How To Make A Homemade Water Filter

homemade water filter girls drinkingWhen 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.

homemade water filter
This homemade water filter works as well as any commercial model and costs considerably less.

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 and LPC Survival (, with current prices ranging from $99 to $110. I’ve found LPC Survival to be very reliable, with superfast shipping and great customer service.


  •  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.

preppers make a homemade water filter
Black Berkey Purification Elements secured through the bottom of the top bucket using 1/2-inch holes and supplied wingnuts. Note how the elements protrude through the bottom of the top bucket and align with the holes through the lid of the bottom bucket.

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.

homemade berkey water filter
This spigot was taken from a busted water cooler.

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

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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  1. MD and all, My old body is still, after six years, acclimating to the hot, humid Philippine climate. I can soak a laundry basket full of tee shirts with sweat in a days time with only minimal activity. We are acutely aware of the need to stay hydrated. Unfortunately, these days, I consider myself a “flatlander” as we live well below the mountains and source of much of the local drinking water. I can find water everywhere nearby but you will not drink a drop of it untreated. The good news is, generally, the water delivery service is only stopped during typhoon season due to spot flooding. We own 20 five gallon water carboys imprinted with our name and address. Five empty carboys are at the filling station we know and trust. When five are empty at home we call for a delivery of five and our jugs are refilled and delivered. So far, I have only begun to tap one of the last five we have in stock just one time before the delivery guys could make it to our subdivision. It is a comfort to note that during the typhoon season, one good downpour would fill all the rain barrels. Knowing that we have the ability to gather and treat just about any water source if the need arose and the rain barrels are empty gives us a sense of long-term security. On a side note, when you travel to the mountains up north of our location, you see black pipes sticking out of a hillside and in front of many homes. You are invited to stop in, cool off or rinse the dust off your car or truck in the flow of cold mountain spring water. Let me tell you, those mountains and the rainforests below could be perfect bug-out locations for the hard-core survivalists.