Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Becoming A Texan Prepper - Part Two - Water Storage

For basic survival, each person in your family will need a gallon of water every day, according to the federal government. So, you will need 12 gallons of water for a family of four, for a three-day supply. (4 people times 3 days equals 12 gallons).

One method of storing this small amount of water is to buy cases of water at your local grocery store, discount retailer, or warehouse store.

Another method of storing this amount of water is using 2 liter soda bottles, so a family of four would need 24 bottles. (4 liters in a gallon; so 2 bottles per gallon times 12 gallons equals 24 bottles) You can use other sizes of #2 plastic soda bottles. These bottles come in 16 ounce, 1 liter, 2 liter, and 3 liter. Just adjust the number of bottles to the size of the bottle. (1 liter bottle: 4 bottles per gallon times 12 gallons equals 48 bottles)

Now, most folks won’t drink 24 2-liter bottles of soda in a month, much less a year. So, ask friends and family, who drink soda, to save these bottles for you. When you ask, make sure to have them save the screw-on caps, too. Just in case, you might need a cover story, to protect your preps. (remember that healthy dose of paranoia)

To prepare a #2 plastic bottle for water storage all you need to do is rinse the bottle and cap, inside and out, using regular tap water. Why, just tap water?

Most municipalities put chlorine in their water, so you don’t need to add chlorine for cleaning or storing your water. You can use soapy water to clean the bottle, but you have to make sure you rinse the bottle, very, very, very, well. If you don’t, you can cause everyone to get diarrhea from drinking the soapy water.

I personally recommend adding chlorine to your storage water. This adds a level of protection to your stored water. Just in case.

To add chlorine to your storage water, you will need chlorine bleach with at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite with no additives, scents, or other chemicals. Clorox bleach used to be the standard, but they changed the formula. I now use a different brand, but it still has at least 5.25% hypochlorite with no scents or soaps. You will have to read the label to find this information.


"New Information from American Red Cross"

Using bleach (that is newly purchased, with at least 5.25% hypochlorite) to treat your water.

4 drops per liter/quart

An example: one 2-liter bottle gets 8 drops of bleach

1 teaspoon/5 mL per 5 gallons

An example: one 5-gallon bucket gets 1 teaspoon of bleach

1/4 of a cup/50 mL per 55-gallon barrel

An example: A 25-gallon barrel gets 1/8 of a cup of bleach

The above recommendations are used to pre-treat the water for storage and drinking.

Storage water should be rotated at least once a year. Rotating insures that you have a reasonably fresh supply of water. I like to do this in the summer. It is warm outside and there is extra chlorine in our municipal water supply (tap water).

Now, most Texan Preppers are going to want to have more than a three-day supply of water, so you will need larger containers. Just like the 2-liter bottles, there are other recycled containers you can use.

One recycled container is the 5-gallon bucket. Many different items come in these buckets such as cake icing, berries, pickles, sauces, and other food items. You can get these buckets with lids from school cafeterias, bakeries, or grocery stores.

Don’t ever use buckets that have contained non-food items like asphalt, paint, and chemicals. The same goes for buckets that you don't know what has been in the container.

Another used container for water is the 55-gallon plastic barrel. They come in a variety of colors. I try to stay with the blue, white or natural plastic colors, just because. Just like the 5-gallon bucket, only barrels that have held food or drink items should be used.

No matter which type of container, new or used, you use; you will need to clean the container and treat the water.

To clean the bottle, bucket, or barrel just rinse with tap water using a garden hose and spray nozzle or your kitchen faucet. Insure all solids and residue are removed from the inside and outside of the container, don't forget to clean the lids.

Some people say to use a power washer for cleaning your larger containers.

I disagree!

Unless it is your brand new, never used, power washer, unknown chemicals such as soaps, waxes, or other cleaners have been used in the power washer, especially the rented ones.

Some used 55-gallon barrels have had soda drink syrup in them. Try as hard as I can; I can't initially remove the taste. I have found rinsing then filling the barrel with water and letting the barrel sit for a few weeks then emptying then rinsing and filling again helps to remove that Mountain-Dew taste.

If you don’t want to save some money, you can use store bought containers. You can find many of these water jugs, usually 5 to 6 gallons, on the internet or at local retailers. The same rules of rinsing the container and treating the water, still apply.

No matter the size of the container you store your water in; you are going to have to protect your water from sunlight by storing your water supplies in a dark place or covered with a tarp, this prevents algae growth in the water.

This one-gallon of water recommendation only covers water for drinking. As most Texans know, we need water for other uses such as flushing the toilets, washing clothes, and watering our gardens.

For cooking, we are going to need more potable water. Potable water is another way of saying water we can safely drink and cook with. We can use non-potable (can’t be put in a pot for cooking or drinking) for flushing toilets and possibly washing clothes.

The way I store non-potable water is in cream colored 55-gallon plastic barrels. They are marked, using a permanent marker, with non-potable water written on three sides. These marking make sure I don’t forget what is in the barrel.

Sooner or later, your water storage is going to run out. You are going to have to decide on how to replenish that water for you and your family.

One method is using 5-gallon buckets or other large-mouth container such as pots and pans to collect rain water. Simple, cheap, and everyone has some pots in their home.

Another method is using a blue tarp. You form the tarp into a cone, kind of, and catch the water as it runs off the tarp. I like using 5-gallon buckets. The bucket holds a lot of water, so I don’t have to run out into the rain to change the container.

