.

So add on to our list;

2 Lr Bleach (each)
1000 Water Purification tablets (each)
2 Water Filtration straws (each)

Sand – For filtration system
Gravel – For filtration system
Fine mesh – Stops leaves, debris clogging filtration system
PVC barrels for unit casing
Concrete to make your own unit casing
Tubing 20mm flexible PVC pipe

Water Collection

We also need to consider water collection. Obviously our bottled water comes in bottles so they are not an issue. As water will no longer be coming from taps and instead will be falling from the sky we need to catch the water. Then we can either store it or process it and store it. It depends on your use. As we are looking at this for basic survival we will process it though our system and then store it. Water can be made available to us in two ways. Rain or via stream or river.

If you have access to a stream of river you simply scoop up the water and pour it into the filtration system or you set up a pipe system to pipe the water in.

When collecting rain we obviously want to collect the maximum amount of rain water and so we need to have a large surface area to capture the water. There are several ways to do this but we will look at the main two.

Use the roofs of your buildings and tap into the guttering to divert the water to your filter or storage.

Assemble a sheet to collect the rainwater and collect it into your filter or storage. Usually you hang these from poles so you can angle the sheet so the water flows either into a hole at the centre or to an edge where your filter or collection device is. Bear in mind that swimming pools, fixed or blow up plastic, can be used to collect rain water as well. Fixed ones when you first find them may be full of water as well but be careful of those as the chances are the water from those will probably have poisonous chemicals in it. Use that water for washing and watering the garden with. Once it is empty though it should make a good storage tank.

So add on to our list;

Piping – From stream or from roof
Sheet Thick Plastic – To collect rain
Poles – To hold Sheet at angle so water flows into filtration system or storage
Fine Mesh – To stop pipes getting clogged
Water diverters for existing guttering systems

Water Storage

We must always remember storage. You should keep all your water sealed in the bottle or in a covered container in a cool dark place until you need it. That environment stops your water going ‘off’ where it will need to be treated again. If you store it in other than sealed bottles then you need to watch that bugs and vermin do not get into it. The water tanks in the lofts are an area worth considering for water storage. Rainwater barrels are also a good storage place but as they usually are connected to the roof the water from those will need treatment before human consumption as it will pick up debris, bird waste, etc. If you have the room and security permits a tank or a bladder in the garden is a good solution. A bladder is like a large hot water bottle, usually black, and will stretch to hold the water poured into it up to its limit.

Add to our list

That’s it. Don’t be too concerned about the quantity of water we identified. I always like to think worst case and plan for that. We can only do what we can do.

Next up is part 3, Food.

21 comments to Identify what you need to put aside – pt 2 – Water

  • Justin

    You can buy smaller wheel barrow bladders that are sold to gardeners as a watering aid. They are usually about 80 litres.

    I’d agree that the chemicals used to treat pools are dangerous when concentrated but when used in the pool they are usually fine. Otherwise swimming would be hazardous. If concerned, you could distill it by heating a large pan of it with an inverted lid and a small pan in the middle to collect the condensing boiled water. Good way of treating any suspect water if you have the fuel.

  • half

    I have a ss British berkefeld ceramic filter system, not cheap but you can set up the filters to work in a couple of plastic buckets to safe cash.

  • Skean Dhude


    The bladders are handy to have. 80L sounds about right for moving around as well.

    I was going to do a section on condensing but didn’t. Now I think about it I should have. I’ll modify the article to include that option.


    It seems to be the best one there is. In the US it seems the most popular by far.

  • Loodles

    Hi guys,

    I live in one of the dryest places in the UK, by the sea with tributaries and estuaries close by, can this water be utilised in a smart way?

    I just came across this site and am glad I did!

    Thanks in advance,

    Loodles 🙂

  • Skean Dhude


    Welcome. There are many ways to utilise that resource. At the minimum you can fish, use it for refuge, extract water, salt and use it for cooling and power. I’m sure there are many more

    I’d also be looking at a boat myself.

    I don’t have any articles on the site yet for that but there are plenty about.

  • Bob

    Hi all,
    I’m looking into providing safe drinking water, away from UK domestic supplies, for two people for up to 6 months using chlorine dioxide bleach.

    I looked at Domestos, Tesco bleaches etc but can’t find any that are free from perfumes and soaps. There is a well known US brand called Clorox but I can’t find it in the UK. The Clorox website explains how to use the product to sanitise drinking water. I worked out that I would only need about 100ml of the product in a dropper bottle for the period I was looking at.

    I’m looking at product by Jantex right now. It’s in pure tablet form and is used in the food industry to wash vegetables and food prep surfaces etc. I need to find some instructions to work out suitable strengths for dropper bottles.

    If any body has info on suitable brands I would appreciate a shout.

