What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 2 – Water)

Note:  This is part of a series on personal preparation to help you answer the question, "What should I do?"  Awhile back, we polled our most frequent visitors to the site and asked what improvements would be most helpful to our readers.  The strongest response was that we should make it easier for people to start preparing.

So we've decided to do exactly that.  This series on how to build personal resilience into your life is designed for people who are just beginning the process.  Those who have already taken these basic steps (and more) are invited to help us improve what is offered here by contributing comments, as this content is meant to be dynamic and improve over time.  Our goal is to provide a safe, rational, relatively comfortable experience for those who are just coming to the realization that it would be prudent to take precautionary steps against an uncertain future.

It’s important to remember that the steps discussed here are first steps.  But for the unprepared, taking that initial action (Step Zero) is essential on the journey to developing resiliency.  These actions are “necessary but insufficient” parts of an ongoing process.

Full disclosure:  In this and future articles, we will recommend specific products that we have found to be especially suitable and relevant.  If you click on a link to purchase one of the products recommended below, PeakProsperity.com will receive a small commission.  This will not impact the price you pay for those items -- you can locate and buy these products elsewhere if you wish -- but with the funds we receive as the result of these transactions, we can continue to expand our other community offerings, produce the next wave of videos, and bolster our outreach and educational efforts.  You win by saving time and having easy access to our well-researched product recommendations, and we win by receiving your support and encouragement to continue doing what we do.

We’d also love to hear any feedback based on your firsthand experience with the products and vendors that we recommend.  Our goal is to ensure that we’re doing our utmost to offer the best guidance for utility, value, and service.

And so, we begin this series with water…


The highest priority resource to get under your local control is water.  Humans can live for roughly three weeks without food, but will perish after three days without water.  Just as importantly, many diseases are water-borne, so sufficient access to water must ensure quality as well as quantity.  Ample, clean water is a necessity of life.

For most Americans, water for drinking and washing comes either from a municipal (town/city) water supply or from a private well, so for the purposes of this article, we'll focus on water solutions around those options.

To begin with, storing water is generally inconvenient.  Stored water takes up a great deal of space, it's heavy, and it needs to be replaced every couple of years because it goes stale over time.  But for people living in very dry areas or in cities, especially in areas prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, storing water is the prudent thing to do.

I personally maintain about 40 gallons of water storage capacity, even though I have access to ample well and surface water.  Our family prefers drinking water that comes from a roadside spring, and so we fill up our jugs whenever we happen to drive by.  This means we have a lot of direct experience toting five-gallon containers around and learning what features are most desirable in water storage jugs.

For any water jug, my basic requirements are reasonable price, solid construction (won't wear out after a few uses or split when bumped) and that it be free of BPA, a toxin present in some plastics.  "Guilty until proven innocent" is my motto when it comes to industrial chemicals with hormone-mimetic potential, and because of this, BPA should be avoided unless research proves it to be safe. 

For storage, we recommend:

Stackable 5-Gallon Water Containers

  • HDPE “food grade” containers (BPA-free)
  • 5-gallon size is relatively easy to transport; it’s hard for most individuals to carry more than this.
  • Stackable shape helps with efficient storage.
  • Opaque color helps to limit algae growth if trace nutrients and light are present.
  • If you plan to use this container to drink from around the house, be sure to get the optional spigot attachment.

If you’re going to be storing and using your containers inside your house where direct sunlight is less of a factor, you may want to consider a clear container instead - it’s a lot easier to see how much water you’re using up as you go.  Also, having a spigot makes it substantially more convenient for everyday needs like filling a glass, so for a few dollars more, I would personally consider this option: 

Bel-Art Clear 5-Gallon Water Container with Spigot 

  • High-density polyethylene jug holds up to 5 gallons (20 liters).
  • Long (4 1/2"), easy-access spigot allows dispensing directly from table or shelf and is self-storing; gasketed spigot screws on to a 30mm (1-1/4") I.D. bung and securely stores inside the large cap during transportation.
  • 2 3/4" screw-top opening makes filling easy and allows venting.
  • Sturdy handle and bottom grip enable easy carrying.
  • Dimensions:  25cm (9-7/8") sq. x 38cm (15") high.  Cube shape maximizes storage space

For any plastic jugs or storage containers, I prefer to "treat" them before use by filling them with water and leaving them in the sun for two days.  This gets rid of the 'new plastic' smell and helps to bake out any residues that might be left on the interior surface.  Dump the first batch of water, rinse lightly, and they're ready to use.

