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Water Basics

By Denis Korn

Clean water of course is essential for survival. While it is possible to go for weeks without food, after 3 days or so, survival is at great risk without water. Make absolutely sure you answer the following questions.

o How much water do you have available to you in an emergency or while on an outdoor adventure – on hand and available in your area?

o Will you have enough to clean foods you have stored?

o Will you have enough to cook foods that require lengthy boiling (beans, grains, pasta)?

o What quantities will you need to reconstitute “no cooking required” freeze-dried and dehydrated foods?

o Will you want to wash pots and utensils?

o Do you know how to obtain, store and/or purify water?

o Will you have enough water for sprouting and/or gardening?

Plan on at least1/2 gallon a day per person to survive. One gallon a day per person is considered minimum for drinking, basic food preparation, and basic hygiene. Two gallons for basic bathing, laundry, and cleaning.

Water Sources


Ponds, lakes, streams, springs, rivers, ocean (use desalinators or distillers only).

Know all local locations before an emergency and check quality.


Have non-electric collection options available- hand pumps, special buckets, and solar pumps.

Bottled, commercial

6 months to one-year shelf life- Rotate.

Around the house

Pools, spas, waterbeds, hot water heater, back of toilet tank, hoses, pipes- purify before drinking.

Collection ideas

Snow, rainwater, dew.

Survival techniques

Plants containing potable water, underground sources, moisture collection- many techniques available, get a good survival manual.


Specially packaged purified water

Water in small foil pouches or fruit juice like aseptic boxes- 5-year shelf life.

Large containers

Food grade plastic, concrete, water bladders, cisterns- above or below ground.

Small containers

Food grade plastic- new is best, numerous types available (If previously filled with food or beverage, used containers can impact tastes and odors), glass. Never use container that held chemicals or cleaners.



  • Portable hand operated purifiers- when rated as a “purifier” the device will kill viruses and filter bacteria and protozoa. Limited types available.
  • Portable hand operated filters- will filter out most bacteria and protozoa. Many types available.
  • Drip filters- counter top transportable units that filter and/or purify water slowly by gravity.
  • Bottle purifiers/filters- Easy to use, just fill and drink from bottle.
  • Pen like devices- Insert in a glass of water. Utilizes ultra-violet light as a purifier.
  • Desalinators- manual and electric. Removes salt from seawater.
  • Distillers- electric and non-electric available. Steam distills and purifies any contaminated and salt water.
  • Kitchen units- usually requires water pressure and uses carbon filter element. Some units can be modified to manual use.
  • Boiling- kills viruses and bacteria after 10 minutes (add one minute for every 1000 feet above sea level). May not however kill cysts such as Giardia.


  • Liquid chlorine bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite- only ingredient) – 8 drops (1/8 teaspoon) per gallon of clean water, double for cloudy water. For 5 gallons-1/2 teaspoon for clean water, 1 teaspoon for cloudy water.
  • Iodine (2%)- 12 drops per gallon for clean water, double for cloudy water. Has distinctive odor and taste. Not for pregnant or nursing women or those with thyroid problems.
  • Purification tablets- Iodine or Chlorine- Follow instructions on package. Some brands may not kill Giardia.
  • Stabilized oxygen- A relatively new method of purification. Many swear by it, do your research.
  • Katadyn Micropur (Chlorine Dioxide)- Effective against all microorganisms. Meets EPA purification guidelines.
  • Colloidal Silver- New and becoming more widely available. Worth investigating. Reported to eliminate numerous harmful elements.

Water Storage Tips

  • Store water in a cool, dry, and dark location.
  • Store away from odors, waste products, and petroleum based products (if using plastics – plastic containers can absorb odors).
  • Periodically check containers (6-12 months) and add additional additives if necessary.
  • Rotate containers if possible with new water.
  • Don’t use metal containers for long term storage.
  • Use water filters on water stored for long periods of time.