water after SHTF

Water Management After SHTF (What You Need To Do)

water after SHTF

As most of you know, WATER is #1 when it comes to general preparedness.

Most take it for granted that there’s plenty of available water. An endless supply coming from your faucet.

Maybe in the back of your mind you know that there’s a pond, lake, or stream not too far from where you live. Or maybe the fact that you have a well is giving you a false sense of security.

However there are several issues that you should think about, just in case…

1. Water Storage for short term issues.
2. Water Storage for long term.
3. Replenishment of your water storage.
4. Water filtration.
5. Waste disposal issues.


Water Storage (short term)

This is easy! It doesn’t apply too much towards “SHTF” water management, but it will provide some convenience.

– Simply purchase a number of cases of bottled water.
– Also purchase a few water containers for water storage.

The first is simple. Go to the grocery store and buy cases of water.

The second part will provide more storage. Since water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, containers that are sized between 3 and 7 gallons will be more manageable.


Water Storage (long term)

While you can only store so much water due to its weight and volume constraints (physical space required), the next step is to store larger quantities of water.

I use several “Olive barrels” that I acquired a number of years ago (originally adapted for water rainwater collection). They hold about 50 gallons of water each.

There are a number of options in this area and purpose built 55 gallon water storage barrels. If you have the space, I would recommend something like this to store a greater volume of water for just in case…

They’re not cheap, but it is “cheap insurance”.

55 Gallon Water Storage


Water Storage (replenishment)


Your stored water is only going to last so long. Then it will be gone.

To put it in perspective, read this and then come back…
The Average Gallons Of Water People Consume Each Day

The key to post-SHTF water management survival will be the ability to replenish.

Give this some very serious thought. If you’re truly planning long term SHTF survival, you WILL need water to survive.

Examine your geographical area. Find sources of water.

Just as important will be the ability to transport that water back to your base of operations. You will need water containers and a mode of transportation. Will your vehicle be operational? Maybe you better think about a yard cart (large diameter wheels are better). Maybe a 2-wheel dolly. You get the idea…

Rubbermaid Commercial Big Wheel Yard Cart


Water Filtration & Purification

It should go without saying that you will need a GOOD WATER FILTER for drinking safely.

I’ve posted about water filters a zillion times (you can search the site). That said, choose what’s best for you. I recommend at least having a good countertop model as your base station drinking water supply.

And if you know me, you know that I will recommend the Berkey. They have several countertop sizes. But this is the one I like the best (adequate size and comes with a see-through level indicator).

Berkey Water Filter System

Bob over at ReadyMadeResorces is another long time sponsor here. Please check out his lineup of Seychelle water filters (some of them are radiological filters!).

Seychelle Water Filtration Systems

Check out his complete lineup of Water Filter Systems (Here)


Grey & Black Water Disposal

This is a tough one. I will say this… If you have a septic tank you are in great shape! No worries regarding water disposal (grey or black).

However, if you are living like most people you rely on your town’s sewage system for your waste water disposal.

I know that I did not define ‘SHTF’ for the context of this article. I do that on purpose (usually) to simply get people thinking about it however they wish. Different scenarios bring on varying circumstances.

With that said, if your sewer systems become “backed up”, you might be in for some nasty issues. The higher up in town you are, the less likely you will be affected.

I will suggest that you consider one of these if you’re concerned about sewage backing up into your home under extreme conditions. It’s an expandable sewer plug designed to stop up sanitary lines. It will prevent backflow if inserted at the sewage outlet from your home. It’s purpose is to test the integrity of home sanitary lines during installation (pressure test and such), however useful as I describe.

Test-Ball 4-Inch Plug

However you would then be confronted with where to divert your grey and black water! That’s not going to be easy.

Your internal plumbing drains including your toilet will be rendered inoperable if you stop up your sewage outlet. That means taking care of business somewhere else. Outside. Or elsewhere.

Now you’re looking at wash buckets, alternative toilet (building an outhouse?), and on top of that you’re dealing with weather conditions depending on the season.