You can also use a sheet of 4 mil or 6 mil plastic sheeting from the hardware store, a poncho from the military surplus store, or your house’s roof.

To use your roof, as water catchment, you are going to have to clean your roof because bird poop, grit, and other pollutants collect on the roof until it rains. Right now, a lot of folks are thinking they have to hose of their roof off just before it rains.

Nope. All you have to do is build a roof washer. A roof washer is a simple device that diverts the first few minutes of rain before allowing the remaining rain to flow into your collection containers.

The Montana State University has a pretty good one displayed in their publication “Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Montana” number MT 9707.

Another great publication is “The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting.” Hawaii also has an excellent book called “Rainwater Catchment Systems for Hawaii.” Both of these manuals are the best, and since they are free for the downloading; they’re also the cheapest. Both books will teach you how to design, build, and use a water catchment system.

During a disaster, Texan Preppers may be able to also access open sources of water such as lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and other sources. All you have to do is find the water source and mark it on a map for later use. If you plan to use an open source of water, you are going to have to disinfect the water.

To disinfect water from a suspect source such as a pond or river, just use chlorine bleach or boil the water. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has a good publication on water disinfection.

Basically, you filter the water, to remove any big particles, through a towel or t-shirt. Next, you boil the water for three minutes. Some folks will remember that the boiling recommendation use to be ten minutes. I have seen one or two sources say that a rolling boil for one minute is fine to disinfect the water.

With chlorine bleach, filter the water through a towel or t-shirt then just follow the recommendations for pre-treating your storage water. To get rid of that chlorine taste let the water sit for about 30 minutes or stir or shake the container. The stirring and shaking drive off the chlorine in the water this will also make your stored water taste better.

If you have some money, you can buy a water filter. Water filters come in several models. I’m going to describe them as portable and camp models. Don’t let me confuse you because all of the filters are portable.

There are only about three recognized camp models of water filters: Katadyn, Berkey, and AquaRain. All three are expensive, very expensive. There is a method of reducing this cost. Basically, you buy 3 or 4 of the filters and use 5-gallon plastic buckets to construct a camp model filter.

Daire from Alpha Rubicon has an article on making a Home-Made Berkey Water. The article can be viewed at

Daire's pictures are excellent. Notice the nuts to hold the filters tight while the filters are still lying on the bucket lids. One change I would make would be to put two blocks of wood between the upper and lower buckets. I would do this because I don't want the nuts to have to hold 40 pounds of water.

The portable models of water filters are numerous. You will have to do your own research because there are so many.

Now, our homes also hold a vast amount of water. Just think, how big is your hot water heater? Most houses have a 40 to 55 gallon water heater. To get to this water, all you have to do is drain the tank. Make sure you turn the hot water heater off first.

Before you access the water in the water heater, you have to shut the water off to the house. The reason, you may pull contaminated water into the house from the city water lines. This will contaminate your water.

Another source of water in your home is the water pipes. To collect most of the water in your pipes, open a faucet at the highest point in your home then open another faucet or spigot at the lowest point in your home. The water will drain from your pipes. All you need to do is catch the water in a clean disinfected container.

They last method of collecting water that I will write about is the solar still.

Solar stills are a classic way of collecting water. You have probably seen it in most survival manuals. You dig a hole. Put a container to collect water in the bottom of the hole, and then form a piece of plastic sheeting into an inverted cone that covers the hole. The sun shines and evaporated water collects on the plastic. The water very slowly runs down the plastic and drips into the cup.

The survival manual usually forgets to tell you to put a small stone in the bottom of the plastic to hold the plastic in a cone shape over the cup and a length of clean tubing, rated for potable water. The tubing sits in the cup and runs out of the solar still. This set up allows you to drink the collected water without disturbing the solar still.

Solar stills work, but you have to remember; you are looking to produce one gallon of water a day, just for you. I have heard it takes about 20 of these for one person.

The solar still can be supercharged by urinating into the hole, avoid peeing into the drinking cup, adding green plant material in the bottom of the hole, or putting non-potable (can't put in a pot to cook with or drink it, the opposite of potable) water in the hole before covering with the plastic.

If you supercharge the solar still insure the non-potable water or plants never touch the plastic. If it does, the water collected will be contaminated.

I can't urge you enough. Don't contaminate your clean equipment and potable water. One drop of non-potable/dirty water can cause severe medical problems.

A modified method is skipping the hole and just putting green plant material in a plastic bag. Set the bags in the sun and water will form on the plastic. If you use this method, make sure you use food-grade bags and avoid poisonous or harmful plants like Poison Ivy.

A variation of the solar still is a distiller. Basically, you heat the water and allow the water vapor to collect on a clean sheet of metal, glass, or plastic. Allow the condensation to collect and drip into a clean container. A distiller is the only method used on water from a waterbed because of the plastics and chemicals used in most waterbeds.


Montana State University - Rainwater Harvesting Systems for Montana

Texas Water Development Board - The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting

University of Hawaii - Rainwater Catchment Systems for Hawaii

University of Hawaii - Rainwater Catchment Systems

EPA - Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water

Wikipedia - Solar water disinfection

Alpha Rubicon - Home Made Berkey Water Filter by Daire

Someone You Know


1 comment:

Savage Possum said...

Here's a bit of a tip on the sodium hypochorite. If kept in the original pastic bottle, you will have a spill within 2 years. The plastic bottle is only made for short term containment. Additioanlly, each time you open it, it will loose some of it's potency. Recent posts on other sites suggest using the dry powder form to make small batches as needed.