Water for survival



I am Selco and I am from the Balkan region, and as some of you may know it was hell here from 92-95, anyway, for 1 whole year I lived and survived in a city WITHOUT: electricity, fuel, running water, food distribution, without any kind of organized law or government. The city was surrounded for 1 year and it actually was a real SHTF situation. Our allies were our enemies from one day to the next. Today I’m prepared and share my experience on this blog.

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I know it sounds obvious why you need water for survival, but hear me out. First you need to stop for a moment, or for more then a moment and think about importance of the water. There is a all kind of cool information about water all around the net. And you can research them all.

In this article I write about my experience with water during SHTF. I try to touch on few topics that might not be so obvious.

Importance of water for survival

When SHTF everything matters and all small things are connected. New small problems suddenly emerge, and one small problem is connecting to another small problem, and suddenly you have big problem and then you are dead. And thats it.
So you need to think about in new terms. I suggest that you try to measure amount of water that you spend for one day. For cooking, cleaning, drinking, shower, toilet and all that.

After you measure that amount of water then go and shut down your water souces for a week. In that week use some canisters and drag your water from your neighbour who is for example 1 mile far from you. One week. After that week sit down and try to think again about importance of the water.

It will be refreshing reminder about importance of something we take for granted.

Probably you are going to conclude that water is much more important then you thought before. But belive me you are still do not know, you still probably can not imagine how important it is.

When you hearing that man can survive only few days without water, it is true maybe, but you need to think about water in some new terms. Not only like cool bottle of water to drink.

1. Water to boost your morale

Sooner or later you are going to find yourself without “real” food, and you are gonna start to “invent” food. Ive gone trough that. Boil plants with water, boil small amounts of flour with water, all kind of “tea” or bad “soups” for food.

At some of the very bad time I had something like hot colored water for my lunch, without too much asking what was added for color. I mean yes, you are perfectly prepared, lots of canned food, your storage is full. But think about “sooner or later”

One of the my best memories from bad times is hot soup. There is something “magical” in hot soup when you are cold and wet, and when everything out is gone to hell. It is like fire a great boost for your morale.

2. You need more water during SHTF

In long term survival scenario chances are you will work more with your body than now. That means you need even more water than now.

Do not expect to spend few days laying at home, in nice and cool room. When shtf and you fight for survival there is always much to do.

To be long time survivor you do not want to live on 500ml water a day. You want to have much water every day.


You need water for hygiene, lots of water. You can think that you can survive even if you do not have enough water to keep yourself clean. Yes people survived like that, but keep in mind again, that small problems lead to bigger problems, and big problems at the end kills you.

To be dirty because you do not have enough water is not like in movies. It is not about sweating and dirty shirt only. It is about you are crippled wit some fungal infection on your feet because you simply did not have enough clean socks to wear, because you spent 20 hours daily in your shoes, boots. At the end you can not run at all. And to be in state when you can not run is definitely not good idea when SHTF.

Forget about problems with bad smell, thats not problem. Its a civilization problem but when things get uncivilized it does not matter. Problem is you having diarrhea for week, you need to go to toilet every half hours, you can not get up without dizziness, you are weak like baby, and again all because you did not have enough water to keep yourself clean, or to eat clean food that you at least boiled first.


The scouting game
Do not get yourself in situation where you need to go out and check for water sources when SHTF. Probably it is not gonna be easy then to wander around and check things.

Forget about empty towns with lot of resources laying everywhere. That happens in movies maybe.
In my case many people were shot at well known water sources by snipers. It’s like lions in deserts. They wait for prey near water holes.

Go out today and check your surroundings for possible less known water resources close to you like small springs or places where water stays for some time after rain. Have that places marked in your map for future. Take your time today when you have enough.

The saving water game
Research some things. For example how you can wash your clothes with as little water as you can, some alternative ways of washing yourself with “bottle” of water. Check how much water you can save with using anti bacterial napkins for cleaning yourself for example.

The hiding game
That means to think about some other spots to have some hidden backup water. Personally I have three spots close to my apartment where I have extra sources of water if I gonna need it. Another water resource is halfway between me and my bug out location.

