In the modern United States, we tend to take water for granted. We have to go to the grocery store every week to buy food, and then we have to prepare the food ourselves. Food take up a lot of our conscious effort, which is why preppers can more easily think of storing food and making other food preps. Water, however, can be easily overlooked. In normal life, most of us simply need to turn on a faucet to get water and then drink it.
Because modern plumbing and water treatment has made acquiring water so effortless, it is easy to take for granted. In a storm or emergency situation where power is gone of the water supply becomes contaminated, the effort to acquire clean water goes up exponentially. A healthy person might survive weeks without food but will die after being deprived of water for only a few days. Water is too essential an asset to over look in preparing one's self and one's family for emergency situations.
Some Simple Math
Generally speaking, the average person needs 1 gallon of water everyday just to get by. That means that a family of four would need 4 gallons of water per day to get by on. To prepare for a week of storm recovery, that same family would need 28 gallons of water to get by for seven days.
Now mind you, this means a gallon of water to simply live - this does not include the extra water that would be needed while doing manual labor or while having to trek through summer heat. The amount of labor or heat to be endured could easily double or even triple the amount of water an individual needs to get through a day. A family of four having to endure labor or summer heat for a week may then need 56 to 84 gallons of water just to get by.
But wait, there's more!
Many of the stored food that us preppers put away also requires water to cook. In order to cook pasta, one needs water; in order to rehydrate beans, one needs water, in order to cook rice, one needs water; to make oatmeal, one needs water; etc. The more food stores that one has that require water to prepare, the more water one will need to also store or have a method of acquiring - this is on top of the water that one plans to use for drinking!
An additional area that will require water will be first aid and personal hygiene. If someone sustains and open wound injury, water will be needed to clean the wound and or prepare bandages to treat the wound. As a general health concern, during and emergency situation one would want to stay as clean as is reasonably possible so as to prevent disease. During an emergency it is important to stay reasonably clean through some type of bathing and to maintain good oral hygiene. Having extra water stores or availability of water will be needed to address these areas so that one would not have to take away from drinking water in order to treat a health concern.
Theory into Practice
For those of you keeping track, let's say that a family of four could need as much as 100 gallons of water per week depending on the particulars of the emergency situation. That's a lot of water to have stocked up. Those who own a house with a large basement would have an easier time storing large quantities of water. If you, like me, live in an apartment, storing that amount of water is simply out of the question.
A good strategy when storage space is tight is to have some stored water (like 10 to 20 gallons) and then have a way to acquire new water such as a filter. Be sure the filtration method is able to remove heavy metals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, bacteria, and viruses. Some of the portable filter brands that rate very well for these purposes are Berky, Katadyn, and MSR. There are of course many other excellent brands out there, just be sure to do your research.
At a minimum, water can have dirt and large debris removed from it by pouring it through a coffee filter, and the remaining water can be boiled to kill off any of the bacteria, parasites, or viruses that may be in it. This basic method will work in a pinch and help in many basic emergency situations or backpacking excursions. It should be noted that this will not remove any chemical contamination that may have occurred and would be present in flooding situations - things like automotive fluids, fertilizers, commercial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc. It should further be noted that the boiling method is very time consuming and will quickly capitalize an individual's time that could be spent on other survival efforts. Investing in a good portable filter system is the better way to go by far; a quality portable filter is both more thorough and much faster than the boil method.
Clean, drinkable water is more important in an emergency situation than food, but often gets overlooked because of modern technology making water acquisition so easy. Some very simple prepping steps during the good times can set your family up for success in an emergency. Most grocery stores offer gallons of purified drinking water for around a dollar a gallon. There are a variety of excellent portable filters on the market for good prices. Take advantage of the good times of today to prepare for the hard times of tomorrow. Protect yourself, and protect your family.