Disaster Preparedness | Potable Water Storage and Filtration

In the first part of our lesson, we discussed and outlined potential sources for potable water. We also touched on possible environmental concerns we need to be aware of while collecting our water. This installment will cover the selection and use of both water storage solutions and treatment options. Conditions and situations during this time can often change, and we have to remember to think outside of the box when the need arises. In short, remain flexible, don’t get married to any one idea.

Gathering water from your source can be made easier using a bucket or vessel that can hold the weight of the water and be semi-sanitary. We don’t want to use the five-gallon bucket we just used as a toilet to transport water, obviously, so mark your buckets with duct tape and a marker. A simple white food-grade bucket works well in this situation, as do other containers with large openings.

The idea here is to get the water from the source to the “bug-in” location or the “Alamo,” as a lot of preppers refer to their site. A few important things to remember when gathering water:

  1. We want to limit the amount of debris coming into the container. This makes treating and storage easier.
  2. Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. I recommend keeping the containers you are using to under five gallons (41.7lbs).
  3. No matter the size of the container, leave room at the top for expansion and movement of the water inside.

Water storage and treatment

At our site, we have lots of choices for what to do next, but I will keep things simple and direct. My plans are built around two types of containers: the five-gallon bucket and the 3.5-gallon Waterbrick by Waterbrick International. In my planning, I wanted something that was easy to use and would store nicely out of the way. That is one of the reasons the Waterbrick is perfect.

There are two sizes of Waterbrick: the 3.5-gallon and the 1.6-gallon sizes. Each model features a 3 1/4″-diameter opening with a screw-on style cap that seals using a heavy-duty gasket. An optional cap is available that has a full-flow water spigot on it, perfect for filling cups, pans, or bottles. The manufacturer states that the Waterbrick is made of HDPE plastic and can withstand 123°F temperatures in short durations and 110°F constant temperatures. I would store them in as cool and as shaded a place as you can when they’re filled.

Photo courtesy: waterbrick.org

Treatment

Once back to our “bug-in” location, beginning the treatment process should be a high priority. The end result can best be achieved using household bleach, or a calcium hypochlorite solution. There are other ways, but these two are the most likely options, in my opinion. Bleach is the simplest. For average raw water, use 1/8 of a teaspoon per gallon being treated. Once the bleach is put in the container, shake it and let sit for a minimum of one hour. In approximately 30 minutes, remove the container top and check for the pronounced smell of bleach. If you don’t smell bleach, repeat the process.

Calcium hypochlorite is a granular chemical that is commonly used in treating swimming pools. It has an incredible 10-year shelf life if kept in a dark, cool place, and is extremely effective at treating water. One single pound of calcium hypochlorite can treat up to 10,000 gallons of water. Proper dosing using calcium hypochlorite requires a two-part process.

  • Step #1: Add one large teaspoon of powdered calcium hypochlorite to two gallons of water and allow to dissolve. This makes a super-concentrated liquid bleach solution that will be used to dose our smaller containers.
  • Step #2: Now, add this solution to your water containers at a rate of one part solution to 100 parts water. One pint will treat 12.5 gallons of water, so it only takes roughly four ounces to treat the 3.5 gallon cubes we are using.

I would recommend getting a handheld battery-powered chlorine test kit, or a dip-style test strip kit to ensure you are dosing in the proper level. The Department of Environmental Conservation has said that water containing up to four parts per million is safe to drink. I personally feel that is a bit high since high chlorine levels can lead to stomach and bowel irritability. I try to keep it around two PPM.

Prepping 101 | Potable Water Storage and Filtration

Photo courtesy: trailguidesyellowstone.com

The last stage of treatment before using my stored water is a final stage of filtration. Some people may just bypass the storage aspect of water preparedness and put raw source water directly into a high-efficiency filtration system. I chose not to do that because simply put, safer is better when it comes to protecting my body. The human body needs water more than anything else, so I want the best water available.

I draw water from my now-treated water stores and run it through a filter such as the Katadyn Base Camp 10 liter gravity feed system or the Platypus Gravityworks four liter gravity feed filtration system. Either system works extremely well and can store easily when not in use, and both treat 1500 liters of water before the filters need to be replaced.

Water for cooking I would draw straight from the water stores and not from the secondary filtered water. The reason for this is that cooking water or coffee water will most likely be boiled and will by extension greatly reduce any biological dangers. Also, any chlorine residue in the water will also be neutralized, leaving no detectable taste or odor.

Prepping 101 | Potable Water Storage and Filtration

You can also find many bottle-style filtration systems that have a long service life, like the Sawyer Personal Water Bottle Filter (1,000,000 gallons), the Katadyn “My Bottle” (26 gallons), and the Lifestraw “Go Bottle” (264 gallons). The million-gallon claim by Sawyer Products seems a bit farfetched, but we will be testing one very soon.

Protecting and safeguarding your water supplies can’t be overlooked. Water is essential to basic survival. During any type of physical exertion, the human body sheds water and we need to replenish that water in order for the basic functions of the human body to operate efficiently.

Water treatment and storage is not a cut-and-dried one-size-fits-all scenario. That is precisely why federal and local governments have devoted large amounts of resources to ensure the water is safe and available. It takes skilled men and women constantly evaluating and “tweaking” plans.

Hopefully, this two-part series has made you ask some questions about your water needs and preparedness. We here at The Loadout Room are committed to helping you with your plans however best we can. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line and ask any questions you have. Talk to your friends and family, start the “what-if” conversations that will help ensure you thrive, not just survive, in a disaster or contingency event.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”—Benjamin Franklin

*Featured image courtesy of goldfeverprospecting.com