Extract A Drinking Water Supply From Your House During Disaster


Water is a high priority commodity during a time of disaster. There are things that you can do in your home immediately before a potential or impending disaster (e.g. hurricane, tornado), or right afterwards (e.g major earthquake) to ensure an emergency supply of water for drinking:

Note: I’ve done a number of posts on this over the years, but it’s a good reminder to realize where your water sources are, or what you can do to quickly store extra water for your home.

Note: Shut off the utility water supply to your house if there’s reason to believe that the public water supply may have been contaminated.
Tool: Water & Gas Shutoff Valve

Fill your bathtub, sinks, and other available containers with water. You could potentially collect 50 to 100 gallons of water in a full bathtub – enough to water a family of four for several weeks. Consider a waterBOB for your tub…

Toilet Water. The water that’s in the toilet tank (not the bowl) is perfectly fine. You will find anywhere from 2.5 gallons or more setting there.

Drain your water heater for 40 gallons or more. Turn off the gas or the electric power to your water heater before draining. Open a hot water faucet somewhere in the house. Then, on the hot water heater there will be a drain valve/spigot located at the bottom of the tank… open it to allow water to drain out of the tank. Drain the tank into containers as needed. If there is some sediment in the water, just let it settle, and drink the water off the top.

Drain the pipes in your house. The piping in your home typically holds several gallons of water, which can be drained into containers by opening a high-point faucet tap and draining from a low-point tap.

Rain Water Harvesting. You might step outside and set up a tarp to collect rainwater into buckets or a barrel. An amazing amount of water could be collected in this manner:
Calculate Gallons Of Rainwater Collection From A Tarp

Note: Use a drinking water filter. When in doubt, filter it out…


  1. Have a Water Bob for each tub and waiting on the well driller. This year the Christmas theme for my two grown boys and their families is water. Neither think about prepping, sigh! Going to get Water Bobs for them and if I can swing it a Berkey Light. We have a Royal Berkey and it gets a work out. Bought old pickle barrels too. Save your vinegar jugs. Durable plastic and balanced well for pouring and carrying.

    1. I have several ‘pickle’ barrels too, and keep water storage on ‘standby’ in case my pump fails. Which reminds me… I should empty them out and refill (it has been over a year and I like to refresh with new, and re-treat with a proper dose of bleach).

  2. Consider Building a well bucket out of white PVC 2-3 inch pipe, pipe end cap, a brass check valve installed into the cap with washers and a carriage bolt through the top end of the pipe to attache a rope.

    Just google “pvc well bucket” to get an idea of how to build one. It is a good backup if you do not have a hand pump for your well or say somebody steals your hand pump during SHTF.

  3. I just think if you have to rely on a water heater or tub, you were NOT preparing…
    UNLESS someone stole your water after TSHTF in a break-in!!??!! :-)

    1. Save your vinegar jugs

      Don’t forget the bleach, cleaner, and juice jugs. I have about 70 of these for non-drinking water needs..although the bleach would be fine.

  4. If you’ll depend on household bleach for water purification you’ll need to make sure you have a fresh product because it’s active ingredient degrades over time eventually making it ineffective.

    Most sources say that shelf life is one year after manufacture even for unopened product and storage conditions can significantly shorten that time-span. A device like the Miox might be a good investment instead of attempting to stockpile Clorox or pool products.

    1. I just meant the water stored in bleach jugs isn’t contaminated.
      I have a Berkey, pool shock, iodine.

      1. Pool shock has a shelf life of 10 years if unopened, kept in a cool, dry place.

  5. Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink. From: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

    An interesting scenario of what very VERY well may happen in a major countrywide SHTF. Sure you may have that Water Bob for the tub, hundreds of Jugs of water, Rain Catchment barrels. While theses will last weeks, months or even years at 1 gallon per person per day….. What about those 20-50 gallons to water that Garden? How about flushing the toilet, washing clothes, cleaning dishes, moping the floor, And GOD knows a bath every two weeks or so. PLUS the FD foods need water to reconstitute them…

    Now I don’t know about y-all but I’m using around 2500 gallons a month during Gardening season. So around 83+ gallons a day….. In the winter I use around 1000 per month, 30+ gallons a day. Yeah I know that’s a lot of water, but it’s cheap and I like long HOT showers, clean clothes and dishes… HAHAHA

    SO, along comes a SHTF where the “God only knows” has fried the water supply for let’s say for 6 months or longer…. If I cut my water back to 1 gallon a day for 6 months that’s… what? 182 gallons; not bad, easy to store that much, right? But ohhh yeah, I need to flush that nasty the toilet, another gallon a day, and maybe take a bath, another gallon, wash dishes, wash clothes, clean the dog, HEY Blue needs a bath also hehehe… .

