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Survival Friday: Water Everywhere But Not a Drop to Drink

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Survival Friday: Water Everywhere But Not a Drop to Drink

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In a recent giveaway, the question asked was “What pioneer skill do you feel will be the most valuable following a disaster, collapse or other “stuff” hits the fan scenario?”.  There were hundreds of responses and of those, a significant number of folks indicated that the most valuable skill needed was the ability to find and purify water.

The concept of safe drinking water is pretty easy to wrap you head around since it is common knowledge that our bodies need water to sustain life.  Luckily for us, there are a myriad of filtering, storage and collection systems available to help us plan for those times when fresh drinking water in unattainable.  What we, as prepper’s tend to forget, however, is that there is a lot more to water storage than drinking water.

Think about it.  In addition to drinking water, we have our gardens to water, our animals to tend to, our cookware to clean, and our personal hygiene needs.  Add all of these up and you can see that in an extended drought or a breakdown in traditional water delivery systems, our precious drinking water may be called into use for other purposes.

Gaye's Lake 403px

Local water is plentiful – but is it drinkable?

To bring this into focus, today I am thrilled to share with you’re the experience of F.J. Bohan who has lived off grid in a drought situation.  Some of you may remember F.J. as the author of Barbed Wire, Barricades, and Bunkersand Emergency Air: for Shelter-in-Place Preppers and Home-Built Bunkers, both of which were featured in Backdoor Survival Book Festivals here and here.

Here is his story.

Water, Water Everywhere, but not a Drop to Drink!

Water is life; water is everything to survival and is an essential concern every survivalist must adequately address.  Ensuring your ability to convert whatever water you find into safe drinking water is a necessity for all preppers. Unfortunately, some of man’s technical threats are worse than the best water purifying processes most of us can afford; however, there are still excellent choices for survivalists and preppers when it comes to purifying water for drinking.

Having lived off-grid for most of my adult life, I have come to appreciate what water really means to our survival and how important it is for preppers and survivalists living on the grid to share this understanding.  When your supply of drinking water comes from the kitchen faucet, a drinking fountain, or even a clear plastic bottle with trendy paper label on it, it’s easy to forget that it’s not an endless supply.

Our time in Arizona saw 15 years of very little rain and countless trips to town to fill our 350-gallon transfer tank in order to keep our 2500-gallon and 1600-gallon water storage tanks full. We could have survived a good length of time had we rationed our storage properly and used the 4100 gallons of stored water for coffee, but my wife quickly put an end to that. She insisted on watering the goats, chickens, cats, and dogs, in addition to watering her tomato and pepper plants. She also required us to shower on occasion, which kept my coffee water storage supply constantly in need of being replenished.

As my wife taught me, eventually you will run out of water. Of course, since we had no rain to fill our animal, shower, and other non-drinking needs, we were forced to use our drinking water supply for other things around the ranch.

When the SHTF you MUST manage your drinking water. Not only will your stored supply eventually run out, but your water filters won’t last forever either.  In my opinion, the best filter system available today (the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter ), when used gently in a long-term crisis, will typically last approximately 13,000 gallons. One popular countertop drip filter system will typically last for up to 3000 gallons per filter when gently used.  When I suggest “gentle use”, what I mean is that you’re not running mucky creek water through it; instead, you have only run clarified water through the filters.

Every effort must be taken to protect your water filter from sediment which will ultimately clog it and end its service life. Since money is always a concern, purchasing the best and then taking excellent care of it should be everyone’s plan of action. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can skimp here. How much is your life worth anyway?

My own water management plan includes the Katadyn Micro pocket filter, a countertop system, and multiple 5-gallon pails for use in letting water sit and rest in order to allow sediment to sink to the bottom of the pail.

counter top filter        Katadyn and canteen set up

Even the most turbid river and lake water can become drastically cleaner by allowing it to settle for hours or even days. Once the heavy sediment has settled to the bottom of the pail, it can be carefully transferred to another clean pail and allowed to rest for additional time to use cleaning dishes, clothes, or bathing or, if clean enough, run through your water filter system for drinking and cooking needs.

This week I added another water purifying system to my retreat’s equipment options that will see me well past the time all my spare filters become clogged and worn-out. In fact, this system actually does a better job purifying water than any of my other filter systems can do.