Clean, Clear, Potable Water

I have never yet had to worry about water availability because each place I've lived has had potable surface water nearby.  Our current house has a deep well, but I plan to invest in an additional shallow well by drilling down 80 to 90 feet to a water-holding gravel layer that sits under our land.  To this shallow well, we'll attach both a windmill (for relatively continuous pumping for gardening purposes) and a hand pump capable of drawing from that depth.  We will also be installing rainwater catchment systems to our gutters.

Clean and abundant water is critical for sustaining life, no matter what your standard of living.  Some lucky folks have natural springs, streams, or other bodies of water on their property, which can greatly ease the issue of water access in times of emergency.  But the emphasis here for everyone, even if you've got water right out your front door, is on cleanliness.  

So perhaps now you have stored water or have access to a natural source of water.  But how can you be certain that this water is safe to drink?  Fortunately, that's easy.

Our family uses a ceramic filter based on proven technology that can render even the most foul pond water into clean, pure drinking water.  It has no moving parts - you just pour water in and let gravity do the rest.  There's an upper reservoir with filters in it connected to a lower tank.

We happen to use the Doulton filter (more popularly known as the Big Berkey), which also is the filter that appears to be most preferred by members of the PeakProsperity.com community:

Doulton Filter with Two 7-inch Ceramic Candles

  • Ceramic filters are extremely efficient at removing particulates and bacteria, and are very long-lasting.
  • Water filters through at approximately two quarts per hour.
  • Each 7" ceramic candle will filter 535 gallons each (replace candles yearly if using on a continual basis).

This filter removes all bacteria, all other little critters, and even a host of noxious chemicals.  We even use it to treat our otherwise perfectly safe well water right now, because it removes even slight impurities and improves the flavor.  But having this process be part of our daily life also gives us familiarity and practice in using this system of water filtration.

Knowing that our family will always have clean drinking water, no matter what economic or weather emergency may arise, adds to our resilience.  It also gives us a peace of mind that is invaluable.

We like the Doulton in the stainless steel model because it sits in our kitchen exposed to light.  If it were transparent, algae and other photosynthetic critters would eventually grow in the tank and shorten filter life by gumming them up.  Metal doesn't let the light through and thus keeps the water cleaner.

But the stainless model is a bit pricey (beginning at $178 + S&H), and some folks prefer to buy and stash a cheaper model to be pulled out only under emergency conditions.  If this is your plan, long-term algae growth is not a concern.

For infrequent emergency use, we recommend the Doulton Plastic Water Filter with Two 7-inch Ceramic Candles, which is currently priced at $138 + S&H.

  • Uses the exact same ceramic candle filters as the Doulton model.
  • Water filters through at approximately two quarts per hour – throughput can be materially increased by adding more ceramic candles (up to five).
  • Clear surface makes it easier to see how much water you’re using up as you go.

For more travel-sized/compact filters and purifiers, we recommend the MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter and the SteriPEN Emergency Water Purifier.  For even more options, click here.

These first steps are only a start toward increasing personal resilience through water security.  Much more can be learned about treating, storing, irrigating, and conserving water in our community forums, including a specific thread that has been developing for over a year on this topic (click here for the Definitive Water Thread).  There is an incredible wealth of guidance amassed here by many PeakProsperity.com members who are passionate and experienced about developing personal and community resilience – and many are happy to help answer questions posted on the forums.  So please consider joining the forum discussion if you have questions.  And if you’re one of those experienced forum mavens, thank you for all that you’re doing to help new members start on building resiliency into their lives.  