    So realistic if one person can do it on 5 gallons a day, that’s more realistic. Now were talking 5 gallons for 183 days = 900 gallons for that same 6 months. AND we have not watered that food producing Garden yet or watered the Chickens, Rabbits, so lest just double that, 1800 gallons at a bare minimum for the normal Joe-Blow to sustain, Ohhhhe yes, add the wife and 3.5 kids to the mix. 5000 gallons for 6 months?

    So IF we have a slightly major SHTF that takes the water supply (and probably the power) out for 6 months…. Anyone have 2000-5000 gallons of aqua stored up in their home? Now before y-all shout “well!!!!” how many millions of people in SoCal (area of 40,000,000 people) are going to have a well (and a way to get the water out) in their suburban back yard or in their Townhouse?

    Guess what people, Water will be worse than Food when it comes to the “masses” breaking down your door… The next thing someone will yell is “River” sure, with all of the pollutants and dead bodies floating by….. Ohhhh K.

    PLEASE remember it took FEMA 5 days to get through the BS and get water to the Super Dome. And that was just from a small hurricane, imagine something BIG!!!! happening. FYI, just for entertainment look up what really happened at the Super Dome. SHOCKING

    With all that said. Please have a GOOD, and I do mean a dang good filter (or 5) and a supply of water AND extra replacement cartridges. And yes even if you have to push those bodies out of the way to get water to filter and sterilize, water is water if clean.

    For short term, Ken is absolutely correct, the water you may get from the home is honestly around 200 gallons MAX, if you are lucky, and would last a week?….. What are you going to do after that?

    Food, or should I say “Water”, for thought.


    PS; water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, how much can you carry at a time?

    1. @ Ken

      Hey Ken, don’t ya just hate it when the comment is almost twice the word count as the Article??? HAHAHAH

      Sorry about that :-(


      1. Actually, that’s quite awesome… I’m very appreciative that others are compelled to add content to the subjects that are brought up. These words will reside here in ‘cyberspace’ for a long time – for others to one day read for themselves upon some ‘Google’ search or other such mechanism…

    2. Don’t forget a few extra spigots with those extra filters on those Berkeys.

    3. For that toilet flushing we always have a porta potty from our camping gear that comes in the house for extended power outages, needs emptying every four days, so it gets dumped down the sewer clean out.

    4. NRP, you are just one big ray of sunshine today!LOL!

      You are absolutely correct on water usage. Most don’t know how much water they use on a regular basis. It’s a good exercise to figure it out. Lack of potable water will be what does the masses in. Waterborne diseases will be rampant too.

      You can save water with a compost toilet or build one over the pipe going into the tank. Taking less showers will help but be a miserable solution to live with.

      Water will be a priority for the garden’s survival. Washing clothes won’t be.

      Water may just become one of the currencies. Wars will be fought over it very shortly IMHO.

      My suggestion is not to advertise that you have a water source. The clueless will make it undrinkable in short order if they find it. (River, stream, pond lake…)

      1. @ Bill Jenkins Horse

        Hey Bill, that was not a “big ray of sunshine” that was a bolt of lightning…. HAHAHAH


    5. How??? How do you support a garden on only 2500 gallons per month? And in a desert? Gray water? Handy-dandy-jim-dandy-little-nuclear-transporter bringing water from the nearest river? That would be useful. How do you do it? We cut our water by a third this year, but we’re still using MUCH more than that!

      1. @ Lauren

        As to your question, I now have (6) Raised beds 2’ high, 4’ X 8’, (8) 1/2 plastic barrels, also around (40) 1’X1’X1’ milk creates that are lined with landscape fabric and filled with soil. Seriously I get enough produce from that small “square foot” Garden to supply 80% of all the vegs I eat for a year (and yes I can a LOT hehehe). Granted the “beds” are packed tight and everything is growing atop of itself, but it works…..

        See Ken’s article dated February 18, 2016 “Where Are You Buying Your Vegetable Garden Seeds? “, that’s a photo of my garden before I expanded it some, it’s about twice that size now.

        I basically lose very little water to evaporation and drainage into the ground. Notice the plastic at the bottom of the 4X8 beds, that also helps


        1. Got it. You have a small garden in a controlled space. I assume you mulch heavily as well.


        2. @ Lauren

          Ahhh yeah, I gave up on that 2 acre Gardening stuff a long time ago, this way I can walk around “upright” and talk face to face to my little babies… HAHAHAHA But seriously, I get a LOT or produce from that little space. More than I can use in a years time.

