When water is just a twist of the tap away, it’s easy to forget what a valuable resource it truly is. Only when we find ourselves unprepared and facing an emergency do we realize how necessary it is to prepare for the very real possibility of running out of water. All of the infrastructure we rely on to provide us with clean potable water for drinking and washing can be crippled or completely shut down by emergencies like extreme weather, systems failures, and even disrupted by social and political unrest in the less stable parts of the globe.
With all of this in mind, it only makes sense to take a serious look at what you can do to make sure you and your family are prepared for such an emergency. A little forethought and a tiny investment is all it takes to plan and equip yourself with a reliable means of accessing potable water in just about any emergency.
Calculate How Much Water You Need For An Emergency
The first thing we need to do is consider our water usage. If we don’t have access to our normal source of clean water, the two biggest concerns we have are drinking water and water used in cooking or food preparation. If our access to clean water is restored quickly, our emergency water supply will likely only be used for drinking or preparing a few meals. But should trouble persist, we will also look to our clean water for things like personal hygiene and cleaning.
Water needs vary widely. Individual’s needs vary even day-to-day. Factors such as temperature and climate play a huge role in the amount of water you need to drink, and medical conditions or pregnancy can vastly increase an individual’s water consumption. As a general guideline, FEMA recommends 1 gallon per person per day. Residents of warm climates should consider increasing this amount to account for the heat.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve assessed your water consumption needs, it’s time to decide just how prepared you want to be. Depending on the level of preparation you’re aiming for, you might be able to get away with as little as a few extra gallons of bottled water to hold you over through a storm or a power outage. But if you are planning to equip yourself for self-sufficiency in serious emergency situation, you will want to consider a filtration system as well. As an absolute minimum, we recommend following the FEMA guidelines and securing 1 gallon per person per day for three (3) days.
Affordable portable water filters can literally save lives and provide hundreds of gallons of clean drinkable water from a device easily capable of carrying with you in your pocket. With options as cheap as $20 or less, these filters are a simple investment which everyone should add to their emergency preparation kit.
More advanced filtration options, such as gravity filters, can purify thousands of gallons of water over their filter lifetime. In an emergency situation, these filters can provide clean water for entire households or even neighborhoods if properly configured. While they represent a more substantial investment, typically at least a few hundred dollars, in a true emergency situation they prove themselves invaluable.
How To Store Water for an Emergency
Even if you plan on having a filtration solution prepared, it is still recommended that you have an emergency water supply stored. The simplest and most effective way to prepare and store your water is to purchase bottled water in bulk and do not break or tamper with the original seal. In terms of emergency preparation, bottled water is extremely cheap and can be purchased virtually anywhere. We recommend browsing the Amazon selection of bottled waters for exceptionally good prices on bulk deals with little to no shipping cost.
Commercially bottled water is considered by the FDA to have an indefinite shelf life. That means if stored properly in a cool, dry place, commercially bottled water is by far the simplest and most effective way to ensure you have an easily accessible supply of drinking water on hand in an emergency.
While bottling your own water is an okay solution for short-term emergency preparation, it presents several challenges for long-term storage. If you must bottle your own water, make sure the bottles are thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and sanitize with 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach and rinse thoroughly before bottling your water. After storage, watch carefully for any signs of the water fouling or discoloring and replace any water bottled at home every 4-6 months or more frequently depending on storage conditions. For this purpose, we recommend either standard water bottles, food-grade reusable plastic jugs, or glass jugs (if carefully stored.)
For a much more in-depth look at this topic, read our Storing Water For An Emergency 101 guide.
How To Filter Water in an Emergency
Serious preppers and the emergency-conscious are likely to not only want to store an emergency supply of water, but also be able to purify water during or after an emergency. While storing water is heavily recommended for everyone, the ability to filter and purify your own water gives you a lifeline should your emergency water supplies run out or even be destroyed in the emergency.
There are a couple of different solutions ranging from as cheap as a few bucks up to multi-thousand dollar filtration systems. Let’s take a look at some of the most common options.
- Portable Water Filter: The simplest and most cost-effective solution. Portable water filters like the Survivor Filter costs only around $30 and can filter hundreds gallons of water in a single filter lifetime. Easy to use and highly effective, these devices fit easily into your emergency kit or even your pocket. For more information, check out our review of the Survivor Filter and our Guide to the Best Portable Water Filters.
- Water Purification Tablets: Cheap and easy to store, water purification tablets can be useful but have a limited utility. These tablets kill harmful bacteria and microorganisms in the water. However, they do not provide any type of filtration and therefore do not actually remove anything from the water. These are ideal for purifying water from a running stream or a source of standing water which is not polluted, but they cannot remove contaminants from the water. These can be useful to add another layer of protection when already using a filter, or as a backup should your filter fail. This is not a long-term or cost-effective solution, as for about $10 you get 50 Potable Aqua Water Tablets, only enough to purify about 6.25 gallons of water.
- Gravity Water Filter: These systems rely purely on gravity to draw water through the filter. This means that they work completely independently of any kind of power source or pumping and are absolutely ideal during an emergency. Equipped with some of the highest quality filters available on the consumer market, a quality gravity water filter like the Imperial Berkey is capable of taking even the most disgusting and dangerous water and making it not only safe to drink but even delicious. While they represent a substantial investment ranging in multiple hundreds of dollars, they are capable of providing filtered water for entire households or even neighborhoods. Learn everything you need to know about gravity water filters in our Guide to the Best Countertop Gravity Water Filters.
Don’t Hesitate – Prepare Your Emergency Water Supply Today!
It’s remarkably simple to be prepared and your preparation will make all the difference in a real emergency. You could do it right now, without even leaving your computer! First, order some bottled water – enough for your family to have 1 gallon per day per person. While you’re at it, order the Survivor Filter for just $30 and know for sure you have a means of providing clean water for you and your family no matter where you are. For extra security, throw in some water purification tablets and voila! You are remarkably well-prepared for whatever might come your way. Just make sure to store it properly in a cool, dry, dark location which is – most importantly! – safe from the elements and able to be securely accessed should disaster strike.
Good luck and stay safe out there!
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Learn about emergency preparedness and how to properly store and purify water in an emergency.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.