Long Term Water Solutions: Bugging In

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Water is second only to oxygen in the hierarchy of survival. Without it, in 3 days, you’ll die.  But it goes much further than that.  Water is vital for basic sanitation, for growing more food, for raising livestock, for cooking, and for treating injuries. So even if you have enough to drink, without enough for those other needs, your chances aren’t good.

The solutions you choose for water should be based on whether your plans for long term survival are bugging out to a secondary or unknown location, or sheltering in place. This week we’ll talk about solutions for bugging in.

There are several aspects to water that you should consider if your long term plans are to bug in at your current location. Many of these solutions can also be put into place if you have a secondary location to which you will travel in the event of a crisis.


First things first, you must store water.  This is absolutely the initial step that people should be taking in their preparedness journey.  The good news is, it is also one of the least expensive preparations.  There are many different ways to put back a month’s supply of water.  We store drinking water and water for pets and sanitation.  Keep in mind that in the event of a disaster, even if water is flowing from the taps, it may not be safe to drink. Waterborn diseases  like typhoid kill many people in the aftermath of natural disasters, sometimes causing more deaths than the disaster itself.

When I moved to this location, I bought spring water in one gallon jugs. We used this for drinking and cooking water (we are on municipal utilities and we don’t trust the supply for consumption.) Once we emptied a one gallon jug, we then refilled it with tap water and stored it in the basement.  This is our back-up supply for sanitation and for our pets. We have just over 300 gallons of tap water stored.

For drinking water storage, I purchased some of the large BPA-free 5 gallon jugs. We also have a top loading water dispenser that can be used whether or not we have electrical power. I have gradually acquired a one month supply for 4 people of this water. In my basement, I have stored 30 of these jugs.

The standard advice for drinking water is one gallon per person per day.  I like to add a little bit to that in order to have extra for cooking. Also keep in mind if you are working outside, particularly in hot weather, you’ll drink more than a gallon per day.  Sick people and pregnant women also tend to hydrate more.

Water is heavy.  Be sure when you choose a place to store it that you won’t impair the integrity of your structure. For this reason, storing it all on one end of the attic might not be the best idea, depending on your situation. Also, keep in mind that extreme temperatures can cause plastic containers to break down. Depending on the type of plastic, this can leach harmful toxins into your water.  If your water is subjected to freezing temperatures, it expands and can cause the containers to burst.

Learn more about water storage HERE.


This step is even more important than storage, particularly if a situation turns long-term.  What are you going to do after that water storage runs out? You can’t store a 30 year supply of water, in most cases. You have to be able to replenish your supply.

The best solutions are either a deep well or a natural spring on your property. Those will keep you in fresh, pure water indefinitely in most cases. Some exceptions are if the groundwater is contaminated due to a natural disaster like an earthquake or a manmade disaster like fracking.

Some naturally occurring sources to look for if you have yet to acquire your property are rivers, creeks, lakes, or ponds.

Keep in mind that you may be transporting the water from its source to your home. Look into back-up solar pumps for your well, and be sure that a manual pump is also available. If water is going to have to be carried for any distance, consider what type of conveyance will make the job easier. As people age or become injured, the job of carrying two buckets full several times a day will become a lot more physically strenuous.  A sturdy wheelbarrow, pushcart, or wagon would make the task easier.

If your property doesn’t have these natural resources you must plan a catchment system for rainwater.  Depending on your area, you may want a cistern or other enormous amount of storage for the water you harvest. If you get frequent precipitation throughout the year numerous water butts at the corners of your structures may supply enough water for your needs, including supplementing your garden. (Be warned that the eco-police in some places believe that the government owns the water falling from the sky – rainwater catchment is illegal in some states.  Many may wish to disregard this flagrant insult to natural law.) You can learn more about rainwater harvesting HERE and HERE.


Bear in mind that the water from most natural sources MUST be filtered, so an investment in a high quality water filtration system is vital. I have a Big Berkey. I can only personally recommend Berkey because they are the products that I use myself.  When you purchase your filtration system, go the extra step and also purchase extra elements and “bits and pieces” in the event that repairs are needed. I have enough elements to keep us in safe water for many years to come as well as the spare parts to replace the wear-and tear items like spigots and gaskets.  There are also elements that can be purchased to remove the additives in municipal water, like fluoride, aresenic, and other toxic chemicals.

It’s important not to just purchase a filtration system and leave it in your closet until it’s needed. Particularly if water is in short supply, you don’t want to waste it as you try to figure out how to use your system or as you run a gallon through before using it for drinking water. Practice now while water is readily available.

Learn more detailed information about water purification HERE.


