American Survival 101


Water 101

Preparing emergency water supplies

There are three things a body needs to stay alive:
- Air: A person can go without air for only a few minutes.
- Water: A person can survive without water for up to three days.
- Food: A person can go without food for up to three weeks.
Let us firstly assume that the air is not contaminated and that you can breath safely (later we will look at surviving if this is not the case). This leaves us with water and food. Water is considerably more important than food for our ability to survive a reasonable length of time. This means that having a supply of safe water is essential to surviving a sustained crisis situation. When it comes to water storage, you have basically two options: 1) buy bottles of water to store or 2) store tap water. The first option is the most convenient. But, if you are to store enough water to ensure your entire families survival over a sustained period, then this will be expensive. If it's stored properly, tap water is every bit as good as bottled water and, of course, it costs a lot less.
Choosing the proper containers to store your water is important. There are several options:
- Buy plastic containers which can be found in most stores.
Be very careful to make sure that they are appropriate for water storage. If not, there is the risk that chemicals will penetrate the container and contaminate the water.
- Disposable plastic soft drink bottles.
Start collecting your soda and water bottles and build up your supply. Glass bottles are also safe, but are more difficult to store and too easily broken.
- Use camping thermos jugs.

Carefully wash the container and let it completely dry before filling it. Add some chlorine bleach, or hydrogen peroxide (about ten drops per gallon of water). This will kill most microorganisms, without having too much impact on the taste. Fill the container completely to the top, to force out all air. Store the water off the floor, in a place where it can't freeze (frozen water will expand and break the container), away from direct sunlight, and away from chemicals.
No matter how much water you store, in a sustained crisis, you risk running out. For this reason, it's important that you have the means to purify more water. There are some water-purification chemicals available and even simply boiling it can be effective. However, the easiest and most reliable way to make water safe to drink is by using a water filter.
The most common filters are ceramic filters impregnated with tiny quantities of silver that kill harmful bacteria. Some ceramic filters are operated by hand-pumping action. A hose is placed into the unfiltered water, and the purified water exits via a spout into an appropriate container. Others rely on gravity. Two thermos jugs sit on top of each other. The dirty water is poured in the top one and the filtered water drips into the bottom one. Some filters are a combination of a ceramic filter with a carbon filter that removes dangerous chemicals. Some filters also chemically treat the water to kill disease-causing Viruses.
The recommended quantity of water to store is one gallon (4.5 liters) for person per day, and ideally another gallon for cooking and washing. Use your judgement when deciding how big a stock of water you can reasonably keep. Probably the best approach is to stock enough water to keep your family going for a week or two and have a water filter ready in case this isn't enough. If you feel that you can reasonably stock enough water to keep your family going for a longer period, then go ahead and do so. The more the better.
Like food, stored water doesn't keep for ever. Rotate your stored tap water every six months. Mark the fill date on each container so that you know when it's due to be updated. Empty the containers, clean them as explained above, and refill them with fresh water.