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Safe drinking water is essential for survival. We’ve all heard you can go three days without water. While this may be true, after a full day without water, you’ll start to have difficulties. You’ll feel thirsty and sluggish. Followed by extreme fatigue, confusion, organ failure, and, eventually, death. And not everyone has the same tolerance for dehydration. Some may experience severe symptoms quicker than others. Making sure you know how to purify water in any situation is imperative.

10 Simple Ways to Purify Water

There was a time I didn’t worry about purifying water. While out hiking in the beautiful mountains, I’d greedily slurp from the bubbling stream. Cool and delicious, it tasted amazing. It may have tasted amazing, but after one trip I got sick. I had giardia. Not fun! Now, no matter how inviting the stream or creek looks, I filter my water before drinking. You should too.


When You Might Need to Purify Water

There are many situations where you may need to purify water, some planned and some unexpected. As mentioned, this could be when your hiking or camping. Or there may be an emergency at home with your water supply such as broken water lines, unsafe tap water, or not having any tap water available.

*If you are new to preparedness, be sure to check out The Top 5 Things You Can Do Today to Start Prepping


Should You Store Water for Emergencies?

Yes, the first thing you should focus on when you start prepping is water. It’s recommended that you have one gallon of water per person, per day. suggests 3 days’ worth of water; FEMA now recommends two weeks. This 16-page PDF from FEMA has information on food and water, including emergency water sources.


Water Storage Containers

Buying water already in containers is fine for short-term needs (so you have something instead of nothing), but the thin gallon jugs do not hold up for long-term storage.

In the past, I’ve collected large soda and juice containers (they’re a thicker plastic), but I now prefer these stackable 5-gallon containers or these larger water tanks. For backpacking, I rely on a platypus, plus using some of the purification methods below.

Don’t ration water! Drink what your body needs each day, even if it is the last bit you have. Plan to find new water as opposed to taking only sips. If you are home, remember the water in your hot water heater and the back of the toilet (not the bowl).

Away from home, look for rivers and creeks, ponds, lakes, and puddles. If it rains, snows, sleets, or hails, devise a way to capture the precipitation. A tarp can become a “roof” by adding a slight angle and bring the fabric to a V with a collection container set below the V. Snow and hail can be melted. Be aware that dry snow melts down to about a tenth of what you started with. Wet snow melts down anywhere from a quarter to a half of the original amount.


10 Simple Ways to Purify Water

  • LifeStraw: Popular for your Get Home Bag, Bug Out Bag, etc. Lightweight and easy to use. Keep in mind, these are for individual use and it’s a straw.
  • Water Purification Tablets: Follow the included instructions. Filter cloudy or dirty water first. You can purify large quantities at one time. Perfect for cooking or family needs.
  • Boiling Water: Bring water to a rolling boil for at least three minutes. Some sources say to boil for ten. Filter cloudy or dirty water first. Remember, you’ll need some sort of fuel and a heatproof container. Water can also be purified in a Sun Oven.
  • Water Treatment Drops: Follow the directions on the container. Filter cloudy or dirty water first. You can purify large quantities at one time. Perfect for cooking or family needs.
  • Gravity Water Filtration System: This is great for making larger amounts of water at one time. This is my family’s preference for backpacking and camping.
  • Water Purifier Bottle: These double as a water bottle. They take a little getting used to, but many people love them.
  • Bleach: Use 8-16 drops per gallon, depending on how cloudy the water is, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Filter cloudy or dirty water first. You can purify large quantities at one time. Perfect for cooking or family needs.
  • Berkey Filter: This is the perfect water filtration system for your home! We filter all of our water using this. The black filters remove most pathogens. You can also add filters that remove fluoride and arsenic.
  • Make your own. When your options are limited, make your own filter out of charcoal and sand or rocks and sand.
  • Solar Still. When there isn’t any water available or the water may be contaminated (radiation, saltwater, etc), a solar still may be your only option. When made correctly, you can gather up to quart of water per day. Dig several to meet your needs. I’d highly recommend trying this out in advance. It may work great in your location or not well at all.


More Preparedness Resources


Are you prepared to purify water in an emergency?

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