Survival Basics

Building up your water stockpile

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Notice that we said water stockpile as opposed to “learn how to filter water” or “buy a water filter”? There are some good reasons why you want to stockpile water in advance rather than relying on purification or sourcing new water:

  • You can freely stockpile water now, while it is available.
  • During a disaster, water purification or filtering is time consuming and slow. When first encountering a disaster, you need water, not a water filter. You don’t have time to filter water for a sick or injured loved one. You can filter water when things calm down, but during the outset, you need water.
  • Filtration and purification rely on an available water source to filter or purify in the first place. You don’t have time to find such a water source during a crisis.

Okay, you’re sold on the merits of building up a water stockpile. So how do you actually do it? We’ll walk you through it. The first step is to calculate your water needs. Remember this handy rule:

Minimum water needs = 1 gallon per person, per day

While you could technically get away with using less water if you were just, say, watching TV on the couch, for example, during a disaster you tend to sweat lots of water away rapidly. Most people are forced to be active during a disaster because their life depends on it. Also, keep in mind that during a disaster, you won’t be eating as much, and that your food contains close to 50% water, which is where most people actually get their water, since few people will drink a gallon of water per day.

Okay, so you need one gallon per person per day – but for how many days? FEMA and other local and state disaster planners will often cite a 72 hour number, but we feel that’s far too conservative. Few if any natural or manmade disasters capable of severing the water supply are resolved within 72 hours. While 3 days worth of water are better than nothing, it’s still a really, really tight reserve when you think about it.

We recommend a minimum of a two week water supply, and we think that 30 days is optimal in most cases.  

If you’re in utter shock right now at the sheer amount of water you need, let us tell you why we feel that way:

Naturally occurring water that is drinkable is a relative rarity in most American cities. Even cities that have rivers or lakes nearby are subject to contaminated water.

All surface water must be assumed to be contaminated. Pathogens such as E. coli, Giardia, Salmonella, and Hepatitis B are present in much of the untreated water supply, and thus this water needs to be boiled or filtered.

During the initial phases of disaster, you want to focus on dealing with the disaster, not filtering water. During the recovery phase of the disaster, you want to be able to mix some filtering activity with some reserve water supply usage so as to extend the water you already have.

Basically, two weeks worth of water is not an extravagant amount, and neither is 30 days really. Let’s get into the meat of how this is accomplished and make a checklist.

Critical Assumption: Let’s say for the sake of argument your family has two adults and two children. That’s four adults for all intents and purposes. Do not assume that kids need less water than adults – technically that may be true, but it is false economy to not have one gallon per person per day!

So 4 people multiplied by 1 gallon each = 4 gallons per day. Assuming we are going the full run of 30 days, we therefore require 120 gallons of water for four people for thirty days.

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