          And you’re almost correct on the mulch, it’s usually so thick I don’t need to mulch. One of the beauties of “square foot” Gardening. Plus I rework the top 6-8” of soil every year, it’s very VERY rich…. Would love to post a few “now” photos; looks like a miniature jungle. LOL


        3. NRP

          would appreciate to see “now” photos…

          can it be “arranged”….? …—- Ken?

        4. If it gives you what you need it’s large enough. I have a third of an acre, and about half of it is currently under some kind of cultivation (other than grass) so our summer water use is insane. I’m working on mulching the garden areas so water use won’t be so extreme in the future. As I said, we decreased our water use by about a third this year, and I’m hoping it will drop more next year. It’s a work in progress.

          Next summer a good portion of the lawn is going away to make space for more garden. I’m transitioning part of the remainder to yarrow so it won’t have to be watered as much.

    6. NRP & Ken
      A normal household with 4 uses a minimum of 600 gallons of water per day. Ah, how does she know that figure. Being an advanced dowser, it is one the parameters we need to consider when dowsing for wells on a property, and looking for the site that fits within those boundaries, yes, there is more to it.

      That amount is based on what a family wastes every day in a city setting.

      1. @ antique collector

        150 gallons per day per person, unbelievable, no wonder So-Calif is in a constant state of emergency with water. Figure 40,000,000 people at 150 each… 6 billion gallons a day???? Really???? OMG.

        And 320 million people in the US = 48 BILLION gallons a DAY!!!!!

        Makes my little 2000 gallon storage look kinda small…. HAHAHAHA


        1. Consider long, hot showers (1-2 gal per minute on low flow faucet?!), flushing five toilets an average of three times per day, the leak in the kitchen faucet, letting the water run while it heats up, plus swamp coolers, swimming pools, etc. LOTS of etc. Lots of waste.

  6. I plumbed a 250 gal. tote tank to the the washing machine for the garden. Takes a little load off the well, and the septic tank.

  7. I’ve been looking at a “portable” well hand-pump. I don’t want to say the name of the company unless I have Ken’s permission. Anyway, looks interesting, not too expensive, and doesn’t look too difficult to install.

    I have a hand pump on my well (180 ft.), but what if we’re not home.

    And @NRP, what a way to brighten a girl’s day! Luv ya’ll, Beach’n

  8. On the subject of water storage, there are tablets which when mixed with water make Clorox and unlike the liquid do not have a shelf life.

    If you have a farm supply store around, they sell oblong galvanized stock tanks in various sizes. These tanks can be purchased in sizes which nest inside one another. Buy them, clean them and duct tape black plastic over them until the stuff gets in the fan. I prefer the oblong shape as standing on end, they cover a small bit of floor space in your garage.

  9. Three days without power and I said “never again”. Our well has a high water level. I called a plumber and had him install a hand pump (PVC to resist the rusting from standing water) in my laundry room and running into the well (20feet down). Water is number one on a prepper’s list.

  10. I had a nice comment ready to post and the damned computer sent it to cyberspace. I’ll try again. Walmart has swimming pools on clearance. 8″ by 30″ for $47.22 and holds 639 gallons. Not sure if it is potable but it is supposed to be okay to swim in. Not that you’re going to do much swimming in a pool that is 8 feet across. Other sizes are also available.

    I’ve been thinking about trying to use one for raising fish. It would give me an excuse to stock all of those fish antibiotics that are available. Has anybody heard abut them becoming restricted to prescription only in the near future?

    I love my pickle barrels and have 5 of them collecting water from the house. Asphalt shingles mean that it’s not potable. Polycarbonate roof on the garden shed should be okay for drinking and that has another 2 barrels. I’m currently setting up a gutter system to plumb 3 more barrels off of a galvanized roof on a new shed which should also be okay for drinking.

    1. @ Me,

      That’s why we replaced our asphalt shingles with a metal roof as we knew that we may have to rely on this water at some point in the future.

      1. We considered metal and now I wish we had done it. At the time our finances couldn’t take the hit. Asphalt was about 25% of the cost of the metal. Plus we live in a coastal area and many of the roofs here suffer from rust unless they’re painted. Then we get into the question of can you drink water off of a painted roof?

        1. You could collect the water and have it tested for chemicals and toxins, water testing labs have the kit you can pick up. Around my area costs about $30. I think kiln fired paint from the factory is probably safe, but not so sure about air dried paint, especially enamel oil based.

    2. Yes rain water over asphalt shingles means it’s not potable, but good for laundry, hygiene, & flushing toilets. Save potable water for drinking, cooking, & coffee.

