Water Can and Will Kill You Once the SHTF

Dripping Water

Water that has become contaminated by human waste and by other means can create over time as many deaths as the crisis itself.

First, let us start out with a few facts. The following facts are gathered from around the world.

  • Roughly, 783 million people do not have access to safe water on a daily basis, which is more than 2.5 times the population of the United States
  • Approximately, 3.5 million people die each year because of a limited water supply, and from contaminated water, there are numerous deadly diseases present in untreated water
  • Eighty percent of the sewage discharged in developing countries is discharged, without being treated, directly into water bodies, the same bodies of water that people draw their daily water supply from (Water.org, 2014)

Imagine if water treatment plants went off line today and your faucets only delivered air. What happens when the sewage systems in urban areas stop working, and your toilets do not flush?

How long before people start getting sick from contaminated water, because human waste will not stop flowing. Human waste will make its way into the local surface water sources, sources that can no longer be treated on a large scale.

Disease such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid will be present in many surface water sources in a matter of weeks after the infrastructure collapses, because of human waste contamination. Once a person gets a disease from contaminated water, they can spread that disease to others in their family and community.

The figures listed above would increase dramatically if the United States and other developed countries lost their ability to supply the populace with clean drinking water for an extended period. People would be forced to consume contaminated water, and they would die from it.

Now That You Know What You Likely Already Knew What Do You Do

Knowing is one thing, and being able to do anything about it is another. Water stockpiles are essential, but stockpiles do not magically reproduce themselves. If the crisis is an extended one, you must have the ability to treat a contaminated water source. Keep in mind you will use more water than you had calculated, so your stockpile will dwindle faster that you had previously thought. 

You should not rely on just one method of purifying a water source. You need methods that can be used at home and along the trail, should you have to evacuate.

Water Filtration Devices

The ones on the market today have remarkable capabilities. However, filters are not perfect, so they are just one of several methods that should be incorporated. In some cases, you can replace the filter in the device when it has exceeded the number of gallons for which it is rated. Some filtering devices have a stated number of gallons they will filter, and when you reach that number you simply throw the device away.

It is important that you have a stockpile of filters for all devices that allow a change out, and track the number of gallons filtered when using all devices. Most are rated beyond what is stated by the manufacturer, so there is a margin of error, but in a life or death situation you cannot guess, you have to know it is still working.

Household Bleach

The water must be filtered first before purification. Filter using coffee filters, cheesecloth, charcoal, sand, cloth or gravel. Ideally, you would layer multiple filtering mediums in a device for best results.

Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach) has been used for decades to purify your tap water and common household bleach that contains sodium hypochlorite as its active ingredient is ideal for water purification. The bleach used should contain 5.25 to 6 percent of the active ingredient and not have any additives. The ratio is eight drops per gallon, and a wait time of 30 minutes is required before drinking. You can add up to 16 drops per gallon if the water is cloudy. The smell of chlorine should be slight when you open the container after mixing and letting it sit for 30 minutes.


Filter the water first.

Two percent liquid tincture of iodine can be used, but there are health risks to certain individuals. Anyone with known or suspected thyroid problems should check with their health professional as well as anyone pregnant, nursing or with other health conditions before consuming iodine treated water.

Regardless of your health, you should only consume iodine treated water for a maximum of 14 days at a time. The ratio is five (5) drops per liter/quart of water if the water is clear and it is not cold, (below 50° F). You can add up to 10 drops per liter/quart if the water is cloudy even after filtering or if it is below 50 degrees.


Filter First

Fire has been used for thousands of years and there is no reason why you should not be able to ignite a fire regardless of the situation. Given all of the tools and materials available on the market, you should always have the means of starting a fire in any environment. Boiling is the preferred method of water purification. All you need is filtering materials, and a suitable container in which to boil the water. Filter your water before boiling even if it is just through a bandana.

Purification Tablets

You can purchase iodine or chlorine based purification tablets and the directions may vary by manufacturer and by active ingredient. The tablets will have an expiration date, so make sure they are up to date before use. Filter any water source before adding any purification tablets.


You may think you are dying of starvation after three days, but you are not likely to be dying from lack of food. However, if you are not being properly hydrated or if you drink contaminated water, you can die within three days.

You cannot filter out poisons or chemical toxins. Boiling and chemical treatments will not remove chemical toxins or poisons from a water source.

Everything it seems is a priority when it comes to survival but not having a clean water source once the SHTF means you will not live long, this is simply the facts. You need a foolproof plan in place to make sure you have a reliable way to purify a contaminated water source before something happens.

Water.org. (2014). Retrieved 2014, from http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/