Getting back to the likelihood of your city or town’s waste disposal system actually backing up… Remember that all water flows downhill unless pumped. Most municipal sewage treatment plants are located at or near a low point in town. And many of these will have a means of emergency runoff (although quite unsanitary for anyone ‘downstream’ so to speak).

So an actual backup (without operational pumps) may or may not occur.

Hopefully this article has inspired some thought about water management after SHTF.

Lets hear your ideas and opinion…


  1. Instead of buying cases of water in plastic containers or aluminum cans why not buy glass canning jars and can your own. Chemicals from the plastic and the aluminum from the aluminum cans leach into the water over time. I don’t care what all the experts say, there is no such thing as “safe” food grade plastic when it comes to water especially when storing it for a long time. When stored in glass you don’t have to “rotate” your stock.

    20 cases of canning jars is 60 gallons of water. A 30 pound case of water (25 pounds water plus 5 pounds of jars) is easier to move than a 60 or 55 gallon water tank and glass canning jars can be used multiple times for both water and food.

    Use filtered water. You can even distill it if you have a water still but I think that is unnecessary if it was run through a good filter. Sterilize the jars, bring the filtered water to a boil and boil it for 10 minutes and pour the boiling water into the jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Place a lid on the jar and screw the ring down tight. It will seal as it cools. Water in glass doesn’t go bad and it doesn’t spoil.

    You might want to pick up several cases of lids. If, for some reason, you ever have to use your emergency water, the jars can be re-used so you will need some new lids. Actually, the old lids might still work as long as you use them for water since you are not canning something that will spoil and kill you when you consume it.

    We’ve canned about 10 cases of water for immediate emergencies and are currently working on another 10 cases as time goes on. The cases are easier to transport. And, in a really dangerous emergency you can also fill them with Styrofoam and gasoline and stuff a rag in the top to fight off Zombies. Glass works better than plastic for throwing Zombie cocktail parties.

    We collect rain water in black 25 gallon nursery containers and 55 gallon barrels for the garden but in an emergency, we would also drink that too. Distill or boil the rainwater or run it through a Berkey filter if you want to can it. Well, that’s my penny for your thoughts moment.

    1. crabbenebulae,
      I think your storing potable water in empty canning jars is a good and workable idea .Easy to transport ,store and use .

  2. Grey water, depending on the amount of soap, can be used for gardens, and I’m sure other things. I would imagine the amount of grey water generated in a shtf situation would drastically decrease. Wearing outer clothing more than one day will quickly become the norm. Aprons will again become popular for reducing the amount of laundry to be done. Cedar trees will suck up huge amounts of grey water. Direct your grey water there. I have read studies for utilizing cedar trees planted in specific configurations to deal with black water. Apparently it works well, though I haven’t tried it.
    12 vdc pumps are really quite cheap when compared with actually hauling water. The weight alone would make one think twice. A little solar or wind and a battery or 10 and one could figure out a way to deal with the issue. A $25 pump and even a harbor freight solar set up could at least move a small steady stream of water at least closer to where you need it. Piping is an issue but even several garden hoses screwed together would help. Think about a bilge pump for a fishing boat. That little pump can move a lot of water over time. You don’t have to install any of it now, just have the parts and pieces, just in case. Faraday cage?
    Many of us here on this site, seem to be older. I know I consider using my brain in stead of my back an important thing. To me it is no different than keeping a little extra food or first aid on hand.
    I don’t have a berkey, but I own a different brand (aqua-brick) of counter top filter. It seems to work very well. I have several “extra” filters, just in case. Having a well, thinking ahead about power and pump options is something we all must consider for each of our situations.
    Thinking ahead, hum, isn’t what this is all about?

  3. CrabbeNebulae;
    I agree on the “Drinking Water” in plastic, BUT if cycled out every month or so, that the Cases of water would do if ya have nada else.

    As far as the other water, learn how to use the water to it’s extreme, First use to brush your teeth us alternate toothpaste, wash yourself, wash your clothes than flush the toilet with the used water. OR do the very few dishes, do the Laundry than toilet it.