The collection game
Rain is good source of water depending in what region you live. But definitely good idea is to have plan ready and tools ready to collect water from your roof. Check it, somewhere is enough to have few barrels, saw and piece of pipe and thats it. You can use rainwater today to water your plants for example.


This article is just reminder that without water no life and of course no survival. It is easy to get lost in having perfect security and weapons at home but not being familiar with living with limited amount of clean water. Also please have a look for my other post on how to find water in the nature here.

In my course I talk about how we collected water from our roof and if you have stories about how you collected water please share in comments.

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30 Responses

  1. Having a few collapsible water bags I think would be a good idea. A larger hard container just advertises you have something to drink (and possibly worth stealing for those who don’t have it) or they follow you to where the source is – competition. Military grade (like 5 quart collapsible) or heavy duty camping like the Platypus / Camelbak or similar would be invaluable. Too, the collapsible allow you to squeeze air out as it is removed, reducing ‘sloshing’ sound considerably.

    Those ‘games’ you suggest are good – begin looking at your local neighborhoods resources right now before you need them. I wish I had a nearby natural water source (I don’t), so I may have to resort to installing a driven well. That should be possible, given our area’s very high water table. Then again – that makes it easy to become contaminated when / if outdoor privvys go into use.

    Thank you Selco – great post! A lot to think about.

  2. I bought a old food grade container. I use to hold 275 gallons of Captain Morgan Syrup (to make booze with). I keep it in back of old pickup – not strong enough to move yet. It will go near old farm trucks eventually – in corner and out of the way. I will fill it up if things start to look bad. Our shop is not winterized- so water freezes.

  3. A cardboard box lined with a large, clean garbage bag works also. buckets are like gold. I bathe by splashing water from one and then wash that days clothes in it. then water a plant, scrub, or flush with it.

    1. Be aware that many garbage bags have chemicals added into the plastic for odor control, insect control, etc., that you probably won’t want to infuse your drinking water with (insecticides/repellants, herbicides, scent agents). In order to be effective, these additives must easily release from the plastic. Mostly of course the “better” brands will be enhanced thus, but even the plain/sterile ones aren’t necessarily Food Grade so make sure you know what you’re using. For body hygiene and other uses it won’t matter of course, so certainly collect what water you can, as you can, but be extra particular about what you plan to ingest (cooking, brushing teeth, washing your face/eyes included).

  4. Hi Selco, Good thinking, as usual. I am lucky, as far as water is concerned, We live in the mountainous western end of Montana, and are never far (maybe 5 miles at most) from flowing water. One of the most popular fishing rivers is only 4 miles away. Of course, in SHTF , contamination will be a big problem, and even now, it is not safe to drink the water from even high mountain streams. We have a deep (350 ft. ) well on our property but that requires a good source of power, like a 6kw generator or more. There is a small streamlet on the back of our property, that could give water in an emergency, but it would certainly have to be boiled, or otherwise disinfected before use. Animals, cows, horses, deer etc. all use it, and their “droppings” on the hillsides eventually drain into it. “natural” contaminants, like giardia and cripto-sporidia are always present., and can make you sick, or even kill you, even in good times, with good doctors available.

  5. In mountainous terrain, even with deep wells, it’s more than possible to get water out without power!

    One method involves a long length of hose – it must be long enough to reach the water in the well *AND* downhill far enough from the well-head to put the “above-ground” end at a lower level than the “in-well-end” and thus utilize gravity for siphoning action!

    An inverted-funnel and check-valve arrangement goes on the in-well end of the hose, and is then “piston-pumped” up-and-down. The “down” motion shoves water up into the pipe where it’s captured by the check-valve, and eventually (after a lot of pumping!) makes it up into the pipe to ground-level.

    If it’s possible to somehow fill the above-ground pipe/hose with water to “prime” it, a siphon could start immediately, otherwise it might take some work, but…

    Assuming there are no leaks in the pipe or hose which could break the vacuum, and the in-well end remains below water-level, it could be as simple as installing a hose-bib at the downhill end to re-start the siphon, making the whole thing “gravity-fed”!

