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In a disaster situation, water may be a scarce commodity for a few days or even weeks. Municipal water systems have the potential for contamination, especially in floods and earthquakes.

Treating water to make it safe to drink is not an exact science in your kitchen. There are lots of things that can contaminate the water supply. Be sure to check with authorities for guidance if possible. Without any other guidance, use at least two of these treatment tips from FEMA and the American Red Cross:

  • Strain water through paper towels, a clean cloth or coffee filter to remove particles.
  • Boil water in a large pot or kettle for at least 1 full minute. This is your best option. Be sure to get it to a full rolling boil. After it cools, pour the water back and forth between two clean containers to improve taste. The bigger the pot, the less of your water is lost during boiling.
  • Chlorinate water using unscented liquid household chlorine bleach. (Clorox)  If boiling is not possible, this is the second best option. The bleach should list 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as its only active ingredient. Use 1/8 teaspoon per gallon of water. Put it in a large, clean pot or kettle. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat chlorination with another 1/8 teaspoon bleach and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still doesn’t smell like chlorine, find another source of water and start over.
  • Distill water on the stove top. This method is complicated. Fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle of the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up inside the pot when the lid is upside-down without dangling into the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Quick Water

There are 3 small, clean water sources in your home even if the water system is out of commission. Remember these:

  • Hot water heater – get 30, 40, 50 gallons from the drain spigot at the bottom
  • Water pipes – turn off the main water valve to your home. Open a faucet upstairs to let air in. Open a faucet in the basement or downstairs to collect the water standing in the pipes.
  • Toilet reservoir – 2 gallons in the back of each toilet
  • Ice cubes – retrieve them from your freezer and put in a pitcher before they melt

As soon as electricity goes out or the water system fails, stop using the toilet and hot water to conserve these resources.

Helpful Hints

Keep one or two collapsible 2-gallon jugs handy for collecting water.


Potable Aqua Water Tablets for Purification


Another option is what I have, A Berkey Reverse Osmosis Purification Filter.


Have a plan on what to do when your water supply runs out. Have a water purifier handy or be prepared to boil or chemically treat an unclean water source. When your water supply is gone, you are now in a wilderness setting, collecting water from streams, lakes, snow, or wherever you find it.

Remember that our bodies can only live 3 days without water. With that in mind, this should be your first concern, with food being next and then survival tools such as blankets, saws, propane, and solar chargers.