The Big List Of Nasty Disasters – Part Thirteen: Surviving Drought or City Water Contamination

Jack slid his finger slowly across his cracked lips and looked to the horizon hoping to see clouds in the sky. His heart sank, his throat tightened, and his body quivered — he saw nothing.

It had been 100 days since the last rain, and two years of drought. He was dizzy, tired, and dehydrated.


When viral contamination forced the authorities to shut down the city water services no one realized just how quickly all hell would break lose. Ill prepared, within 3 days most people ran out of water. Within a week people were killing each other.

The subsequent drought made things much worse. Within three months most of the plants, animals, and people were dead. The arid region could not sustain so many people.

The entire southwest was a desert wasteland — only inhabited by a few survivors.

Sheepdog Jack was among them. Unlike the vast majority of unfortunate souls who passed, Jack was prepared. He created a water storage and access plan and learned how to acquire water in any situation. What follows is his plan.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about why you should care.

Dehydration and Sickness from Contamination are Serious Threats

More important than food, clean drinking water is an essential of life.

One hour without water, the body becomes thirsty. Twelve hours without water, dehydration has begun to set in. Twenty-four hours without water, mental capacity weakens. Three days without water and you can perish.

Even if you live in an area with large bodies of water you can die because you can not safely drink from these sources without first purifying the water.

Potential contamination dangers include Cholera, Hepatitis A, Giardiasis, chemical pollutants and more.

Sheepdog Jacks Water Access Plan

A retired military man, when asked why he was moving out of town said, “I am moving so that I can have access to a well. If I don’t control my access to water, I don’t control my life.”

He’s right. How long can you survive if your water is shut down or contaminated?

Access to good, clean drinking water is an essential part of any disaster preparedness plan.

Potential Water Sources

  • Water storage
  • Wells
  • Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams
  • Rain
  • Trees, plants, and the air around you

Water Storage

Plan to have water storage solutions in place as well as the ability to take some water with you in a bug-out situation.

How Much Water is Needed?

In keeping with the FEMA guidelines, store one gallon of water per person per day, with a minimum of two weeks’ supply. WOW!

Some simple math to put things into perspective.

1 gallon of water = 8.36 lbs. So if you wanted to store eight weeks’ of water, you would need: For One Person: 56 gallons = 468.16 lbs. Two People: 112 gallons = 936.32 lbs. Four People:  224 gallons = 1872.64 lbs.

The standard bathtub, which measures 60 inches long by 30 inches wide, holds approximately 35 to 50 gallons of water. This means that if you have a chance to fill your entire bathtub before an emergency hits, one person can survive eight weeks’, two people four weeks’, and four people two weeks,’ at best.

Let’s say you want a three-month supply for four people. You need approximately 448 gallons of stored water.

Clearly, storage is great for short-term situations. However, long-term situations will require a permanent water source.

Small, Transportable, Bug-out Ready Options.

Foil Water Packets
Foil Water Disaster Preparedness Packets

Foil Water Bags. These little bags are fantastic for medium to longer term storage.

On a recent hunt, we ran out of drinking water and decided to use a few of these foil water bags that had been in our camp box for a couple of years. The water tasted great.

The foil is thick, and there is enough room for expansion when frozen.

They’re great for throwing in packs, the glove box or to store in boxes. Recommended shelf life is five years. However, they will still be safe well beyond that – though the water will probably taste like metal.

The FDA does not require an expiration date on water. The “use by date” is something manufacturers put on by choice because they are concerned with users “enjoying” the taste. But who the heck cares about taste if it saves your life.

At 64 packs for $28.95, a two weeks’ supply (for one person) or 448 packets (14.77 gallons) =  $202.65. You can get them here.

Blue Can Disaster Preparedness Water
Blue Can Disaster Preparedness Water

Blue Can – Premium Emergency Drinking Water. With a shelf life of over 50 years, these cans are fantastic for long-term storage. They are hermetically sealed, tested BPA Free, No Chlorine or Fluoride purified with 12-step filtration, reverse osmosis, and UV light treatment. 

At 24 cans for $47.95, a 2 weeks supply (for one person) or 168 cans (15.75 gallons) =  $335.65.

Currently, you can only purchase these here.