Finally, if the availability of water is limited, you must make every effort to make it stretch as far as possible. I recently wrote about the drought situation on the West Coast and the toxic water due to a chemical spill in West Virginia.  Our resources are finite and it doesn’t pay to waste them. This would be even more true in a world without water as near as the closest kitchen sink. If you have to go to the well or the creek and haul every drop of water your family uses back to the house, you will have added impetus to make the most of it.

Installing systems in your home to make use of gray water and black water can help you make the most of every drop of that precious liquid.

Gray water can be used for watering plants, for example, and sometimes for cleaning depending on the origin of the gray water. Gray water is the water that comes from bathtubs, showers, and clothes washing.  Systems can be devised that separate the disposal fo gray water and black water, and the gray water can be diverted for use in irrigating your garden. Learn more HERE.

Black water is the water from human waste, like toilet water or dish water, and contains bacteria and pathogens. There are some recycling systems that make black water acceptable for use in watering outdoor plants.  Learn more HERE.

You can find more ideas for conserving water HERE.

What are your plans?

Everyone’s situation is different based on their setting, their personal needs, and their naturally available resources. The solutions that might work in the rainy Pacific Northwest would not be appropriate for those who live in the desert of Arizona.  The three basic principals are the same wherever you are: you need some water stored for short-term emergencies, you need a way to replenish your supplies should the crisis become extended, you need to make your water safe, and you need to make it stretch as far as possible. The lists here are based on my family’s situation and are by no means comprehensive or universal.

It’s important now to look at your situation and come up with solutions that will work for you where you are right now.  Do you have some ideas to share, particularly ones that are unique to your geographic setting?  Please do so in the comments below.


Learn more about preparing for a water crisis HERE and HERE.

Learn more about the contaminants in your water HERE.

Buy Berkey products HERE.

Learn more about establishing a long term water supply HERE.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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    • Maybe you should do some research!

      If your so smart you tell me what chemicals on this list is “safe” for water consumpution?


  • Good post. When water is cut off to farmers, there are laws preventing some from collecting rain water that falls on their property, advertisements are promoting the safety of fracking by the companies that have everything to profit and nothing to lose, it was predicted that water was going to be a good stock market investment several years ago, and a CEO declares that water is not a human right, it it is time to wake up.

    • I am at 8000ft “high desert” in NM. All of my stored water(2700g) comes from rain/snow from my roof. I pump it through a reverse osmosis system in the house. We always get enough moisture to keep my storage tanks near full. Woe be to any “agency thug” who tries to infringe on my system.

  • Not only does water have some rather interesting properties, water is life! I do not take the supply of tasty, cool, clean, abundant (having enough; not strictly rationed) water lightly. It is too precious. In fact, I am reluctant to move from my present location, because I love the water. Human life is very fragile. We have all been lulled into complacency on this matter due to the improvements during the 20th century and the beginnings of the 21st, fluoridation and other pollutants not withstanding. It doesn’t take much. You were absolutely correct in mentioning typhoid!

    “Epidemic typhus (also called “camp fever”, “jail fever”, “hospital fever”, “ship fever”, “famine fever”, “putrid fever”, “petechial fever”, “Epidemic louse-borne typhus,”[1] and “louse-borne typhus”[2]) is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters. The causative organism is …transmitted by the human body louse.” ” For example, typhus killed hundreds of thousands of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.””Without treatment, death may occur in 10 to 60 percent of patients with epidemic typhus, with patients over age 60 having the highest risk of death.”

  • I see nothing wrong with the comment on fracking. When you punch a bunch of holes through aquifers to pull up oil/gas, how could it “not” mess up the water supply.

    At this point, I don’t give a damn if our “government” (the key word there is “our”) states we can’t collect rainwater. If it falls on my house….. I’m keeping it.

    • All I’m saying about fracking is, educate yourself on the process of drilling and fracking and not get your information from sources like CBS News. Those stories about burning gas coming out of water taps have been proven not to be a result of drilling or fracking. Those people just wanted money (they didn’t have mineral interest so no royalty payments, they knew that when they bought the property).

      Not to say there wasn’t gas in the water, my grandparents had gas in their water in the 30’s with No drilling in the area then or now. Gas and oil are not found everywhere nor at the same depth, sometimes it can be found as shallow as 15 feet, just not in paying quantities, and there can be some crossover in the zones that can result in gas in the water.

      It just stuck me as odd that the article suggested storing water in plastic bottles and was typed on a computer with plastic keys. What is plastic made from? Its from byproducts produced in the distillation of oil to make gasoline.

      By the way I’m all for organic food and less government intrusion in our lives. I didn’t know how drilling was done until I researched it. TRUST NO ONE, and do your own research.

      God be with you always.

  • I get my water from Lake Houston…. Sometimes I think it would be better to drink from a fracking area from what I’ve seen “swimming” in a clear glass.

    I double filter. One of which is for fluoride. Water is just one aspect of the attack against us. You do what you can to fight back.

