Water Source & Storage is Critical (Level 3 Preparedness)

“Prepping and Preparedness 3” is a level of being prepared for up to 1 year.

Check the series overview (linked below) for my logic and reasoning why I split it the way that I did.

Sourcing, Transporting, & Storing Water | #1 Priority

You can store water fairly easily for the time frames of most aftermath scenarios of disruption. Level 1 & Level 2 water preparedness will have you covered for nearly any likely emergency or disaster.

That said, Level 3 preparedness is not ordinary. It’s extraordinary! And I don’t want you to feel that I’m pushing it on you. This is simply for those who are planning for a disaster threshold that exceeds most all “likely to occur” scenarios.

WATER will be arguably the top, or among the top priorities to sort out. And quickly. That’s why you will need to plan for it now. Before a Level 3 event happens. The purpose of this article is to inspire you to think deeply about this priority.

Your Ordinary Water Storage Won’t Be Enough

I don’t care how much water you may have stored. I know that some of you have some pretty big storage tanks. However when we’re talking about a supply that needs to last from months to possibly a year, this is a whole new ball game…

Water consumption will fall into two areas. Drinking & Cooking, and Sanitation & Cleaning.

The typical rule-of-thumb for preparedness has been 1 gallon per day per person for “survival”. Well that’s not going to be enough when we’re talking longer term sustainability!

How Much Water Will You Consume?

Just think about how much water you might consume during a typical day for drinking and cooking. Pretend that there’s no more soda, juice, milk, beer, or anything else to drink in the fridge. What? No beer?! (Well maybe you brew your own – but that’s another story…)

If all you’re going to be drinking is water, it’s going to go faster than you realize. Morning coffee? Each of your meals. Thirsty during the day while working outside? Sweating during the summertime? That one gallon per day guideline is not going to be enough. Just pointing that out.

During a given week, how many times do you cook up some pasta, rice, soup, or ANYTHING which requires water in a pot? Well, add that in to your calculations.

Now here’s where it can get really consuming… Have you ever thought about how much water you use for showering, flushing, and washing? Those requirements aren’t going away… While you will be able to reduce consumption to an extent, you’ll still need to clean yourself, wash dishes and clothes, and use a toilet (more on that later).

Awhile ago I wrote an article surmising how much water we consume on average each day during “ordinary times”. My results were as follows for one person:

Drinking & Cooking: 2 gallons per day
All other uses: 64 gallons per day

The biggest uses were from showering and flushing. Sure you could sponge bath, and you could dig an “outhouse”. Both are not preferable, but may be necessary depending on your location and preparedness. Just saying…

The thing to consider is how much you use during ordinary times, and if you will be able to supply that much water during SHTF times. Some will, some won’t (and will have to drastically alter their consumption habits).

But lets keep on going. Read on…

Sustainable Reliable Water SOURCE!

Realistically, and with all logical certainty, the ONLY way you’re going to survive this is one or more of the following:

  • You have well water AND you have power to your well pump.
  • There is a water source nearby. Close enough to haul significant quantities back and forth to your location on a regular basis.
  • There is enough rainfall in your region and you have rainfall collection systems. Though winter will not work.
  • Your municipal water system is gravity fed (rather than pumped) and you live “down” from the source (unlikely scenario).


Many of us rural folks have a well. This is the ideal scenario! However, if this is you, then you better have a plan for powering your well pump when the grid goes down. Your only other alternative will be having a water source near by.

In my situation I have alternative energy solar with battery storage and inverter. Plenty to power up my well pump. I will be writing on that separately with recommendations (will link it here when completed).

Power requirements will depend on your well (shallow vs deep) and the corresponding ‘horsepower’ (electrical requirements) of the pump.

If you are able to keep your well pump running, you will not be disrupted in any way in the Water category. Though sewer requirements will be another story. Have septic system? No problem. On a municipal sewer system? That’s probably going to be a problem (another article).

Water Source Nearby| Back and Forth from Source to Home

Okay, so you don’t have well water and alternative power to operate it. You better hope that there’s a fresh water source nearby… And when I say nearby I mean as close as possible!