    Remembering that 90% of the time Gray water can be used in the yard (The FDA does not recommend using Gray Water on the Garden or Fruit Trees).
    The hardest part is learning how to “use water correctly” I know people that use 4-5000 gallons a month per person, My billing is right at 1k for the same month.

    I have to chuckle when some say you can live on 1 gallon a day, people are in for a real SHOCK when TSHTF and their water is gone.

    1. NRP
      You are right… if I had nothing else to drink I would most certainly drink water from plastic bottles. Probably drink it from a dirty stream or anywhere else I could get it.

      I suppose a gallon a day or less might work if I were stranded in a life-boat in the middle of the ocean, or in the desert and that’s all I had, but for everyday drinking? I don’t think so. People who say that obviously have never worked hard outside. Or have never spent much time without air conditioning in the summer time. I spent the last week cutting down and cutting up several large old trees. I probably drank more than a gallon of water while working and was still dehydrated and wound up drinking several quarts throughout the rest of the day until I went to bed and I only put in 5 hours before quitting each day. Working outside in 95 degree weather is a real ball buster, especially if you are old like me. After SHTF if there is no electricity, especially if it’s summer time a persons water consumption will go up. Living on a gallon a day only works in life boats or the movies. Just saying. :)

    1. – What do you mean, FEMA only delivers in 16-oz. bottles? I know for a fact they deliver 20-oz when they can get them.

      Papa S.

    2. Tommyboy;
      Just remember “Five days for FEMA to get water to the Superdome”
      Your going to get real thirsty waiting there on that Big-Ol-Rock HAHAHA

      1. oh no, i am sure they will be here within minutes, i have full confidence in the government

  4. Question: If you fill water containers for storage right from the tap, do you still need to add bleach? I’ve read the answer is “No”, as city water is treated. I do it anyway. What do you all think?

    My thanks.

    1. @ DJ5280, we are on well water and we never add bleach to our bottled water. Never have had a problem.

      1. DJ5280;
        Drink Water from a “City Tap” from a Crazy-Man’s point of view.

        1. Have ever smelled the Chlorine off the top of a glass of water? The .5 to 1 ppm of Chlorine (that Ken states) actually vapes off quite quickly when exposed to Air, The more Air the water is exposed to the faster the CL escapes. So let’s say toy have an Aerator on your kitchen faucet, that means many more times than normal the CL is not present by the time you fill the container. So, do you still have CL in that stored water?

        2. As many here will tell you, I’m not the biggest fan of “trusting” the .gov, even when it comes to now trusting them to supply “Clean Water” through the pipes. How many hundreds of times do we hear “Boil your Water” or “the water supply is contaminated”, how about “The lead pipes are ‘BAD’ use alternate water”.

        3. Ever have “Mud” in your water? Every time the “City” installs a new meter to another house or install a new “section” of pipe they actually cut the water main and expose the “water” to all kinds of nasty stuff. Have you ever seen a Water Main cut and look at the inside of the pipe? I have, and have some so nasty I actually ask if we inadvertently cut the Sewer Line.

        4. Try this someday (NO don’t actually do it) Next time you get a cut, wash it well with only water and see what happens…. I will 99.99% guarantee you your cut will get infected (NOT from the actual cut, but from the water), even though you “cleaned” it with clean water from the tap. Sure, I want to put that crapo in my mouth and swallow.

        Ok, so here’s my thinking, I store a LOT of water for all kinds of things, Garden, Toilet, Washing, So-On, BUT I will not store any “City Water” without treating and/or Filtering it very VERY well that I intend for drinking.

        Last but not by any means least, There was a reason that the Pioneer Folks drank Beer and the like OR boiled the crapo out of water, you could NOT trust the Drinking Water not to kill you.
        Do a little research, look up how many hundreds/thousands of people die each year from “Bad Water”.

        1. Actually, that is true of chlorine, but many municipal water companies have switched over to chloramine, which does not off gas. important to know what your water has.

