When it comes to prepping, having a plan is essential. This plan needs to center on providing enough fresh drinking water for the duration of whatever crisis you may be facing. The goal should be to store as much as you can and look for creative ways to increase your water supply with minimal effort or cost. To achieve that goal, it’s important to consider multiple options by sourcing buckets, barrels, jugs, totes, and portable water filters — just to name a few!
Often, the problem isn't that you don't have enough water overall. Some of us, me included, live in areas that receive a lot of rain (summer of 2022 not included). The problem is that the water isn't in a form that is safe to drink. While I definitely think you should start off by getting some jugs and water preservative to store what tap water you can, you may find that that water can go quite fast, especially if you use it for bathing and such. That's where capturing rainwater comes in. The plan is to get a rain barrel, capture some rainwater, and filter that rainwater.
The water filter will be one rated for camping/survival use for freshwater samples. You should read the instructions because some of them will recommend staying away from stagnant sources like lakes and such. While the filters should produce safe water, I wanted to put that to the test. So, a raw rainwater sample will be collected and tested, as well as doing the same for a filtered water sample. I'll be sharing what I used. As an Amazon Associate, commissions may be earned on qualifying purchases. Without further ado, lets get into it!
Collecting the Rainwater
With a little bit of effort and planning, you can collect an abundance of relatively clean drinking water from nature’s gift – the rain! All you need to do is gather containers or barrels (I used a 100 gallon barrel) and place them near your home. It works quicker to have the container under a gutter downspout or a corner of the roof where the water tends to funnel. When it begins to rain, the water will naturally flow into your container. You can also use tarpaulins and pitch them above the barrels to direct rainfall inside. This is a great way to store rainwater over time.
My specific set up used a collapsible, 100 gallon rain barrel I found on Amazon. At first, I put it in my backyard. Unfortunately, the roof doesn't have gutters or downspouts. And the water runs off in drippy sheets. However, there is a place in front where the water kind of funnels. I put it there, and it filled up very quickly. It has spigots on the bottom and part way up, as well as an overflow drain. I was pleased with how quickly it filled up. See for yourself, below.
Filter the Rainwater with a Survival Water Filter
To ensure that the collected water is safe and clean for drinking, it’s highly important to have a reliable emergency/survival water filter. Even rainwater isn’t 100% pure and is home to bacteria, parasites, viruses, microplastics and other contaminants that can be harmful to your health. By having an emergency water filter handy, you’ll pre-filter the collected rainwater so that it becomes free from dangerous pollutants. Moreover, most filters are small and compact so they don’t take up much space – making them easy to store in your survival bag for when you need them the most!
A pump action survival filter was used to filter the rain water. It was collected in a 5 gallon bucket and filtered into a small beaker. This one was pretty easy to use and didn't seem to have any issues in the instructions concerning filtering only flowing water. That's good since rainwater from a barrel is not flowing. I'm considering adding some preservative to it to help with it's longevity. It's rated to filter a large variety of contaminants and has a long lasting filter.
Test the Source and Filter Water to Verify Water Quality
When trying to source clean and safe water, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to test and filter it. Contaminated or polluted water is a leading cause of illnesses so it’s worth the extra effort of confirming water quality with standard tests like coliform bacteria test strips and designated filtration systems. Additionally, look for specific sources from where you can extract your drinking water such as springs, artesian wells, rivers, lakes and rainwater. These natural sources can provide good quality drinking water when tested for purity and/or filtered.
Results and Conclusions
The main issue found in the raw rainwater sample was coliform (colony forming) bacteria. This can affect gastrointestinal health. So, you wouldn't want to drink this directly. The test also detected several contaminants including, but not limited to the following: aluminum, barium, boron, nitrates, and nitrites. Thankfully, they didn't appear to be in excess of drinking water benchmarks. If you'd like to see the full test results for the raw rainwater, click here.
The second test was after I filtered the rainwater I collected through the portable survival filter. It didn't find any health concerns, which is a very good thing. You can find the report here. I must admit something important, however. Although I did look at the tests and what contaminants they test for, I got two different tests. One was geared towards testing rainwater, and the other was geared towards testing municipal water from your tap. My thinking was that I wanted to see how close to drinking water the filtered sample was. The problem with this is that the test for the municipal source doesn't appear to test for total coliform. And I kind of needed it to.
With municipal water, it is treated with some kind of disinfectant, such as chlorine or chlorine containing compounds. This is to prevent the formation of (drum roll) total coliform. In my case, there was no chlorine or disinfection done. So, I don't know for sure that the filter deals with that contaminant. So, I will likely get another rainwater test or similar such that I can know if the filter deals with coliform bacteria. Guess what that means? There will be a follow up! Stay tuned.