Water is heavy. Round it to 8 pounds a gallon for easy ‘figurin’. Can you imagine hauling a hundred pounds, or several hundred pounds of water each day from your nearest source to back to your location? Well you better (imagine)…

Because that’s what you’ll be doing. Now how are you going to do that? How far away is it? How’s the access?

Are you going to need a motorized vehicle to get it? Does it operate? Do you have fuel for it? How long will that last? Will there be security concerns?

Do you have an appropriate wagon or yard cart with the right wheels to get the job done? What about water storage transport containers? Have enough of them?

Do you have the strength to do this task? Is it uphill (remember, water is HEAVY)?

What are you going to do with it when you get the water back to your location (storage)?

Rainwater Collection

The amount of water that falls from rain is incredible. Barrels of water can be filled rapidly from roof runoff during rain. Here’s an example of the number of gallons vs rainfall:

[ Read: Gallons of Water from Rainwater Collection ]

The issue with rainwater collection from a roof or makeshift arrangement is when it doesn’t rain! And more importantly, when winter comes! If you live North, or where it snows rather than rain in the winter, you won’t make it through unless you have alternate water sources nearby. Running water in a stream or river that doesn’t freeze for example.

But rainwater collection from roof runoff is a viable option for many. You will need to store this water in as large a tank or tanks as feasible.

Rainwater Collection on amzn

Municipal Gravity Fed Water Source

There are two scenarios here. One is that your municipal water tower is able to be replenished from a functioning generator pump. The disaster that has led to Level 3 though may negate this as a possibility. But then again, maybe… Most municipalities will have generator backup for their pumps. The problem will be enough fuel to keep it going for long term. Or, was the disaster such that the generator is no longer functioning?

The other is a municipal water storage situation where the tank itself is gravity fed from a water source higher up. I’m not sure how many of those actually exist. But I’m just pointing it out. Do you know where your town water comes from? (It might be good to discover this).

Water Storage

You have two choices here.

One, you store your ‘bulk’ water in 55 gallon (or whatever big size) drums or tanks. Cold weather zones will need to be kept inside or buried beneath the frost line.

Two, keep a large number of smaller water containers which you continually rotate from storage to transport.

55 Gallon or equivalent Water Storage

These barrels should be Food Grade. There should be a water spigot near the bottom or use a siphon pump fed through the top to access the water when you need it.

If you choose to acquire used food grade barrels, be sure that it wasn’t previously used for foods which you’ll never get that flavor out! In any case, clean them well with bleach-water solution.

Disinfectant Bleach-Water Ratio

Bleach-Water Ratio for Drinking Water

Purpose-made water storage barrels can be purchased from many preparedness-oriented stores too.

55-Gallon Water Storage Barrel

Smaller Containers for Water Storage

It might be convenient if you used something like 5 gallon water containers both for storage AND transportation to and from the water source. But you’ll need enough of them…

Some examples include the following:

7-Gallon Rigid Water Container
(view on amzn)

5-Gallon Samson Stackers

Quality Water Filtration is a MUST

Since water sourcing may be questionable, a quality drinking water filter is a must. A high quality countertop filter such as ANY of the Berkey water filter systems (multiple sizes), is a best choice.

If you’re going to buy one, which you should, then I suggest purchasing from Jeff (The Berkey Guy) at USABerkeyFilters.com, our long time sponsor and authorized US distributor (lifetime warranties).

If You Don’t Have A Well or Water Source Nearby

The majority of the US population rely on municipal water sources. Most people live in suburbia or city regions and will be in a exceedingly difficult situation without a reliable water source nearby.

If that’s you, and if you are planning for Level 3, my advice is as follows. Plan to leave the area and get to another location that’s well thought-out to survive a Level 3 collapse. Because without a fresh water source, you will not survive. Period. And it will happen fast.

Maybe that’s prearranging to move in with “xyz”. Or maybe that’s bugging out to your camp. The point is, you better have a plan…

Continue reading: Water Barrel Storage For Emergency

Is Stored Water Safe After One Year?

Water Sources and Treatment

Drinking Water Storage – How Long in Plastic Containers?

Do You Have A SHTF Water Plan?

The Berkey Water Filter is Expensive – Is it Worth the Money?

[ Read: Preparedness Level 1 – 4 Series Overview ]