Water Collection & Purification

If the water system has been disrupted, assume the water is impure unless announced otherwise. If you have a well and your property has been flooded your well may be contaminated. Many life-threatening diseases and parasites can be spread by impure water. Do not take chances with water; always boil or otherwise purify any water suspected of impurities.

Water Collection


Household Plumbing


  1. Close the main shutoff valve. If the gas and electricity are still on, turn off the hot water heater.
  2. Open the faucets, one by one, collecting any water that comes out. Do this until all the faucets in the house have been opened and their water drained.
  3. Open the drain valve on your main water line. If there is no valve, disconnect a water pipe at the lowest point in your system, and drain the water. To tap the water heater, close the cold water inlet pipe (on top of the heater). Open a hot water tap and let the water run until it stops. Attach a hose to the drain cock in the base of the heater, open the valve and drain into a container. Waterbed water is not safe to drink due to the toxic anti-algae treatments, but it is a great source for water for flushing toilets.

Rain Water


During rain storms water can be collected off the roof of your house. When it rains let the water run down your gutters for 10 or 15 minutes the begin collecting the runoff in clean buckets. If the roof is in bad repair, cover it with tarps or plastic. Rainwater is very pure, but if the roof or gutters are in bad condition or dirty, purify the water before drinking.


Streams, Rivers & Lakes


All surface water must be purified before drinking. Just because animals and birds may drink it doesn't make it safe for humans. Water-borne diseases and parasites age grave threats from such water, even if it looks sparking clean and pure. Fresh, clean, just-fallen snow can be melted and used without further purification. Older snow must be purified. To collect water from a river dig a hole at least 3 feet deep below the level of the water, about 12 feet from the river's edge. You may need to shore up the sides of this hole to keep it from collapsing. Water will seep into this hole from the river, and will be relatively clean water, but it must be purified before using.

Emergency Purification


Water to be purified by these methods should be as clear as possible. If the water is cloudy or dirty because of suspended solids, let it sit in buckets for a day or so to allow the solid materials to settle to the bottom. Siphon clear water from the center and middle of the bucket, leaving the solids and the water just above them in the bottom. Put this water through several layers of coffee filters or clean cloth.

Basic Method


  1. Boil for 10 minutes. "Boiled" means a rolling boil, not simmering. At higher altitudes, increase the boiling time to 15 minutes.
  2. To improve the taste; add a pinch of salt to each quart of boiled water, a bit of lemon juice, or a powdered drink mix, and pour it back and forth between two containers.

Chlorine Method


To treat with chlorine use plain old-fashioned chlorine bleach. The label says "sodium hypochlorite at 5.25%," Clorox bleach is the strength, don't use scented or colored bleach.
  1. Add 16 drops to each gallon of water.
  2. Mix thoroughly and let it stand for 30 minutes. It should have a slight chlorine odor. If it doesn't, repeat the procedure.
  3. If you are using water purification tablets; follow the directions of the label.

Distill Method


Bleach kills micro-organisms, if there are chemical pollutants in the water, they will remain. To distill water:
  1. Put 3 tuna cans on the bottom of a large pot and place a smaller pot on top of the tuna cans.
  2. Put unpurified water in the larger pot (make sure the smaller pot does not float off of the tuna cans).
  3. Turn the lid upside down and place it on the large pot.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil. The vapor will condense on the under side of the upside-down lid and flow down the lid to drip into the smaller pot. To hasten the process, you can put a bit of cool water in the lid, but make sure the cool water can not drip through the lid into the water below.