    Thanks, Bob.

    • Skean Dhude

      Have you tried Lidl, Aldi or stores own? I bought some unperfumed from there a while ago. At the very least for that amount you could try a camping shop and get some tablets specifically for treating water.

  • Paul

    There’s always iodine as an alternative to bleach provided you aren’t allergic to it but I just prefer to boil my water.

    Distillation, the last time I tried that method the return for the amount of fuel used was dire on a little alcohol stove.
    Do you have any good tips?

  • half_pint

    Clorox is sodium hypochlorite, asda and most super markets sell there own brand for around 30p. Its the very thin stuff without perfum, look at the label and it should be around 5% sodium hypochlorite or bleeching agent.
    household chlorine bleach (a solution of approximately 3–6% sodium hypochlorite)

  • Bobz

    I’m just getting into prepping, so am a total newbie, but perhaps have something to contribute to this thread…

    I saw something on Tomorrow’s World over the Summer regarding “Lifesaver” bottles, which are a relatively new creation from a company called Lifesaver Systems. The bottles were specifically designed to help in areas where flooding/water contamination etc. has taken place, and also third world countries. They remove contaminants from water down to 15 nanometres (smaller than the polio virus which is 25 nanometres…apparently!) and sterilise it…even when it contains, debris and contaminants – such as excrement – which is phenomenal!

    There are different packages to suit different budgets, ranging from the standard bottles, which filter and sterilise upto 6,000 litres (around £120 +£10 UK Delivery), right up to a Family Disaster Preparedness Pack (£550 + £10 UK Delivery), containing a large Jerry can, which can filter 3/l water per minute upto 20,000 litres(if it’s available, obviously!) but will store for upto 10 years in its military grade foil, and then last upto another 5 years when in use. The Jerry cans also come with a shower attachment – awesome!

    I’m certainly planning to include one in my kit, but just wanted to share as I think it’s a fantastic addition but I don’t think too many people know about them yet!

    Here’s the website in case anyone is interested:

    Thanks, and happy prepping!

  • Prepper leigh

    Just a quick update fellow Preppers!
    Those of you buying / storing bottled water, Tesco’s have dropped thier 2ltr bottle to 17p again.
    Many thanks

  • John Kemp

    I don’t know if this will help but when I started prepping I identified water as being a priority. Since my garden also needs a lot of water I combined things. I bought two 4,000l, plastic ex-orange juice concentrate containers for £150 [they are about 7 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter] and had them transported to my home. I then rigged up the drainpipes so that my large roof pours everything into these two containers, linked in series.

    To take it from there to potable there are a variety of ways. If you are not locked down, waiting it out then there’s obviously boiling what you need. If you boil water for ten minutes then it will kill almost everything you’re likely to get out of a rainwater trap of any kind. As a tip to help with ‘even’ boiling [this can be a problem for container stability] if you keep some clean gravel -yes I said gravel chips- boil it first of course then throw away the water the first time. It distributes the boiling from the bottom of the container. Just be careful when you pour, obviously. In addition it is more efficient and the water temperature is more evenly at 100c throughout the container. marble chips are the best, this is what we used to use in laboratories years ago.

    Up market of this would be a condenser system but the design and construction of those is the subject matter for another post or poster I think.

    Lastly and this is the one I did, I bought 2 survival water filters called Katadyn Combi filters, from Penrith survival back in 2008 they have more up to date stuff now I’d guess, they aren’t cheap but some technology isn’t. These are awesome as they were designed for mountaineers etc. I bought them for two reasons. One I wanted to be able to safely forage away from my homebase and be able to drink and two if I was in lock down I wouldn’t be wanting to light a fire. I also bought two spare ceramic linings to make sure I could last for some considerable time.
    Tip: whilst it’s amazing that these things can take a dirty puddle that someone has crapped in and convert it into drinkable water, it isn’t smart to do that since the total amount it can filter is dependent on how clean the water is to start with. If you can, it would be smart to collect some of the dirty water into a clear container and let it settle before using a filter.settling can be sped up by using say a 2 litre pop bottle, tie some string around the top very carefully, half fill with water and spin it around your head for a few moments. Not too fast or the string will give way. Even just a hundred rotations at decent speed will cause larger particulates to settle much quicker, just like a centrifuge. If you can do it for a few minutes it will be even better.