  11. IBC containers are another option. Also inflatable kiddie pools from the dollar store are very cheap way to store quite a bit of water. If you are planning to use water from your water heater, you may want to make sure the drain valve isn’t clogged with sediment or minerals, and you might want to check your anode rod while you are at it.

  12. You should flush your water heater now and then to remove the sediment, I do annually.

  13. Wow, after reading how much water is used per person for an outage I must admit much water is wasted. When I lost power for a week 4 summers ago I only used a little over 3 gallons of clean water a day including ice with my dogs. A nearby fishing store had a generator with selling ice.

    I put a clear plastic sheet over my garden giving it a green house effect and the water recycled with condensation at night so very little evaporated away after the storm that caused the outage.

    I have a chamber pot for camping I used.

    I have my dishwashers, my dogs for pre-cleaning my pots and pans so I used less water to clean them. I used paper plates and cups, and dogs even pre-cleaned them for the burn pile.

    I took my bath once at the lake nearby so I wouldn’t use my own water resources, and I sponged bathed the rest of the time. The used water flushed out the chamber pot every 3 days.

    If the outage would have been longer, I would have used the lake water to wash clothes, since it is pretty clean to use, and rain water if it had rained again. I do have a secret spring real close to get clean ground water, but I was very frugal in using it. I have to walk in the woods to get to it. I have since stored water in the house, changing it every 6 months and washing out the containers.

    Haven’t had a need for it in 4 years, even though last night’s storm made me fill a few extra containers.

    1. changing it every 6 months and washing out the containers.

      I’m learning here. Why?? I have water untreated from faucet in drums in the garage since July, 2011. It is pristine, ready for filtering.
      Why do people change water and renew it??

      1. Same reason they throw out food that’s a little past its “expiration” date. The government says it should be done that way. Bleh.

        1. I do hope that’s a joke–I eat food years past the expiration date.
          Or best by date.

      2. JJ
        The water only lose the oxygen in the water. Pour it from container to container will take care of the job..unless you have a contaminate in the water. Which happens to juice containers, due to the sugar that adheres to the sides of the plastic. Those I keep for the bathroom when we have power outages.

  14. to NRP:

    Having packed water into dry areas for other people and animals to drink, water weighs in at 8.8 lbs per gallon. I used to carry at least 1- 5 gallon cubitainer full into the Grand Canyon from the South Rim down to the phantom ranch. 2 people drank most of it by the time I came back up. I would not bother doing this trip at the height of summer. too crowded and too hot.

    Used to pack in shotshells, dog kibble and water to remote valleys for dove hunters. If you hunt this season, don’t forget supplies for man’s best friend. (and don’t work them too hard.)

    1. @ CaliRefugee

      I’ve done the South Rim hike; it’s amazing how many STUPID people you meet on the trail….. Who in the he11 would carry her friggen Cat on that hike???? OMG

      When I do overnight hunts, Blue carries his on dang food and water in a “dog pack”. It’s good to slow him down the first day…. HAHAHA


  15. At one location I learned the hard way about city water. During an ‘outage’ I inadvertently opened the cold water valve at a sink and heard the unmistakable sound of all the water in the house being sucked back out. At that moment I uttered a few unprintable terms, found the ‘wrench’ to turn off the water service, turned it off, and purged all that was left in the water heater and house. Since then, in every house I have owned, I have installed an ‘extra’ water heater. Not to heat the water but in the main water service to the house. All water going to the house goes through this tank. It never goes ‘dry’. There is always fresh water in it. There is also a backflow preventer and ball valve in the service side. Now, if the water service is ‘interrupted’ I have 50 gallons of hot water and 50 gallons of cold water. When the water pressure does go to zero, I isolate my house from the system by closing the ballvalve. If I am not home, the backflow preventer does it for me. It’s MY water…..and paid for….they can’t have it back! If you decide to do something similar, not suggesting you do, some locales will not allow a non-functional water heater to be installed and connected to the local water system in any occupied building. Note: I did not have an inspection. But, I have 100 gallons of water over what I have stored.

    Also, both water heaters are mounted 12 inches or so off the floor. This helps with draining when/if needed.

    I am planning to install a pressure switch that will 1) initiate an alarm when the water pressure drops below a set amount, and 2) eventually will shut off the service side so that I won’t have to depend on the backflow preventer. (I have had several fail….I don’t trust them.)

  16. Bottles of rubbing alcohol can be used to clean up and clean wounds. When I was laid up in the hospital after open heart surgery the nurses used alcohol wipes to clean me up since I couldn’t be in a shower due to my incisions. This would save many gallons of water. Not saying you’ll feel like a million dollars, but can save a lot of water over time.

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