When asked where they should start their survival preparations, most people answer food storage. Wrong. In fact, food isn’t even in the top three survival priorities.
The most important elements of survival are oxygen, shelter from extreme weather, and water. Depending on health, physical activity, and environment, and with limited activity, most humans can survive:
- Five minutes or less without oxygen
- 10 days or fewer without water at 50°F (and even fewer as temperatures rise)
- Four to six weeks without food
Today’s task involves making sure your survival plan includes a reliable source of clean water. Imagine how disappointed you’d be after investing all that time and money to build your stockpile of survival food only to realize that you were about to die of dehydration because you neglected to adequately address your need for water.
Having food storage without a reliable source of clean water is like eating soup with a fork. You’re only getting some of what you need. Before getting started, a few words on terminology are in order. Sometimes the terms filtration, purification, and sterilization are used interchangeably in relation to water.
This is incorrect. Filtration removes solid matter (or in some cases emulsified liquids). Purification removes that which is not water (stuff in solution and/or emulsion). Sterilization kills microbes in the water.
The confusion of terms is understandable, as many commercial filter units also remove microbes by filtering them out, and many units include activated charcoal or other elements that both filter out solids and remove a lot of metals in solution by adsorption (as opposed to absorption).
In fact, they now have filters that are so specific and so fine they actually can filter out molecules: a “watermaker” that filters out salt from seawater would be an example. I’m a fan of the Berkey water filters. Having used a Big Berkey filter extensively for more than three years, I can personally attest to its performance.
However, a lot of people can’t or won’t spend $250 or more for a water filter no matter how critical it is to their survival. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to make your own homemade water filter using only the Black Berkey Purification Elements and a few odds and ends you probably have lying around your house.
The total cost for such a unit at the time of this writing is less than $150, including the Black Berkey Purification Elements. Black Berkey Purification Elements can be ordered online from a number of vendors, including Amazon.com and LPC Survival (www.directive21.com), with current prices ranging from $99 to $110. I’ve found LPC Survival to be very reliable, with superfast shipping and great customer service.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Two Black Berkey Purification Elements
- Two 5-gallon food-grade buckets with lids
- Food-grade spigot (available at most hardware stores or online; the type used for large water coolers works great)
- Drill with 1/2- and 3/4-inch bits
First drill two 1/2-inch holes in the bottom of one of the buckets and two 3/4-inch holes through one of the lids. The holes should be approximately 4 to 6 inches apart to facilitate changing the filters as needed. Both sets of holes in the bottom of the bucket and those in the lid should match up perfectly when mated.
Next, drill a 3/4-inch hole in the side of the other bucket. This hole is for the spigot, so drill about 2 inches up from the bottom of the bucket. This way when it is set on a table or bench, the spigot isn’t touching the surface, where it can be damaged or broken.
Install the Black Berkey Purification Elements securely through the 1/2-inch holes that you drilled in the bottom of the first bucket, using the supplied rubber washers and wingnut fasteners. Be careful not to overtighten the nuts or you could cause a leak or even break the tip of a purification element.
To use this unit, put the lid with the 1/2-inch holes on top of the bucket with the spigot and set the other bucket with the filters installed on top, aligning the holes so the Berkey filter tubes extend through the lid of the lower bucket.
Pour the water to be filtered into the upper bucket and cover with the remaining lid. The water in the top bucket will drip through the filter elements and into the lower bucket, filling it with clean drinking water. As you can see from the photos, it’s very simple. The whole process takes about 20 minutes.
Water Storage Tips
For water storage, I have six 5-gallon containers bought in the sporting goods department at Walmart. Thirty gallons of water isn’t much, but I don’t see water being a major issue at my location.
If you live in a drier region, such as the American southwest, water will likely be a major concern, which may necessitate the storage of hundreds or even thousands of gallons for an extended emergency. Don’t store water in used 5-gallon milk jugs. They’re not strong enough for long-term storage and eventually break down and leak.
The 5-gallon containers sold in the sporting goods section of most department or hardware stores work great, as do the 55-gallon plastic water drums sold by preparedness gear retailers, such as Emergency Essentials at BePrepared.com.
If you must use small containers, empty 2-liter soda bottles work well. They are stronger than milk jugs, have better lids, and are more convenient. Avoid glass containers because they break too easily.
Tap Water Tip
If you’re storing tap water from a municipal water system, there’s no need to add bleach as suggested by some. Water from the municipal tap already contains enough chlorine to thwart any bacterial growth, so it can be stored without any other additives.
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