The Survival Still offers a long-term solution to water purifying needs in an emergency situation.  There are no filters to clog or replace, and it’s made of stainless steel. I don’t see how it won’t last forever when taken care of. Its design is simple and uses your own pots as the boiling base pot and the condenser top-pot. These two pots must meet stated diameters but are common sizes most people would typically already have.

Survival Still 2

This distillation system works by first boiling the water which kills microorganisms and bacteria, then collects the steam from the boiled water and condenses it back to water in a purified form which travels through a tube and into your collection container. Distilling water with the Survival Still will also allow anyone living along the coast to convert sea water into drinking water. This method is not as fast as using a filter, and it requires energy to boil the pot; however, the water you get from distillation will be pure, and there are no mechanical parts, filters, or seals to wear out. It is basic water purification.

Whether you’re preparing for natural disasters, a societal collapse, or just prepping for the next terrorist event, being able to purify water is essential to your survival. The Survival Still should be found in everyone’s gear. Don’t be caught with water, water everywhere, but none fit to drink!

The Final Word

Since participating in the book festivals, F.J. and I have kept in touch and I have come to respect and appreciate his sincerity when it comes to his desire to help others in their quest for self-sufficiency.  He has truly walked the walk in that a number of years ago, he and his wife pull their four sons from public school and set off in a converted school bus to the American Southwest to live life off-grid with a very limited budget.

I am especially grateful to F.J. for sharing his wisdom and knowledge with us and hope that he will come back to join us on another Survival Friday.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Backdoor Survival on Facebook to be updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Pinterest.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin:  Today I feature some of F.J. Bohan’s books and other items related to water, water storage, and water purification.

Survival Still Non-Electric Stainless Steel Portable Water Distiller: With the Survival Still, you can distill and purify water from any source including pond, river, pool, swamp, stagnant and even ocean salt water.  It never needs filters and is made in the USA with heavy duty stainless steel.  It’s small and compact and is designed to be used in conjunction with standard size pots that you already have in your home. Bottom line?  It is on my personal wish list.

Barbed Wire, Barricades, and Bunkers: The Free Citizen’s Guide to Fortifying the Home Retreat: This is a guide to readying your home retreat for any scenario. You will learn how to take proven designs for fortified structures and adapt them to your personal defense plan. Examples include barbed-wire fences and entanglements, concrete posts and barriers, and simple but effective sandbags— and a lot more.

Emergency Air for Shelter-In-Place Preppers and Home Built Bunkers  This book offers a reasonable solution for an affordable air filtration system. Why should you care?  Sheltering in place, or even moving to a bunker is a possibility if things go to heck but what about the air?  Sealing in a room is problematic at best since your supply of breathable air is limited. The system detailed in this book allows anyone to breathe safely while under threat and while following FEMA guidelines for sheltering-in-place.

Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter:  Built for long-lasting continuous use, the Katadyn Pocket water micro filter features a silver-impregnated ceramic element that’s effective against bacteria and protozoa even in extreme conditions. Unlike disposable filters, the ceramic element can be cleaned several times–even in the field.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.

WaterBOB Emergency Drinking Water Storage:  Have you considered storing water in your bathtub?  The Water Bob is a bladder that you can use in your bathtub to store water if you know that a storm, flood, or hurricane is brewing.

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials


The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.

One item I can recommend available is their Do It Yourself SuperPail Combo. It includes 6 x 6-Gallon Buckets with Lids, 6 x Metallized Storage Bags and a 10-Pack of Large Oxygen Absorbers.

Don’t forget that you do not need fancy equipment to seal the metalized bag. A cheap hair iron will do the job.

Storing Rice in Mylar Bag_09

Conair Flat Iron 2″ Ceramic Straightener: I use a hair iron to seal my Mylar bags. Forget about a hose and a vacuum sealer. A cheap hair iron works great – just be sure to get one with 2” plates.

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14 Responses to “Survival Friday: Water Everywhere But Not a Drop to Drink”

  1. Dear Gaye. Wow it is great to find mention of the Survival Still in your archived for Sept 13, 2013. I am going through the archives to read everything about water.

  2. Getting the oxygen out of the metal bags. I’m working with a co2 fire extinguisher. Take off the spray nozzle and get a gate valve to screw on and a short nipple into the gate valve. then a clear plastic hose held in place with a hose clamp. place the plastic hose as close to the bottom of the bag as you can get. Then gently crack open the valve to force the oxygen out. See any problems?

    • Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to simply use an oxygen absorber? Pop one into the metalized or Mylar bag then seal it all up with a hair iron. In a day or two, the oxygen will be gone with a minimum of work.

  3. I have 5read that nine drops of plain bleach will purify one gal od water?

    I have read that nine drops of plain bleach will purify one gal. of water”? Would like to hear some comments on this.

    • Actually, that is a bit short. You would use 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water. One word of caution is to ensure that your bleach is fresh meaning not older than a year and preferably less. Also, unscented bleach only.

      Here is a reference plus a chart: //

  4. I’ve read this with mixed emotions. On one hand it seems so right for where the author lives. but I live in a maritime climate where water can be just as dangerous by being too much. I so agree about having more than one form of filtration/purification. I also have come to believe I need to know what I can do w/o the equipment I have. I may not be where my ‘stuff’ is. So having the knowledge to survive in this case, for me, is essential. I may never need it; then again, we don’t always know and can plan for when we are in transit w/o our trusty bug out packs.
    thanks so much for giving me more ideas to consider

  5. While water is essential, there is something equally important. Unprocessed sea salt, when dissolved in the mouth before drinking water, will make the water help the body heal damage and improve immunity.

    The body has two oceans of water inside. One outside the cells and one inside. The salt helps the water get everywhere.

    In my research and practice, there are about 70 different diseases and conditions that can be improved by dissolving salt in the mouth and drinking water.

    Even with serious acute conditions like high blood pressure and heart attacks, the salt will help your health.

    One day, a friend in the back of our car complained of chest pain. Asking, she had already taken 2 nitro. Having her take a pinch of salt and drink a bottle of water, the chest pain was gone in less than 45 seconds.

    Another friend called at 10 PM to inform of her blood pressure of 210/110. Refusing to go to the hospital at that hour, understandable from a 70 year old, she agreed to take a pinch of salt and glass of water. It kept coming down with each successive glass and pinch of salt. By the third glass, her BP was down to 150/80.

    There are a number of ways water and salt can help us survive. Survivalist Health-care:

    • Thank you Nurse Jon, very interesting and informative. The only problem I see is getting the right water. Every thing is in plastic bottles. Although it is supposed to rain a little this week here. If you get this and have recommendations, I would appreciate your help.

  6. I am a big fan of Sawyer water purification (rather than filtration) systems because they are effective against both bacterial and viral contaminants. I have both a home and a backpack version. Both are available for a reasonable price on

    • I don’t understand this post. I looked on Amazon for Sawyer water purification and everything I found was for water filtration. So, what is Sawyer water purification (rather than filtration)?

    • I’m with Bill on this one. I bought directly from Sawyer at their web site. I purchased 2 of the bucket “Purifier” system and also the portable ones. It is the best system in my opinion. If you are just backpacking, a filter is fine, but for literally a few dollars more, the purifier takes out I believe 99.9999% bacteria & viral components. It will purify about 1 million gallons of water. They also carry other very good products. This also allows you to store a lot of water and not worry about water rotation. I don’t know about you, but dumping or using up about 1,000 gallons of water and then refilling on a regular basis doesn’t interest me.

  7. With the unknown chemicals being pumped back into the ground during the fracking process, I have to ask how well these filters will do to remove them. From what I have read, the actual chemicals used, although probably toxic, are considered a ‘trade secret’. Am already reading about communities who have sold the fracking rights only to discover a few years later that their water supplies have been contaminated because the ‘used’ water is pumped back deep into the ground. And we all know that water will follow the path of least resistance. Now they are fighting the oil drilling industry for disclosure of the chemicals so they can know what to test for. Most the filters I have read about are for cleaning dirty water or removing some bacteria. How do you test for chemicals that you don’t know about?

  8. That still looks like a good canidate for long term use. Its going to need a good amount of fuel to use, but if you take advantage of the fire for cooking and laundry needs, probably very useful. Thanks for making us aware of it – I hadn’t seen this before.

    I did see a still made from an ordinary paint can and lid, with a stainless steel plumbing line (like we use under our sinks) attached at top to funnel into container. There is an instructable and ehow online site for its manufacture if you are on the cheap like me.

    Thanks again – have a great weekend.

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