        2. kevinH;
          For those that have City water using •Chloramine

          I would GREATLY suggest you go do a little research on this wonderful poison combining chlorine and ammonia.

          To start with try this out for an example;
          “•Chloramine is a less effective disinfectant than chlorine. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that “monochloramine” is about 2,000 and 100,000 times less effective than free chlorine for the inactivation of E. Coli and rotaviruses, respectively.”

          OR this one;
          “•Chloramine cannot be removed by boiling, distilling, or by standing uncovered.”

          So basically the .gov is poisoning us AGAIN through the water system, Want to know why so many are dying of Cancer now days?

          Try this site for a beginning, chloramine.org/chloraminefacts.htm

        3. Here’s a few more for ya-all;
          •The EPA states that there are NO dermal (skin) and NO inhalant (respiratory) studies on chloramine as used as a disinfectant for drinking water.
          •The EPA states that there are INADEQUATE cancer studies on humans or animals.
          •In studies that do exist, one shows mononuclear cancer in female rats.
          •Another study shows reproductive toxicity and reduced reproductivity in mice and hamsters.
          •Chloramine cannot kill the pathogens in the water as well as chlorine.
          •As a result, people with suppressed immune systems must have their water boiled over TEN minutes BEFORE use to kill pathogens, or they risk becoming ill.
          •Chloramine is toxic to fish, amphibians, and water-based reptiles and marine invertebrates. Chloramine enters directly into the bloodstream of fish, and amphibians through gills and skin, respectively.

          AND My favorite;
          •The SFPUC says that, “if monochloramine enters the bloodstream directly, it combines with hemoglobin (red blood cells) so it can no longer carry oxygen”

          Yeah that’s some ‘ship’ I want to be drinking and storing……

  5. The water collected in a room dehumidifier is not safe for anything but flushing a toilet.

  6. hipporoller.org A great way to move a lot of water more easily than carrying.

    Also, most homeowners have an eighty gallon hot water tank which they would never think about using.

  7. Here ya go people, This is a Headline from one of those “Other BLOGS”
    “Military Seizes Control Of Water Supplies As Venezuelan Infrastructure Collapses”
    Wonderful huh?

  8. one thing i have not purchased yet and i dont know if anyone has put it to the test and that is i believe called a bathtub bob. it is a one time use plastic that attaches to bathtub faucet and you fill it up in bathtub and then you just syphon out the water you need. it is something that might come in handy and even though it has limited use, it could save you until you find another water source. just saying.

    1. I also have a Water Bob (one tub in the house). I’ve also – thankfully – not had to use it, but it is kept under the bathroom sink ready to go at a moment’s notice.

    1. Twalk;
      Normally yes, please read the Berkey Site.
      Some Chemicals and Radiation are not filtered out.
      FYI the Black Filters from Berkey are the better.
      But again go to Berkey.
      PS: I have one of the bigger ones, they are GREAT!

      1. NRP
        That is why one needs to have a “Seychelle” filtering pitcher for those items Berkey can not remove. Time to add a few more of those filters for a JIC.

    2. NRP is correct that the Berkley Filter will properly filter pond water I STRONGLY Suggest you use a pre-filter as so the particulates in the pond water (algae, dirt etc.) will be removed as not to clog the microscopic pores of the Berkley filters.

      Coffee filters work well enough although even several layers of towel material and such are also useful.

      As a side note if you read the Berkley site you will find out about how to maintain the filters.

      As a second side note DRY Pool Shock is very useful in purifying water in long term SHTF survival. Pool supplies are on sale cheap right now. Look up how to use Dry Pool Shock to purify water.

      A question for those who USE Grey Water in their gardens: What Soap have you found best for Grey Water Usage.


      1. We use everything from Dawn to Dollar Tree soap. Not had any problems so far.

      2. I searched for best soap for greywater use and two good sites came up. Worth a look friends:

        This Old House, search plant friendly soaps

        Greywater Action search greywater plant friendly products

        Also check out their composting toilet tab. Very interesting.