    You’re welcome to visit and comment on my site anytime Dave.


    I posted this article with some more comments.

  • I understand that drinking and cooking water needs to be purified, but what about the water used to clean the dishes? The food goes in and on the dishes. Do I plan to use my drinking water for this?

  • An addition to my above on “reverse osmosis”. The final filter stage is a UV light (for the little critters).

  • I run an aquaponics system in a greenhouse in my yard. This supplies fresh veggies and fresh fish pretty much year round. The system (2 fish tanks and 4 ea 4′ x 8′ grow beds) holds a total of 1200 gallons. In addition, I have 2 extra IBC containers holding 330 gallons each. Check around locally, used IBC containers (Intermediate Bulk Container) are used to ship foods and liquids everywhere, but they are also used to transport harmful chemicals. Food grade IBC’s can only be used once for food, then they have a new tank installed, or are sold. I purchase mine from a local organic gardening supply place, who gets them from a local dairy. They are available in 275 or 330 gallon sizes, generally around $150 for a food grade IBC in good condition.
    The main issue here is, if you don’t know what was in it, don’t buy it.

  • For sure, before you start reclaiming water, check your local laws…..and if they prevent you from reclaiming water (gray or storm water, especially), start a grassroots campaign to either get those foolish laws rescinded, or the foolish politicians replaced!

    My town (small city in Texas, of just over 100,000 people) recently started recycling waste water treatment plant effluent (which would normally just go into a local stream, which a town downstream uses for part of their drinking water), through a reverse osmosis treatment plant, and into our lakes we use for our drinking water supply. Those lakes are barely holding on at less than 25% capacity, after over 5 years of drought (the only thing that’s keeping us going this year is more rain than usual, and a cooler summer than we’ve had in recent years). Believe me, there’s plenty of jokes about “we put the #2 in H2O”!!

    We had one city waterworks employee, in the upper echelon, who voiced his opinion that if people were reutilizing tap water for secondary purposes, like watering plants, they were violating the (stage 5) water restrictions, which don’t allow you to water outside (only your foundation, only one day a week). The ruckus he raised was quickly taken care of by the city council, who stated that no one would be ticketed for reclaiming gray water. Good thing, as that fellow almost started a civil war here! LOL

    For me, I buy bottled water (I use <3 gallons a week for cooking and drinking, and buy spring water from Walmart, for $0.88/gallon, bottled in gallon jugs), and save the empty jugs for future use. My biggest problem now will be finding a place to store them all! I also reclaim water from my daily showers, by placing a 5-gallon bucket in the tub, down in the vicinity of the drain. It's not a perfect system, as I can't capture all the water used, but it only takes 2-3 days to fill (I shower in <5 minutes), sends some of the water down the drain to the poop plant for re-use, and gives my two big trees each ~5 gallons a week, to keep them alive (along with the occasional rain we get).

    If you get enough rain, make sure you're reclaiming the water running off your roof, too! While it won't be clean enough for drinking water use (without some major filtering), you can still utilize it for watering plants, or even for flushing your toilets, via buckets. I've been thinking of setting up a cheap swimming pool in my back yard, and running my downspouts to it, so I can do that very thing.

    One last note: if you're really hurting for water, especially to keep your outdoor plants alive, don't forget about your #1 source. And by that, I mean when you go use the bathroom, and do a #1. While you don't want to use urine for food crops, there's nothing wrong with using it (watered down a bit) for ornamentals. Added benefit, the nitrogen that's in your urine will probably help the plant grow better, too!

    Just remember, plants like to be talked to, so make sure to tell it that it's your #1 plant. 😉

  • Pardon the thread necromancy, but… Berkeys and similar systems. My beloved wants to start a saltwater tank. Which, unless we want to pay through the nose for water, means getting an RO filter. I see a chance to kill two birds with one stone here. Will a Berkey filter to the degree needed for salt water aquariums?

    • I’d recommend emailing a Berkey distributor to learn the answer to that, Anonna – I couldn’t even guess!


  • Great article! Everyone needs to be aware that our most precious resource “Water” is limited. I plan to invest in a Berkey filtration system being that you can practically filter any type of water including pool water. Thanks!

  • Good page about the issues with safe water.. have you seen the safe water projects being done by P&G (pg.com) and by Grosche ( http://www.grosche.ca ) in India and in Africa too? they are creating safe water and improving health, and in the case of grosche also creating employment. you may want to check it out. Both have their own Safe water projects that create safe water in poor areas.
    These use BioSand water filters and in the case of the Grosche project also create employment, moving from a relief to a development model.
    the issues can be solved, but will need to move beyond the relief model to become sustainable.

