Long-Term Water Solutions: Bugging In

by Daisy Luther

Water is second only to oxygen in the hierarchy of survival. Without it, in 3 days, you’ll die.  But it goes much further than that.

Water is vital for basic sanitation, for growing more food, for raising livestock, for cooking, and for treating injuries. So even if you have enough to drink, without enough for those other needs, your chances aren’t good.

The solutions you choose for water should be based on whether your plans for long-term survival are bugging out to a secondary or unknown location, or sheltering in place. This week we’ll talk about solutions for bugging in.

There are several aspects to water that you should consider if your long-term plans are to bug in at your current location. Many of these solutions can also be put into place if you have a secondary location to which you will travel in the event of a crisis.

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First things first, you must store water.  This is absolutely the initial step that people should be taking in their preparedness journey.  The good news is, it is also one of the least expensive preparations. There are many different ways to put back a month’s supply of water.  We store drinking water and water for pets and sanitation.  Keep in mind that in the event of a disaster, even if water is flowing from the taps, it may not be safe to drink. Waterborne diseases like typhoid kill many people in the aftermath of natural disasters, sometimes causing more deaths than the disaster itself.

When I moved to this location, I bought spring water in one-gallon jugs. We used this for drinking and cooking water (we are on municipal utilities and we don’t trust the supply for consumption.) Once we emptied a one-gallon jug, we then refilled it with tap water and stored it in the basement. This is our back-up supply for sanitation and for our pets. We have just over 300 gallons of tap water stored.

For drinking water storage, I purchased some of the large BPA-free 5-gallon jugs (the kind that sit on top of water dispensers).  I have gradually acquired a one-month supply for 4 people of this water. In my basement, I have stored 30 of these jugs.

The standard advice for drinking water is one gallon per person per day.  I like to add a little bit to that in order to have extra for cooking. Also keep in mind if you are working outside, particularly in hot weather, you’ll drink more than a gallon per day.  Sick people and pregnant women also need to hydrate more.

Water is heavy.  Be sure when you choose a place to store it that you won’t impair the integrity of your structure. For this reason, storing it all on one end of the attic might not be the best idea, depending on your situation. Also, keep in mind that extreme temperatures can cause plastic containers to break down. Depending on the type of plastic, this can leach harmful toxins into your water.  If your water is subjected to freezing temperatures, it expands and can cause the containers to burst.

Learn more about water storage HERE.


This step is even more important than storage, particularly if a situation turns long term. What are you going to do after that water storage runs out? You can’t store a 30-year supply of water, in most cases. You have to be able to replenish your supply.

The best solutions are either a deep well or a natural spring on your property. Those will keep you in fresh, pure water indefinitely in most cases. Some exceptions are if the groundwater is contaminated due to a natural disaster like an earthquake or a manmade disaster like fracking.

Some naturally occurring sources to look for if you have yet to acquire your property are rivers, creeks, lakes, or ponds.

Keep in mind that you may be transporting the water from its source to your home. Look into back-up solar pumps for your well, and be sure that a manual pump is also available. If water is going to have to be carried for any distance, consider what type of conveyance will make the job easier. As people age or become injured, the job of carrying two buckets full several times a day will become a lot more physically strenuous.  A sturdy wheelbarrow, pushcart, or wagon would make the task easier.

If your property doesn’t have these natural resources you must plan a catchment system for rainwater. Depending on your area, you may want a cistern or other enormous amount of storage for the water you harvest. If you get frequent precipitation throughout the year numerous water butts at the corners of your structures may supply enough water for your needs, including supplementing your garden. (Be warned that the eco-police in some places believe that the government owns the water falling from the sky – rainwater catchment is illegal in some states.  Many may wish to disregard this flagrant insult to natural law.) You can learn more about rainwater harvesting HERE and HERE.

Bear in mind that the water from most natural sources MUST be filtered, so an investment in a high-quality water filtration system is vital. I have a Big Berkey. I can only personally recommend Berkey because they are the products that I use myself.  When you purchase your filtration system, go the extra step and also purchase extra elements and “bits and pieces” in the event that repairs are needed. I have enough elements to keep us in safe water for many years to come as well as the spare parts to replace the wear-and-tear items like spigots and gaskets.  There are also elements that can be purchased to remove the additives in municipal water, like fluoride and other toxic chemicals.

It’s important not to just purchase a filtration system and leave it in your closet until it’s needed. Particularly if water is in short supply, you don’t want to waste it as you try to figure out how to use your system or as you run a gallon through before using it for drinking water. Practice now while water is readily available.


Finally, if the availability of water is limited, you must make every effort to make it stretch as far as possible. I recently wrote about the drought situation on the West Coast and the toxic water due to a chemical spill in West Virginia.  Our resources are finite and it doesn’t pay to waste them. This would be even more true in a world without water as near as the closest kitchen sink. If you have to go to the well or the creek and haul every drop of water your family uses back to the house, you will have added impetus to make the most of it.

Installing systems in your home to make use of gray water and black water can help you make the most of every drop of that precious liquid.

Gray water can be used for watering plants, for example, and sometimes for cleaning depending on the origin of the gray water. Gray water is the water that comes from bathtubs, showers, and clothes washing.  Systems can be devised that separate the disposal fo gray water and black water, and the gray water can be diverted for use in irrigating your garden. Learn more HERE.

Black water is the water from human waste, like toilet water or dish water, and contains bacteria and pathogens. There are some recycling systems that make black water acceptable for use in watering outdoor plants.  Learn more HERE.

You can find more ideas for conserving water HERE.

What are your plans?

Everyone’s situation is different based on their setting, their personal needs, and their naturally available resources. The solutions that might work in the rainy Pacific Northwest would not be appropriate for those who live in the desert of Arizona.  The three basic principals are the same wherever you are: you need some water stored for short-term emergencies, you need a way to replenish your supplies should the crisis become extended, you need to make your water safe, and you need to make it stretch as far as possible. The lists here are based on my family’s situation and are by no means comprehensive or universal.

It’s important now to look at your situation and come up with solutions that will work for you where you are right now.  Do you have some ideas to share, particularly ones that are unique to your geographic setting?  Please do so in the comments below.


Learn more about preparing for a water crisis HERE and HERE.

Buy Berkey products HERE.

Learn more about establishing a long-term water supply HERE.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, where this first appeared, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at [email protected]

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