    There are of course other, better methods of “pumping” the water – another rather simple method involves a “piston-pump” arrangement which can be constructed of a couple of lengths of pipe and a rubber gasket made from an inner-tube – I’ve seen these driven by a windmill and even an old bicycle-frame with a setup attached to the rear wheel to turn the rolling motion into an up-and-down pistoning one…

    If you’re equipped to pump the water into an above-ground tank, gravity-feed can then deliver water at some pressure! Utilizing a float-valve setup attached to a windmill, the system can even be made to be self-filling and require nothing more than occasional maintenance!

    All this makes me realize once again how blessed I am with my “artesian well”… Wifey complains bitterly about the water that flows in a small stream from our well-head at every high tide, but I knew when I first saw it that this could be a fantastic benefit to our preparedness measures!

    I’ve done the “check-valve pump” bit just to see it work – I only had to go down 15 feet or so even at low-tide – but if all else failed we could simply dig a pit to capture the runoff…

    1. I’d also like to suggest rural folks consider stockpiling a cheap “above-ground pool” for emergency use…

      A 12-foot diameter x 3.5′ deep “kiddie pool” like is usually found in wal-mart can hold 3000 gallons of water!

      Cover it with a black plastic or other opaque covering and you’ve got a pretty darn good water tank! Granted, you may have problems with mosquito larvae, but then so did all the cisterns our forebears used, and somehow they survived…


      1. To protect the water from mosquitos, spray a thin layer of vegetable oil over the top and then scoop the trapped mosquitos. They will not be able to breed as the eggs will never get laid.

      2. As for the mosquitoes & larvae – what the “Old-Timers” I know remember (mostly from their childhoods) is that they put about a spoonful of Coal Oil in the cistern every couple weeks or as needed. The oil would float on the surface in an almost molecular-thin layer, not enough to affect the water quality for the people but still enough to deprive the insects access to the water’s surface. Remember that they even used Coal Oil in some medications, so such miniscule amounts as would be dipped out were negligible and harmless. Simply replenish it occasionally as I mentioned.
        Real “Coal Oil” has been replaced by Kerosene, not the same thing. It is still available if you know what/how to find it, but I would strongly recommend the use of vegetable/cooking oil today instead of kerosene or lamp oil for that purpose.

        1. “oil” treatment for mosquitos works by removing the “surface tension” of the water and prevents the larvae from resting and breathing at the surface.. so they die. That is why a film.. just a slick.. works.. you do not need a layer.
          Kerosene ( maybe even diesel) will work. Take your water from a tap or siphon below the surface. Mosquitos will drive you crazy.. and may be carrying disease.

  6. Hello Selco….
    Thank you for the great service you give, we are all richer (and better prepared) as a result of your efforts!
    My one small contribution to the water discussion is that if you use a small, even just two liter, garden sprayer for showering you can in fact get well cleaned with just a liter of water…..I have done this often camping and at home. Of course you must have a DEDICATED sprayer, not one that has had any other chemicals in it…….

  7. My husband drinks a whole lot of powerade. (I know, I know, its not good for you) We wash and sanitize the bottles and refill with water from our reverse osmosis unit. The bottles are more heavy duty than bottles from bottled water. We have been doing this for over 4 years. I began to run out of places to stash them. A friend gives us lots of Avon boxes, and we can fit 13 bottles in each. Our spare bedroom is light blue, so we painted the avon boxes the same color as the walls. They are stacked 6 high going along one wall. Because the color blends in with the wall it doesn’t clutter things up too much, and doesn’t stand out. Believe me, I have had to get creative with preps, and this is one of many. Don’t look under the beds…lol. 🙂

    1. I have done a very similar thing for about 12 years. Two things to think about though.. 1) Be carefull about putting too much water weight in one place… spread the weight around the room, (or house). water weighs a lot. 2) dont forget to change the water out for fresh about once every six months or so.
      I have been fortunate to have had my stored water bottles on several occasions.. just for minor emergencies such as frozen pipes, or a neighbor who got their water shut off by the utility company for being behind on their bill payment.

