Preparing for TEOTWAWKI Part 2 – Water

In my last post I mentioned the “rule of three.” We can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Now I realize that these “3’s” are a little dependent on conditions. If it’s summer in the Midwest you’ll be able to survive longer than 3 hours without shelter even if it’s a bit uncomfortable. If you’re in a desert in Arizona you’re going to need shelter a lot faster. But water is something you really can’t do without for long.

The Mayo Clinic lists these symptoms of mild to severe dehydration:

Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • No wet diapers for three hours for infants
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
  • Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
  • Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be darker than normal
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched into a fold
  • In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Fever
  • In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

The final outcome is death.

You need to have sufficient water to at least keep your body hydrated but you also need it to be disease-free. This article will discuss ways to have not only enough water but clean water.

Most of us get our water from municipal water sources and many from private wells. When those aren’t available we need another source of clean water. The problem is that water is kind of a pain to store. It goes stale and has to be replaced. It takes up a lot of space. It’s crucial to have enough. So how do you solve the inconvenient problem of having sufficient water?

There are many options for storing water. You want something that’s sturdy, reasonably priced, and free of BPA which is a toxin present in some plastic. While you won’t be carrying 5 gallon water containers for any distance you should also consider how well the handles are made and also if they have good spigots. There are stackable 5 gallon containers that are HDPE “food grade” and BPA free. Most folks can carry a container this size. Because the containers are stackable they’re easier to store. And most have an optional spigot so you can conveniently get water.

Many of these containers are opaque and therefore you need to have a way to determine how much water is left in each. You can lift them and gauge the amount left but there are also clear containers that make it really simple.

Bel-Art Clear 5 gallon containers with spigots are a good choice of clear water containers. Each holds 5 gallons (of course). The spigot is nice and long (4 ½”). This means you can draw water while the container is on a table or shelf. And the spigot stores inside the container cap for transport. The opening is a screw top that allows for easy filling and allows you to vent the container. The cap is 2 ¾ “. It features both a handle and a bottom grip for ease of carrying. The big drawback for me with these containers is that they’re expensive. As I write this (July, 2015) the cheapest one I’ve found is nearly $39.00.

If you aren’t in a financial position to purchase stackable containers just buy a couple of gallons of drinking water each time you grocery shop. You can also refill plastic 2 liter pop bottles as long as they are PETE (Polyethylene terephthalate). Just soak them in hot water with a little bleach (don’t forget the caps), rinse thoroughly, and fill with fresh water. These bottles can also be used to store dry items like beans, rice, and dried peas. I throw an oxygen absorber in just to be sure and I freeze the dry items I’m storing in them for a couple of weeks then take them out for a couple of days and refreeze. This will kill any insects/eggs that might be present. The oxygen absorbers will take care of anything that survives.

We’re quite fortunate to have two sources of water beyond our taps. There are both a tributary to a river and a large lake within a short walk of our home. We can reasonably haul 30 gallons in less than 30 minutes. That water, however, is not potable without treatment.
That brings me to the topic of purifying water. There are many options available from filters with ceramic candles which filter over 500 gallons each to a product called Lifestraw which filters over 250 gallons of water and requires no batteries nor electricity. I found Lifestraws for sale at for less than $20 and the more you buy, the lower the price. There are tablets (Aquamira filters the most contaminants), and simple sand, charcoal (not briquettes like you use in your barbeque), and stone filters. Instructables has a good tutorial on building this type of filter at

I recommend trying to store as much potable water as possible before an emergency. My goal is to have 5 gallons of water per day, per person/pet. This would give me not only plenty of water for drinking but water for personal hygiene, cleaning, and even laundry if rationed reasonably. The extra water I store for our pets gives each person even more water since the dogs aren’t into showering every day. Or month. I’m a long way from reaching my goal for water storage but I’m on my way.

By both storing clean drinking water and having other sources you can ensure your family will have enough water to get through an emergency. Drive around your neighborhood to find sources of water you can use. Of course people living in hot, dry areas will want to store more. Just remember to rotate your supply just as you do with food.

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