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How to Collect and Purify Water in an Emergency

During an ordinary day, you might not think about where you get your water. You might simply turn on the tap and fill up a glass with clean, purified water.

But during an emergency, water will become your top priority.

According to Claud Piantodosi of Duke University, you can live without water for approximately 100 hours in average outdoor temperatures. If exposed to direct sunlight, you have even less time.

So what can you do to ensure you stay hydrated during a crisis? Use the following guide to find fresh water sources and make them safe to drink.

Collecting Water

When you can’t access your regular faucet, the following options can help you survive.

Rivers, Ponds, and Lakes

Rivers, lakes, and springs provide large volumes of fresh water. While these sources may require a lot of purification, you won’t have to travel anywhere else to meet your needs.

If you have multiple water sources available, choose running water over standing. Running water is, on average, cleaner than standing water, as standing water creates the perfect environment for bacteria growth.

Rain Water

Although rain water is not as predictable as ponds and rivers, you can still take advantage of this source during an emergency.

If you have any buckets or pans, set those out during a storm. If you have a large tarp or vinyl sheet, lay it out. Keep the tarp loose so the rain can pool in the middle. If you pull the tarp tight, the water may run off and you won’t collect nearly as much water.


Dew offers less water than rain, but it’s also more consistent. You can gather dew by laying out a towel or other natural fiber in the grass overnight. The towel will soak up the dew, and you can squeeze the water into a bucket the next morning.

Purifying Water

Pollution, bacteria, and other contaminants make almost all natural water sources hazardous to human health. After you have collected water, use these methods to treat it.

Boil Your Water

If you boil water, the heat will kill most bacteria, viruses, and parasites. According to the Department of health, you’ll want to bring the water to a full rolling boil for one minute and allow it to cool before use.

Note that boiling water does not remove any minerals or other solids. Strain the water through some cloth before you boil it.

Use Purification Drops/Tablets

Iodine is highly electronegative, which makes it an oxidizing agent. When microorganisms come in contact with iodine, the chemical upsets their ion balance, leading to their death. Consequently, you can use iodine to purify your water.

Simply add the drops or tablets to your water, and wait 10-20 minutes for the chemicals to act. But as with boiling water, iodine will not remove any solid materials. Strain your water before treating it.

Use a Purifier

Although your home may already have its own pumps and purifiers, these might not work well during an emergency. So you’ll likely want to invest in a point-of-use purifier to your to strain your water and remove harmful bacteria.

Build a Solar Still

To create a solar still, start with a wide, flat bowl or dish and fill that bowl with water. Place a cup in the center of the bowl, and cover them with plastic wrap. Place a small rock above the cup to form a natural indentation. Leave your still in the sun.

The sun will cause the water in the bowl to evaporate and rise to the top of the plastic wrap, leaving the impurities at the bottom of the bowl. As it condenses, the water drip towards the weighted area, right above the cup. The water in the cup will be safe to drink.

These are just a few techniques that will help you prepare for an emergency. Try some of these methods at home so can feel ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at you.

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