      Also, I personally have moved permanently to my safe haven. been here for a month and loving the life style. I thank Selco and buddy for all I have learned. It was this site that convinced me that where I was living, I didn’t stand a chance of survival. Now I can rest easy… well, as easy as possible.

    2. Not good. Those limited use PTFE bottles are not made for long term liquid storage. You need to review better solutions including Nalgene type bottles.

  8. You must have a fresh & clean water source.. You must be able to get to it without exposing yourself or you will wind up like every other animal that goes down to the watering hole.. Food for predators.

    Simple truth you can store some water but not enough for long term survival. Yes you could conceivably put a kiddie pool or two in the house but of course they will get holed in a firefight. Unless they are in a basement.. if you have a basement digg… make yourself a 10,000 gallon cistern.

    There are millions of scenarios to include groups of Bad Guys setting up over the key water sources and demanding tribute.

    Bottom line.. the problem of water really is a key issue that must be solved in multiple ways long in advance.


    1. Depends of possible scenarios, but i agree that in every scenario water is key issue. Somehow i go in the steps: best one is to have water source very near you (river,creek…) if that not possible then to look for possible “shtf” water sources that you gonna need to treat first (abandoned factories cisterns, water heaters, apartment heating systems-not necessary your apartment…) then your own water storage.
      To rely ONLY on your own water storage (bottles, canisters…) is very bad idea since for most of the folks it is impossible to have great amounts of stored water, like cisterns dig in.
      So i think good idea is combine all of this.Also for example when SHTF you may be forced to move very quickly from your house, apartment in some other, mile or 10 miles in other direction. So i think when comes to water you need to have more solutions.

  9. One more thing.. If you are going to defend in place you need water for firefighting.. You need the ability to put significant fires out based upon your structure.. Now were getting into a requirement for 10,s of thousands of gallons to defend against repeated attacks..


  10. My husband and I have a 1200 gallon above ground pool that we use for swimming/relaxing in the summertime (i bought it al Walmart for around $80). The pool also serves as an emergency water storage container. It’s pretty compact and folds down for storage. If TSHTF, we plan to set it up on our carport (to provide additonal protection), fill it (from a hose, hopefully…otherwise it’s “bucket time”). We also plan to use a length of gutter pipe to divert water from our roof into the “cistern” when it rains.

    Yes, it will wear out and it would be better to have a permanent cistern…but for renters or for people who on a tight budget it’s a viable option. It’s even portable. Needless to say, the water would have to be treated prior to use for cooking or drinking.

  11. Great article. When I bought my first home I was very deliberate about location. It’s positioned 1/10th of a mile from a large river (the susquehanna), in a small town (less than 800 people), is on a hill (400 ft above water table), and has a small yield hydroelectric plant in town.

    The people here aren’t great, which was the trade off but from a water standpoint it’s always factored in as a highly important part of my preps. My BOB’s prioritize water: 2 liter camelbak, 1 liter nalgene bottle, 1 quart USGI canteen. Not to mention 2 filters (1 frontier pro, one aquamira filter. At home we have several 25 gallon food safe barrels used for water storage, a case or two of water in emergency packets, a 5 gallon swiss water bag, a water-bob (pretty much a must have item!), etc. This is because part of the challenges of the location are that I have my own chickens which consume about 1 gallon of water every 2 days… and the fact that my choice of a house on a hill means my well pump is too deep to access via hand pump. Nothing’s perfect. But basically at the end of the day, next to death by exposure water comes in a close second. So shelter, fire, water – the big three, should always be high on a preppers list.

    Great post selco!

  12. Investigate IODINE for water treatment. There are several kinds and you need to read a bit so you know how to do it and how much. You can use betadine ( proviodine) which you may well carry in your medical kit.
    I found a cheap source of LOGOLS iodine at a livestock store which carried it for putting in cattle water troughs for trace element. Most people are iodine deficient.. so it is not a bad idea to take small amounts anyway. It used to be a common “health tonic” before modern medicine.
    If you are in an area which might be subject to radiation ( Nuclear Power Plant) you need to know how iodine can help protect against radioactive iodine.
    Handy stuff..
    ( Most people think chlorine (chlorox) for water treatment.. but it is bulky and has a limited shelf life)

    1. I have spent some time thinking about water, we will need a lot of clean water to survive. Without water you will die in a very short time, if you have dirty water you will get sick and die anyways from diarea, or other sicknesses.