If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series on resilience, you can find them here:







What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 8 – Community)




    What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 9 – Your Next Steps)

    Full disclosure: In this and future articles, we will recommend specific products and services that we have found to be especially suitable and relevant. If you click on a link to purchase one of the recommended products or services, PeakProsperity.com may receive a small commission. This will not impact the price you pay for those items -- you can locate and buy these products elsewhere if you wish -- but with the funds we receive as the result of these transactions, we can continue to expand our other community offerings, produce the next wave of videos, and bolster our outreach and educational efforts. You win by saving time and having easy access to our well-researched product recommendations, and we win by receiving your support and encouragement to continue doing what we do.

    We’d also love to hear any feedback based on your firsthand experience with the products and vendors that we recommend. Our goal is to ensure that we’re doing our utmost to offer the best guidance for utility, value, and service.


    Part of the copy in this series is excerpted (and slightly modified) from a book chapter I wrote for The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, eds.)

    This content is being reproduced here with permission.  For other book excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing information, please visit http://www.postcarbonreader.com.

    This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://peakprosperity.com/what-should-i-do-the-basics-of-resilience-part-2-water-2/

    Mr. Martenson,
    I have used a KATADYN gravity flow water filter for years. It is a food grade plastic with ceramic filters. I have used this brand since Y2K. For a number of years my wife and I lived in remote bush Alaska where the water is sometimes of questionable quality. Being plastic it would ship easier without damage, it is also seamless. One ceramic filter will provide enough water for six people easily. Since the filters have an in-water limited life there is no need to use more than is necessary. Numerous retailers carry these products. Not having used the metal canisters I cannot comment about their function, but I cannot see why metal would not do the job. Your site is very useful and informative. Walmart has an eight-gallon water container that will stack, in sporting goods.

    Best Wishes.


    It’s great to have something that works for years and doesn’t require chemicals or constant maintenance. Just let gravity do the work.

    I can attest to the ceramic filters. Growing up a tropical country, we had the stainless steel type container with candle-style ceramic filters. Had years of use in them.

    We did go one step further (not necessary), which was to boil our water before putting it in there.


    Here is a no-cost option that can even save money for most people and it has benefits in good time or bad.
    I take bottles my family normally uses (milk jugs, large juice bottles, soda bottles and such) and wash them out with dish soap and rinse after we use them. Then, I fill them 3/4 full with clean water. Then, I put the bottles in our large freezer in our garage. This does two things.

    In good times, this stored frozen water adds to the thermal mass of my freezer. Anyone who knows physics understands that things with lots of thermal mass are more stable in temperature and take less energy to maintain. In other words, with a full freezer once it is cold, it stays cold longer without having to turn on. The water bottles are free thermal mass. You could of course buy hundreds of dollars of extra food, but if that’s not in your budget the bottles are great.

    Of course, if you’re out of town and the freezer goes out, it’s nice to have it half-full of ice. The thermal mass should keep the food inside from going bad for at least a few extra days. Something as simple as a two-day power outage could ruin hundreds of dollars of food unless you have it protected with lots of thermal mass.

    In bad times (you pick the situation) you obviously have a dozen or so gallons of water stored in the form of ice. Simply take them out one at a time.

    So, frozen water in bottles you were probably going to discard or recycle. It’s simple and free. It cuts electric rates (thermal mass), protects food during temporary outages and serves as a small stockpile if needed.

    The Simpler the Better,
    Make a 2 ft wide trench with a very slight incline that receives full sunlight with the higher end supplied by runoff.

    A small stream will work too.   Runoff from a hillside, parking lot or just a normally moist area will do.

    OR if you are in an extremely dry area just supply the trench with material that contains water.  Even Urine will work.

    Soak the bottom of the trench with dirty water to be distilled. Or place in the bottom any material containing moisture.

    Avoid contaminating by keeping the dirtiest water low away from sides of the trench. Below green leaves, broken cactus or other moist material.  A layer of rocks to support the trough, separates the dirty water from the clean surface areas.