        A lot of factors involved including if you life in an arid region and such. After SHTF your Garden and how you handle Grey water and human wastes will be VERY IMPORTANT. I’m printing out some of the information I was reading.

        Hope this helps people living the lifestyle!

      3. – We have used All washing machine soap in our machine which drains onto backyard lawn. It is about 50 feet to our garden, so the water is filtered through those 50 feet of dirt in our arid area. I do move the end of the drain around a bit so no one area is overloaded with soap and scum. Every bit of our wash water from the machine goes into this drain, rather than our septic system, and the system has been in use since 1969. Tide seems to leave more scum on the grass, FWIW. We do use bleach (very sparingly), Oxy powder, and ammonia (at least more often than the bleach). So far, so good.

        – Papa S.

      4. Papa Smurf I hope you took a moment to read through those webpages I mentioned.

        One of the main issues is that manufacturers change their recipe with out notice and Arid Earth is pretty sensitive. Grasses seem most bulletproof but when you hit the point of salt and alkaline build up they show damage you have a problem.

        Ever visit an alkaline salt flat?

        Would be interesting to plant say a tomato plant in the wetted area of your drain field to see if it prospers and what those tomatoes taste like. Would be a good test of the situation for a few dollars (or a tomato sucker rooted a week+) for a sturdy plant and some shovel time.

      5. – MH Michael –
        Our area is already arid and alkaline, so I’m not sure what if anything would be the difference. We do have good soil (green on Ken’s posted map), but typically I use lots of compost anywhere I am really trying to grow anything.

        My DFIL was the originator of this system, when he had the house built in 1969. It was primarily to keep from overwhelming the septic system at the time.

        After DMIL passed away, he insisted on someone moving in with him; DW and I were elected. When he passed, DW inherited the house, BIL got a bunch of other stuff for his DW to sell in garage sales. DW and I kept a lot of the good stuff, as we were live-in caretakers the last 12 years of his life.

        I basically took over DW’s grandfather’s garden plot and really didn’t worry about the alkalinity and aridity of our soil. It’s more about the water, which can be mildly saline. (BTW, we have little paid-attention-to salt flats about 7 and 10 miles away from us. Salt may again be an export from this area following TEOTWAWKI.

        – Papa S.

        1. – Forgot to mention, previous garden was same soil type without gray water system in place about 2 miles from here. Those tomatoes were very good. Again, our biggest issue is salinity of water. that location was on city water, which is saltier than our well water. Had a well there, too, but primarily used for garden/yard

          – Papa.

      6. NHM, I don’t have a greywater system…but I have a washing machine detergent that is HE compatable.., low suds and effective.. the one made from Borax and laundry soda blended with oxiclean and soap ..the key for plant safety would be the chemicals in the soap that is added. I am using zote, a laundry bar out of mexico, i get the pink bar and flake it, then put in food processor and grind with some of the other ingredients to blend well. with the pink color can see the blending of it. my ratio are one box borax, 2 bx laundry soda, 2lb of oxi product( one from dollar tree and 2 big bars- 14 oz ea- of zote. I leave mine dry, I use about 30 cc med cup per big load.
        Water would de activate the oxi product and i don’t like having to shake the gel to reblend… I get enough exercise with other things. This recipe is billed as ECOLOgically safe. If one has allergies, can use same recipe but replace the borax with another box of laundry soda…( laundry soda is baking soda that has been cooked.) also if allergic to many soaps can use any soap one is not allergic to… as ivory etc..

        1. Just Saying please refer to the webpages I mentioned above. Borax AKA Boron and Salt are both really hard on plants. More ECO Friendly than a lot of other options but not recommended for greywater irrigation. Great information some I printed out.

    3. As I recall from my research prior to buying my Berkey, years ago, it was developed to make stagnant pool water found in the interior of Africa not only safe to drink, but also remove all the foul taste. I have nothing but praise for the system. Don’t let the cost give you pause. I’ve had mine for probably 7-8 years and filter all our drinking water from the tap. I’m guessing we’ve filtered 10,000 gallons or more and are still using the original filters. It still removes all odor and taste. The cost of filters is cheap when compared to any other less efficient filtration systems.