  • Hello, Organic Prepper. I’m a real fan of your site, as it combines some of my family’s key interests like no other. I wanted to leave a comment with my thanks, and to share an experience I had. My children once again started off the school year with the prerequisite submission of three days of emergency food and water per child; a standard here in Southern California.

    This year, I finally pulled the trigger on some research I’d been doing for a solution other than plastic water bottles (or those damn pouches). I’m not a fan of plastic in general because of environmental reasons, and my wife for health reasons. I found a company that sold “soup can” water that was guaranteed for 30 years, but they require a church key to open (something a child shouldn’t have to work out in a crisis). From all indications, they aren’t even in business anymore; the inventory that’s available is all that’s left.

    The best choice I came up with is a product by Blue Can, which comes in a standard pop-top. They guarantee it for a ridiculous 50 years. It’s pricey compared to bottled water, but factoring in the cost of replacement actually makes it the cheapest option by far. My wife and I cracked a can to make sure of the taste, and we were both startled by the experience. Maybe it’s psychological, but it was the best flat water we’d ever sampled. Shame that the cost makes this prohibitive as a regular beverage.

  • Your article minds me of the current drought in CA. A lot of those people have been wasting water for years (half the place is natural desert anyways, what’s up with the green lawns?) on green lawns and washing cars, and now they’re whining about having to conserve. Boo freaking hoo. Well, except for the rich folks, they’re all whining about how they have the money to pay for the water, why can’t they just have it and pay extra?

    Amazing. This state has been wasting water for decades…and nobody saw this coming? Apparently nobody knows the story about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and how the place came to be a desert. And the rich are just plain stupid…if the water is gone, it’s gone. No amount of money is going to get them any more.

    They should have pushed for gray water systems for their lawns a long time ago. Now they’re screwed.

  • I recently came across a brand that offers a 3-in-1 portable hygiene system that is equipped with a self-closing valve to reinforce water conservation. It’s called HandyShower and looks really promising. I can’t wait till they start shipping worldwide. But I signed up to become their tester, hope they choose me!

  • In some locations and seasons, as little as 3 HOURS, (not 3 days), without water will kill you.
    That includes if you are in a “shelter”.

    The rule of 3″s is cute, but it is crap. Because it suggests a “one size fits all” approach, to survival scenarios. They are all different and different priorities apply.

    The next water myth, is that you only need a gallon a day for “drinking”. In most climates in the summer, if the grid is down and there is no cooling available you will need far more than 1 gallon a day during most summer temperatures.

    “National Geographic’s article titled, “How 100 Degrees Does a Number on You” states, “A normal, healthy person who is not used to the heat can, in heat wave conditions, sweat as much as 1.5 quarts of liquid in an hour. Someone acclimated to the hot weather, say a Phoenix telephone lineman, develops the ability to sweat (and thus cool off) at a more intense rate, losing up to two quarts of sweat in an hour.”
    So to replenish a sweat rate of 2 quarts an hour for 8 hours, that would be around 4 gallons!
    Not including what you sweat out during the other 16 hours of a day!
    Think about that.

    So the 1 gallon of water a day, is quite a questionable number, especially in summer and more so if you are working outside, in close to 100 degree temperatures.

    Now lets get to the “clean” water part. If you shower or bath in unpurified water you risk disease, if you clean your clothing in the same, you also risk disease. The same goes for doing dishes and general clean up.
    So you not only could you need more than a gallon of water a day, but you need “clean” water for a lot of other uses.
    Most studies indicate that somewhere around 10 to 15 gallons of “clean” water, per person, per day is the minimal amount.

    The point is: that most of you who think you have 30 days of water stored up, in reality only have about a weeks worth stored up. Also you better be stocking up on a lot more water or water filter replacements, if you are using one of them.
    If you try to extend that time but cutting back your usage, you will just be increasing your risk of disease and possibly death.

    As for “grey water”; if you are down to 10 gallons of water(or less) for all uses, per person per day, there will not be a significant amount of “grey water”.
    The actual recoverable amount of “grey water” would probably only be about 3 to 5 gallons a day, per person. Which with an older toilet would be about one ” flush”. With a new low flow toilet using 1.6 gallons per flush, then only 2 or 3 flushes.

    Now you can use any excess greywater on your garden, however that only increases the need to wash those garden products in “clean” water. If you by them locally After SHTF, you also need to do this, as you do not know if greywater was used in growing them.

    Greywater can carry and breed bacteria, which is why most states will not allow you to save it or use it.
    Bacteria are a concern because they can cause infection and disease. It is unlikely that they will affect the health of the plant, but if these bacteria return to humans or pets, then it could conceivably cause a lot of problems.
    Gray water also contains numerous chemicals, but the main ones will be from the cleaning products added during the washing process.
    So be wary of using Greywater for anything, but flushing toilets. Why risk your health and life?

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