    Lay a Trough or Gutter down the centerline of the trench the entire length, extend it out of the trench couple of feet at the low point. This can be an eve trough from a house, a half pipe (PVC cut lenghtwise), or anything of similar shape that is clean or can be cleaned. Even a series of buckets or containers if you do not want a continously operating version.

    The low end of the tough fills a water container.  Keep it safe, clean, partially buried to keep water cooler but do not let dirt in.

    Make sure the trough is well seated and can not fall over. Sit on rocks or some good foundation as the moist vegatable matter will degrade and deform. If in a small stream, use nice heavy rocks.

    Unroll a long, clean piece of transparent or translucent plastic over the trench longways. Secure the sides with stones or long poles/sticks.   Now lay a fairly light pole or straight stick down the center. Small diameter metal rod is good. A series of small stones will work too.

    Hope you can visualize.  This is a long slightly sloping trench covered in material that allows infrared light in with a slight “V” shape.  One is making a long greenhouse.   The upper suface is cooler and allows the water vapor created by the sunlight to condense.  It is a SOLAR STILL with no moving parts.

    Condensation will form over the top inner surface.  The solar distilled droplets will congregate and gravity will gather them to the bottom of the “V”…they will fall into the tough and gravity will collect them at the bottom of the tough.

    Allow a few gallons to flow throught the newly installed system to clean it out.

    The Continuous Product is nearly perfect distilled water. With no moving parts.  No filters. No expense. No bacteria if one is very careful.  No particulates.  Total Dissolved Solids near zero.  Better than Reverse Osmosis (energy intensive), Better than any other system except triple distilled lab water.

    One must guard this water source, if roving bands of thugs are present. So put is where it can not be seen easily.

    One can make several of these in different locations.    One can make a personal version too.

    In my Air Force Survival school, I made one with my helmut and the condom in the survival kit in the Mojave Desert.

    P.S.  Use sheet plastic that is as clean chemically as possible. Survival mode is a different story. This can supply as many people as needed. Just expand the system.  Store water carefully, cleanly, non-contimated for non-sunny days.

    If one opens the transparent material to recharge the trench with wet stuff, ONE MUST keep the inner surface as clean as possible.

    Question - Will a Doulton filter system purify and remove the salt content from sea water?

    I hope this isn’t too far out of context (this is not about drinking water), but I have done extensive experimentation with grey water systems- or to be more precise, re-capturing relatively clean water (bath water) for re-use (flushing the toilet). I find that this is a much larger and more consistent supply than rainwater, but some of my trials were more successful than others.
    I have yet to find a single soul out there doing this, so I would appreciate it if anyone else has been doing this too could get in touch with me so that we could compare notes- or we could start a branch thread separate from here if there is enough interest.

    JHART5…From the Berkey FAQ:

    Can I filter sea (salt) water through my Berkey system? No. The concentration of salt in sea water will more than likely ruin the elements fairly quickly.

    I have a water softener installed in our house, can I filter that water through my Berkey? Some people do, but we do not recommend it. It is best if you put water in your Berkey that has not gone through your water softener (the excess salt will likely shorten the life of the elements).

    The water bob works great as a way to store up to 100G of water, provided that you you have a spare bath tub in your house and you have some advanced warning to fill it. 

    composting toilets are prefered as a long-term solution, IMO, since flushing toilets not only wastes water, but also wastes a resource, i.e. compost.  Plenty of info out there already on safely composting human waste, so no need to go over it. 

    If you’re interested in converting a pre-existing system, it’s a lot of work!  You need to be able to capture the grey water in a tank, where it needs to be circulated and treated.  No way around this, grey water stored even for a few days gets RANK as the bacteria starts to multiple.  Rough filteration and UV /bleach sterilizing works, but now you’re talking about extra maintenance, power, etc.  It can be done, though.

    My system I’m currently working on uses harvested rainwater, my grey water is used to water shade trees via underground perforated pipe.  My goals were low-maintenance, safe, and water frugal.  The shade trees are decidious, and placed to reduce my substantial cooling costs during the summer.

    After doing the research and a few experiments, I came to the conclusion that re-using grey water for toilets was not efficient for my situation.