      NH Michael is correct to advise filtering out sediment first, but you can deal with that by occasionally scrubbing the outside surface of the filters with mildly abrasive pads. Pre-filtering would lessen that need.

  9. I live in the Toledo Ohio area and the problem with water is how to deal with an excess of it.

    It rains a lot and the water table is in many locations only 10-feet down.

    Never a shortage of water here.

  10. preparing for mandatory evacuation. Fire still a bit north of us, but moving fast and my highway was just closed going north! Will keep you posted. We are ready to go, friends helping to load livestock!

    1. PW
      You & all in your area on our prayer list. May it pass by and not do harm to your home an others in your area. Blessings upon all of you.

    2. Pioneer Woman;
      Please be safe, I see the fires from here.
      Remember stuff is just Stuff.
      Get away and lets us know how you’re doing.

    3. I hope all goes well for you. I went through this a lot when I lived in Colorado.

    4. Man o man reading your post made my stomach clench. Sending prayers your way.

    5. PW,
      So glad you have friends to help, hope all of you made it out safely and that your area is spared. Please let us know how you are when you are able. Until then, know that your MSB family is keeping you close in thoughts and prayers.

    6. PW,
      Saw the pyrocumulus cloud over the San Juans this evening. Praying for you all. Travel safe.

    7. Pioneer woman
      Gods Speed to you. I pray for your safety.
      What is the name of the fire threatening you?

      1. SMG,
        Believe it is the Burro branch of the 416 fire, running west of main fire that PW is facing. Smoke really bad down that way. forest conditions are extremely dry, and with high temps and winds, these fires can break out of fire lines and make a run. Rough to have to move critters out, but smart IMHO.

        1. PW,
          My bad, thought you were farther west.
          Praying for the monsoon rains to start for all of us, just way too dry. You remain in our prayers.

    8. You and yours are in my prayers. It’s been said before but stuff is stuff you and yours are important. Stay blessed in His hands

    9. – PW – Prayers for you and yours safety. Have had to fight both prairie and forest fires in another life.

      – Papa S.

  11. I have been saving up to get an Earthstraw. If you have a well, you install the hose and are able to manually pump water for your needs. Should not need a filter or any fancy equipment as I have been drinking that same water almost all my life. I stated that I am saving up ($$$) because I do not want to buy just the kit but get rebuild kit and extras, spare parts will not be readily available when SHTF. Still have a water filter if must need to obtain water from other sources for JIC.

  12. I’m from Australia, and we experience droughts often. So we prepare as if we are in a drought. I often think people in the US under prepare water. To give you an idea, if you build away from municipal water you have to install a 25,000 gallon concrete water tank, with the lower 2,500 gallons reserved for fire fighting.

    My water supply is a 10,000 gallon concrete tank off the side of the roof that catches for it, and a 2,500 in case of emergency tank that catches off the other side of the roof. There is also a header tank 30 vertical meters above the house so i get good water pressure, this is another concrete 10,000 gallon water tank. Both tanks are kept topped off by solar pumps that pump for an hour a day from the river.

    In a real off grid scenario, where you are growing your own vegetables, and there is a drought my water supply of 22,500 gallons in insufficient, I know this from experience. Without the river to pump from after about 6 weeks of watering the garden I’m out of water.

    So you might think that 55 gallon drums are enough, but I honestly worry you are under-preparing for long term water. That aside Australia is the driest continent, and we can go 8 months without any rain and that’s normal for where i am, so maybe if you get weekly rain you can think differently.

    1. I agree that 55 gallons (or a few of them) might be woefully inadequate depending on where one lives and their nearest water resource (and ability to transport it). It will be gone faster than you realize!

  13. If you are canning water from an unchlorinated source you could go the extra step and solar disinfect it. I believe clear containers 6 hours in sunlight is the recipe.

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