  • Bobz

    John, I love your idea about the orange juice containers…was planning to do exactly the same as I found some online for around that price too – much cheaper than the ‘new’ alternatives! One question though, the ones I have seen are all black – how do you keep them cool to avoid evaporation? Or if they aren’t black, how have you managed to avoid algae please? My husband and I have debated on this a lot, but don’t seem to be able to decide on the best place to put them…

    Also, with regards to the Katadyn Combi filters, the Life Saver bottles I mentioned above are probably the upgrade you were talking about. I don’t think it matters how dirty the water is to begin with as they were specifically designed to work in flood/tsunami conditions and in countries where the drinking water is filthy…

    There is probably a YouTube video of the Tomorrow’s World demo (haven’t checked tho), which will show you just what can be in the water, and demonstrates just how far this technology has come – it’s crazy! If you have a supply of water, (even pond/sewage water it seems!) then tablets/boiling etc. are rendered completely unnecessary with one of these things! I haven’t managed to buy mine yet, so have tablets for now, but it’s definitely on my shopping list! 🙂

    • Me_Again

      Bobz sorry haven’t replied before but weirdly I only got a notification today and it wasn’t for your post even! Not sure why the gap. I had actually thought the site had closed. Glad it hasn’t
      My info will no doubt be seriously out of date but anyway.

      Evap has never been a problem. They are lidded with a hole drilled for the roof runoff drainpipes.Mine are at the side of the house in quite a shaded area. In high summer it probably only gets an hour or two full sunlight. In winter I stop collection and drain down to several inches below where it starts to curve to the neck. This will prevent splitting caused by ice expansion.
      Algae is a plant and therefore requires sunlight to grow. I you keep it lidded growth will be restricted to the top few inches.
      Actually algae is likely a positive, it requires nutrients to grow, the amount of nutrient in the water will be reduced by any free or attached algae, to that which will sustain a colony.
      Re the Katadyn filters. They will clean pee into drinking water BUT the more work you give them the shorter the life. Ceramic liner is for particulates the charcoal is for chemical extraction. Both have a life limit based on what you put through them. Therefore the cleaner the water to start the less resource [charcoal/ceramic blocking] is used cleaning the water and therefore the longer they last.
      If I ever need them I will use them as a last resort rather than first choice.

  • Me_Again

    Bobz I’ve gone username now.
    Anyway. I have two of the black orange containers, they come with air tight lids and there are a couple of threaded fill sockets on each. I drilled an appropriate sized hole in the lid of each and one is stepped higher than the other. They are both set on breeze blocks so not touching the ground. In the winter I drain both to about half full way below the sloping shoulder level and switch the rainwater away. This stops any potential freeze thaw splitting, by allowing any ice plug to rise or fall. They are located at the side of my house as I’m lucky enough to have plenty of room. If space is a problem then I’d dig down to part bury them I think, be hard work and you’d be down to using a pump only to get at the water or a bucket I guess. Go down far enough and they could be disguised with garden furniture or features.
    In the new year I will allow drain one completely and jet clean it. Then allow it to fill making sure all the water goes to this one. When it is full I will rain down and wash the other and allow it to fill. I use the water during summer to keep my veggies happy but just enough and not profligate. Even so we can and have drained both in a summer. My backstop is a 12,000 litre pond which has good lily pad cover and only goes down slowly.
    I don’t worry about how clean or not the water in the tanks is because I’ve got the filters and a fire to clean it before drinking. Mosquitoes use the tanks mostly and I’m not worried, I’ve tested both the filtration units and boil and drink. The taste of the boil and drink is remarkably clean.

    I expect the lifesaver ones are just variants of the ceramic Katadyn ones I bought. Regarding what they can do, I recall reading that whilst they will clean any water, the amount of filtration and purifying they do determines the life span of the ceramic filter and the charcoal chemical extraction unit so the cleaner the water to start the longer they will last and the better I think.

    Algae is a plant and requires decent light to grow. Keep the lids on and you may get some around the top but truly it isn’t a worry, it’s just a plant and not harmful, I think the invertebrates in the tank would eat it. I could make a good argument to say that the presence of algae is beneficial because it uses any nutrients in the water to grow and therefore acts as a natural purifier.

  • Bobz

    Thanks Me_Again! 😉

    Going to thoroughly consider all of the above and see how/if we can build this into our provisions!

    Thanks again for the really helpful info! 🙂

  • Mike

    *Instead of the OJ tanks there are also caged liquid container pallets that can be stacked available. If you are lucky enough to be able to site them uphill from your refuge it will negate the need for further pumping or carrying.
    *Cheapest own brand bleaches usually have least contaminating additives.
    *If you are near enough to fast running water you could research building a ram pump instead of moving water manually. (They are inexpensive but noisey and can attract unwanted attention) the parts can be bought, assembled and tested before being stored away again against your time of need. (Underground pipes can be capped and left in situe)
    *Most water filters require regular maintenance, if they are not maintained adequately they can actually contribute to the toxicity levels of the water, make sure you have spares and the know how.

  • Normal4Norfolk

    A young guy on a UK site called MCQbushcraft did a try out on a few portable water filters…very good.


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