    For storage of water, i personally am leaning toward bins rather than totes.  You can harvest rainwater in these (at about 330 gallons each) and then purify using your chosen system.  Rainwater is usually very clean, mine tested the same as my RO faucet at 10 ppm dissolved solids.  You can add a little chlorine to the tank to keep growth in check til you use it.  Bleach is cheap and effective!

    Slow Sand Filters or Bio-sand Filters
    These can be made with local materials and are used as a way to make drinking water out of scummy ditch water in third world countries. The process is simple. You use a 5 - 10 gallon container made from plastic, concrete, or another material. Place layers of sand and gravel into it starting with the course material and finishing with the fine material, add some simple plumbing and tada it is ready for use.



    I just got one of these, I know I need to do more research on this product, but the price is right.

    I have no vested interest in this product, but i know when you start, you start cheap. 

    If anyone has any experience with this product, positive or negative, please share.  And DYDD as a false sense of security can be more dangereous than none at all.

    I am suprised that the SOLAR STILL Post is not creating interest:

    The SOLAR STILL in my first post above will distill sea water too. It can take moisture out of almost anything.

    Almost any other system will eventually clog with the dissolved solids of Sea Water. 

    My fancy RO system on my sailboat has a 5 or 6 to one waste flow and a pressure of around 900 psi.

    It has a powerful high tech electric pump that uses a lot of amps. 

    My Solar Panels and Wind Turbine electric supply must be managed well. 

    Many other items on my boat need electricity too. My Single Side Band Radio for example.

    The RO membrane is constanly cleaned by this waste flow over its surface. (the brine is put overboard)

    I see another post below about bio sand filters.  That could still have very dirty product water. 


    Please be careful.  The bacteria, virus,  and other substances are not removed with that system.

    A distillation or a very fine Reverse Osmosis filter system will remove the bacteria, virus and even most molecules.

    Solar Distillation takes no other energy than sunlight and removes virtually ALL other molecules, particulates, organisms in the water.

    Filters and any mechnical system will break or clog eventually.  Also, the world we will be using these devices in will not be friendly.

    If your supply of filters is large, it will probably be stolen or attacked. If you do not have many spares you have a limited time to produce water.

    You should be able to make your system out of junk …Like McGyver… Many abandoned houses will provide gutters.  Just take them off.

    It is the primary part of the SOLAR STILL.


    If you MUST drink dirty water, use the survival method tablets to kill the organisms in the water.

    The toxic metals, chemicals etc. will still be present if the water is contaminated but the critters will be dead.

    Get only the Purification Tablets that are made to strict U.S. Military specs, (usually Iodine based, TGHP Tetraglycine Hydroperiodide) and are proven to effectively KILL giardia, bacteria, VIRUSES and most microorganisms. Even in the crystal clear pristine streams, rivers, and lakes, water should ALWAYS be considered unsafe to drink. It’s just not worth the risk!  Some tablets DO NOT kill cryptosporidium. 

    So the Solar Still is best method overall.

    I have three (so far…  at least two more to come) tanks that retain water from the roof of my house.  This is about 27000 litres.  We get about 480mm (17 inches, I think) of rain annually (over about 5 months) and I don’t use the town supply at all.  
    I use this for the house (we are frugal…  a long shower is a winter luxury) and for the garden in summer.  (I grow most of our vegetables.) The chickens also use this water.

    It is pumped into the house at some pressure,  but I also have a “gravity fed” supply in the kitchen.  I will soon have a generator to supply the pump if there are any issues with electricity.  It is also possible to get water out of these tanks into a bucket if all else fails…  as people did in the past!

    This is a common solution to this issue here, and in fact,  most people won’t use the “town water”  for anything to do with eating or drinking as most people prefer the taste of rainwater.  If you ask someone if they’d like a cup of tea,  for example,  the most likely answer will be a question… “Do you have rainwater”  as for most people the answer of yes or no is contingent on the water supply.