Large, Tap-water Options

AQUATANK2 Water Storage Bladder These bad boys are available in 30, 60, 150, and 300 gallons. They are super durable, a great way to transport water, work well under the seats of some vehicles, and can be thrown in the bed of a truck or even on a roof rack (if you’re careful).

BPA free with an inner lining made from 100% Food-Grade TPU (Polyurethane) and an Outer Shell of Durable Nylon you can’t go wrong with these. Get them here.

waterBob Emergency Drinking Water Storage. In the opening scene of The Road, the main character begins to fill the bathtub with water. His wife asks why he’s taking a bath and he simply says “I’m not.”

While filling the bathtub, and anything else you can in an emergency situation is a good idea, it’s not the most sanitary. Water stored in an open bathtub, with dirt, soap film, potentially harsh cleaning chemicals,  and exposure to debris will spoil and become useless.

The waterBob solves these problems and provides an easy way to fill the tub with up to 100 gallons (most tubs hold 35 to 50 gallons) of clean water that can be used for drinking, cooking, washing and flushing. It keeps water fresh and clean for up to 16 weeks and includes a siphon pump to easily dispense the water into jugs or pitchers. Pretty sweet, don’t you think? 

The waterBob is a must in an apartment, or anywhere else storage is limited.

You can get them here.

waterBob - disaster preparedness water storage solution
The waterBob provides a safe and easy way to fill your tub in an emergency situation.

Water Barrels.  For those who have space, these 55-gallon, food-grade, water barrels are an affordable way to store a large amount of water for long-term disaster preparedness. I recommend that you replace the water every five years.

At 55 gallons per barrel, one barrel will last one person 55 days.

You can get your barrels here.

To store water in the barrels properly, be sure to use a food grade hose when filling, add water preserver (some say it’s not necessary if using city water which already has chlorine). Don’t forget a pump and smaller bottles such as the Aqua-Tainer for transport.

Here is some additional information (from our friend Todd Walker of Survival Sherpa) on Camouflaging DIY Rain Barrels for Front yard Gardens.


For a sustainable, long-term, stay-in-place water source, a good well is the best possible scenario. If your pump requires electricity, be sure to have a grid-down solution in place. Get a hand pump and invest in a generator, or even better, solar power to run the electric pump.

Lakes, Ponds, Rivers, Streams

Depending on where you live, you might have access to natural water sources like lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. If you do, figure out where they are and how you can access them now. Remember, it is never safe to drink from these sources without first purifying the water and make sure you think about how you can transport the water from the source to your home.

Remember, it is never safe to drink from these sources without first purifying the water and make sure you think about how you can transport the water from the source to your home.

Trees, Plants, The Air

These are last-ditch options. But hey, if you find yourself dehydrating to death, they are worth trying.

Trees and plants

To gather water from trees, tie a plastic bag around a branch or couple of branches with leaves and let sit overnight. In the morning collect the water that has built up inside the bag from condensation.

Collect morning dew from trees and plants by wiping dew from wet surfaces with an absorbent cloth, and then wring the water out. You can also tie cloths around your ankles, or use clean socks and then walk through wet grass to quickly collect water.

Tapping the trunk


The inside of a barrel cactus can be mashed and drained to yield water.

There are a number of plants that contain water, such as agave, aloe, and most species of barrel cacti. Learn which of these plants exist in your region.


The Air

Wait a second. You’re saying I can get water from the air. Yes, sir. You can. There are at least two methods for pulling water from the air.

Solar Still

Okay, so a solar still doesn’t exactly pull water from the air, but it does use the process of heat transfer from the sun and evaporation and cooling to distil water from the ground or other contaminated sources of moisture. Here is a simple method to build such as till.

Dig a hole, as large as you can to accommodate your tarp or sheet of plastic when laid over the hole.  Put any available contaminated water in the hole as well as any other sources of moisture such as leaves or grass. Place a cup or pan in the center of the hole, and throw a tarp or piece of plastic over the hole. Secure with stakes or rocks. Put a rock or other weight directly over the cup so that when the water evaporates onto the bottom surface of the tarp, it will run down to the center to the weight and drip into the cup below.

Solar Still


Dehumidifiers do pull water from the air. They begin by using a fan to draw in ambient indoor air. This air runs over a condensing coil, which, like a glass of cold water, pulls moisture from the air using condensation. The drier air is then passed through a warmer coil that returns it to approximately room temperature. The accumulated liquid condensation, called condensate, is collected in a bucket or piped outdoors through a tube.