      I created a system that requires no power. I have several 5 gal buckets with filters that which are 50 micron, 20 micron, 5 micron, and 1 micron ceramic filters.

      First step is to filter the water through cheesecloth or whatever you have(gets rid of big stuff), then run it through 50 micron to 20 micron and then 5 micron.

      I figure that 5 micron is clean/clear enough for most uses, that does not mean it does not need to be treated. I have calcium Hypoclorite for that. Powder lasts a long time and you mix what you need.

      For drinking purposes take treated 5 micron water and run through 1 micron ceramic filters. You wont need near as much drinking water as you will need water for hygine, cleaning……

      My buckets have 1ea 50 micron and 1ea 20 micron filter respectivly, the water will filter through each of these in about 30 minutes(keep buckets full and it goes faster esp with 5 micron and ceramic). THe bucket with the 5 micron filters has 2 because it takes longer, and I have 2 ceramic filters in that bucket as well, takes about 6 hours to filter 5 gal with ceramic filters, even with 2.

      The first bucket has a PVC fitting in the bottom, a PVC cap that I drilled holes in, more cheese cloth can be put in it to filter water one more time before going into 50 micron bucket, the cleaner the water is to begin with the longer the filters will last.

      I have 55gal drums to put collected cheesecloth filtered water in, and to store 5 micron treated water in. I have 5 gal buckets for 1 micron treated drinking water.

      For sources of water I have a pond near my house, gutter water collection, and neighbor has a very large in ground pool as well.

      To make this system I modified some PVC fittings, and food grade buckets and lids, the filters press into the fittings except ceramic which come with own fittings. I had to fabricate my own lexan washers and rubber gaskets, but the system works great. I have 5 modified buckets and 5 buckets to collect water from each station so the system can run continously if needed. Lids were modified to allow each filter bucket to sit on top of collection bucket, but not attached so the whole system can be stacked and not take up much room.

      Total cost for system with 4ea 50, 20, 5 micron filters, and 2ea 1- micron ceramic filters comes out to about $200 plus my labor, I have made a few systems for friends

      I designed this system to last a long time by filtering the water in stages and not putting it all into a ceramic filter system which will clean nearly anything but will clog easily and take a long time to filter much water, and besides purchased systems cost way to much.

      Anyway that is my 2 cents

  13. Instead of chlorine bleach, buy smaller packets of pool shock. They last a long time in storage and a few bags will last a long time. Make sure and get the ones with very high chlorine content (90%+).

  14. Please be careful about the pool shocks and stuff to keep your pools clean. It’s not the chlorine that’s a danger – the stabilizer is! The stabilizer does not dissipate like the chlorine. If you’re going to use a pool as a water capture – you can’t use the pool chemicals to keep it clean for drinking . . . While we have a large cistern, we were considering using an above ground pool for water capture too. May only be able to use it for gardens – though we want to use it for animal water . . .

  15. Hi Selco, just wanted to thank you for a great blog. Many good things here and I love you down to earth point of view. You’re very right about water and hygiene and many other things. Just to give an example: my father lost a twin brother due to polluted water during WWII and he still doesn’t know that he ever had a brother… Another thing I find very impressive is your attitude and your willingness to live in peace with those who once were the counterpart. I worked in a refugee’s camp during the war – here in Scandinavia on safe ground – still we had mainly torture victims and people from all sides. They were all lovable and good people. You are very right in what you’re saying – that there a only a few bad guys on either side, the rest just wants to survive!

  16. I have a question. We are teaching our boys basic camping/survival skills through Scouts while young. While doing a 62 mile trek with our oldest, we had hand pump filters. Have you ever used these while on search for water, and were they effective? If so, what would you suggest for larger quantities of water? We have a kiddo with iodine allergies. Thanks for the wonderful information.

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