    With all due respect to Chris, I had to laugh at:  “To begin with, storing water is generally inconvenient.  Stored water takes up a great deal of space, it’s heavy, and it needs to be replaced every couple of years because it goes stale over time.”

    See that tank at the R of our house?  It’s 5,500 gallons.  Yes it’s heavy, but it sits on a 4" thick concrete pad I poured myself.  The entire contents are used yearly, AND replaced gradually as and when when it rains…  it NEVER goes stale.  ALL the drinking water at the kitchen faucet is double filtered, the second filter being Activated Carbon.  My wife reckoned the water started tasting “funny” about three years ago, and this fixed it totally, our water is better than anything you’ll buy in a bottle.

    As far as space goes, they are 3.4m in diameter, about 11 feet? and stand ~2m high or 6’ 6’'.

    In Australia, very very few people have wells.  Our steel tanks cost ~$2500 each installed and delivered, I’ll bet boring a well could easily cost more than that…  The water is lifted to the taps with a demand pump that starts almost immediately any tap is turned on, everything is solar powered and runs even during blackouts off our backup batteries.

    We have a second one (Identical) which we use exclusively for the Zone I garden (smack bang in the middle of the above photo).  All the watering is done by gravity  The tall pipe sticking out the roof BTW is the vent for our dry composting toilet, one reason we do very nicely with just one tank for the house…  Notice loads of mulch in the garden to stop evaporation.

    Corrugated iron water tanks are considered a national icon here…


    re: solar still
    FWIW I appreciate the post, I think it is good to know in a real survivalist emergency what to do. I thought bleach was adequate to kill critters in the water, or a few drops of povidone iodine.  It makes sense to go with the strongest stuff, since gastroenteritis increases your water requirements massively.



     I want to throw this out there to CM members. I am located in the SF Bay Area and work for a small family business. We have lots of surplus 55 gallon foodgrade HDPE plastic drums that members can pick-up for free. They contained sorbitol, a foodgrade sweetner and are closed top with 2" bungs. Their are also some 55 gallon metal drums that would be perfect for fuel storage. These contained isopropyl alcohol. If interested PM me for pickup details. Sammy

    Great site.  Like a combination of STRATFOR and Survivalblog.  I wrote an post about your site with a link to here, and listed your site in my Survival and Preparedness Links. 

    Chris Martenson article on Urban Survival Skills.com - http://get-urban-survival-skills.blogspot.com/2010/08/urban-survival-preparation-chris.html

    Great article on water - the primary consideration for all Survival and Emergency Preparedness planning.







    I urge caution to people who expect to be able to use any water source and get clean water from these filters.
    Patrickcornelius is correct about this filter- it will not remove waterborne viruses. Brand new, it appears to be designed to remove bacteria, protozoa and some chemicals via the activated charcoal filter cores. As water filters age they lose efficacy, particulalrly the charcoal (toxin-removing component), especially if you have heavy concentrations of contaminants. 

    If you have surface water, spring water or shallow well water, boiling first is a good idea to destroy viruses. Depending upon where you are, you may also encounter pesticides, algal toxins, industrial chemicals, etc. You can not depend upon these small amounts of charcoal to remove contaminants in all situations.

     If you are using scummy pond water, you are setting yourself up for potentially serious adverse health effects. With contaminated water, distilation is the safest route.

    Brief overview: http://waterfortheworld.com/problem/waterborne-diseases

    This is a common solution to this issue here, and in fact,  most people won’t use the “town water”  for anything to do with eating or drinking as most people prefer the taste of rainwater.  If you ask someone if they’d like a cup of tea,  for example,  the most likely answer will be a question… “Do you have rainwater”  as for most people the answer of yes or no is contingent on the water supply.
    ejanea, our local “authorities” have told us not to use rainwater from our roofs to water our gardens because the water contains contaminants from the roof.  is this a concern for you guys?  what type of roofs do you have?  what procedure do you use to capture and use the water?

    i’ve read other sources who say that the rooftop contaminants are not an issue and that it is ok to use water from our roof to water our garden.  i would love to be able to do so, but am hesitant because of the possible threat of illness, etc.

    thank you in advance,