Please keep these issues in mind when considering the use of a dehumidifier. First, you will need electricity. Secondly, the water from a typical dehumidifier contains contaminants and must be purified. Thirdly, distilled water contains no minerals, which may not be the healthiest for long-term use. You may want to add minerals back into the water.

There are systems available on the market, which do produce safe drinking water. Two such models suitable for home use are Air2Water’s dolphin line, which the company claims can produce clean water at the cost of $0.16 to $0.52 per gallon, and RainCloud’s C-15, which costs about $1,000 wholesale.


Rain Barrels. What better way to collect water than from the sky? Whoda thunk? It’s great to know that nothing nasty has been added. And it’s free once you have the equipment.

 100-gallon Barcelona Barrel from Algreen.
100-gallon Barcelona Barrel from Algreen.

We recommend a diverter like the Rain Barrel DiverterPro Kit from Fiskars. The Diverter channels rain barrel overflow away from your house to protect the foundation offers improved rainwater capture rate during heavier rains, allows installation of rain barrels on both sides of the diverter, and filters debris, so they never reach your rain barrel.

If you are the kind of person who cares your barrel’s being attractive and conspicuous, check out the 100-gallon Barcelona Barrel from Algreen. 

Because the water comes from the sky, runs through your rain gutter system and is collected in a barely-protected barrel outside, it’s a good idea to filter and purify the water before drinking. Some people simply use the collected water for watering their garden and plants.

Many preppers include barrels in their disaster preparedness plans primarily as a non-drinking source.

Whatever the case, keep in mind that some drought-prone states have regulations on methods and require permits, and some states (like Texas) give a tax credit for buying rain collection equipment. Be sure to check the regulations for your state.  

Water purification methods

Distillation Illustration


If you have a highly suspect source of water, use distillation. Distillation is the only method that will remove microorganisms, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most chemicals.

Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities. To distil, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right side up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water), and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Another way you can distil water is to boil the water in a large pot, cover the pot with a clean cloth, so it catches all the steam. If you don’t have a cloth, you can also use moss. From time to time wring out the cloth or moss into another container.


When distilling is not an option, and there isn’t as much concern about dangerous chemicals, boiling is the next best thing. Make sure you have a backup plan that includes pots, pans, and propane stove or some other way to boiling water.

When boiling in a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking.

Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.

Boil in paper bag for disaster preparedness
If you find yourself in a scenario where you have a paper bag but not a pot in which to boil water, I present to you a life hack from a 1950s issue of Modern Mechanix magazine.
Potable Aqua purification tablets
Potable Aqua

You can use household bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes over time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.

Purification Tablets

Store some iodine and sodium chlorite tablets for purification as well.

Royal Berkey Water Filtration for Disaster Preparedness
Royal Berkey

There are many excellent filtering options available. We recommend starting with the smallest, easily transportable options such as the LifeStraw Steel and the Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter for you bug-out-bag. Moving up from there to the LifeStraw Mission High-Volume Gravity-Fed Water Purifier or the DayOne Response Water Bag for base camp or short-term water filtration needs.

For a long-term, stay in place, everyday solution nothing beats the Berkey systems.

Dehydration Prevention Tips

Never Ration Water – the effects of dehydration far outweigh the benefit of saving water for later. Sometimes the effects of dehydration can overtake a person so swiftly that they have no time to react.

There have been reports of people dying from dehydration with a full water bottle right by their side. A state of unconsciousness can occur with little warning.

Don’t guzzle, drink in sips, be methodical and if you do find water after being dehydrated drink it slowly. 

Drinking too quickly can cause your stomach to go into convulsions, and you will lose more fluid by vomiting. Stay hydrated my friend!


The devastating effects of dehydration are not something you want to experience. Create a water storage and access plan now and learn to practice the skill of harvesting water from nature so that you can survive a drought, city water system failure or contamination.

Also, research local plants that you can use to acquire water and don’t forget to have a water purification system at home and in your bug-out-bag.

Remember never drink from a questionable source without first treating the water.

Your Thoughts

Do you have a rainwater collection system? How about a favorite purifier? We want to hear about it. Please share your comments and experiences in the comments section below.

And, Press On My Friends!

BACK TO INDEX: The Big List of Nasty Disasters and How to Prepare: Part One

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