How to Find Water in an Emergency

Four Parts:Finding Hidden Water in Your HomeFinding Water Outside the HomeMaking Water SafeStoring Water for an Emergency

One of your basic needs is having drinking water available to hydrate your body. In the case of an emergency, finding safe water becomes more difficult, as even tap water can be contaminated. Nonetheless, you can find drinking water that is relatively safe, as long as you take the time to disinfect it first.

Part 1
Finding Hidden Water in Your Home

  1. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 1
    Melt ice cubes. One way to immediately get a small amount of water is to melt the ice cubes from your freezer. Simply pull them out into a clean container to melt and drink.[1]
  2. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 2
    Use the water in your pipes. Turn off the supply of water to your house if you know or think the lines may be contaminated between the main water supply and your house. Find the main valve. Generally, it is near your meter, which may be outside or in a basement or utility closet.[2] You may need a special key to turn it off.[3]
    • Drain the water in your pipes. Turn on the highest faucet in your house to let air in. Next, put a container underneath the lowest faucet. Turn it on to drain out the water.[4]
  3. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 3
    Drain your hot water tank. Your hot water tank also contains clean drinking water. You need to turn off the electricity or gas to it first, as well as turning off the water supply by turning a valve. Once you've done that, you can drain off the water.[5]
    • Place a container under the drain at the bottom. Place another container under a faucet in the house. Turn on the hot water on that faucet to help start the draining. Let it drain until you've collected all the water.[6]
    • Disinfect the water with the steps included in this article.[7]
  4. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 4
    Try your toilets. Your toilets can also be a source of water. Just make sure you only use the water in the top tank, not in the actual bowl. You'll also need to disinfect this water.[8]
    • Don't use toilet water if it has been treated with chemicals or if it is obviously discolored.[9]
  5. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 5
    Consider your canned goods. Your canned goods can actually be a source of water if you are running out. Don't drain off the liquid from vegetables or fruit when you eat them. Instead, drink the water to help hydrate yourself.[10]
  6. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 6
    Skip unsafe sources. For instance, you may be tempted to use water from your water bed. However, these types of bed often have additives to prevent growth. Nonetheless, you can collect this water for washing up.[11]

Part 2
Finding Water Outside the Home

  1. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 7
    Look for bodies of water. Lakes, creeks, and ponds can all be used for drinking water, as long as they are freshwater. Of course, you need to sanitize the water first. Look for running water near your house where you can collect water in jugs. Just be sure to keep your water-collecting jugs separate from your sanitized jugs for storing water.[12]
    • Skip saltwater, as it will just dehydrate you.
  2. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 8
    Check for rainwater. You can also use old rainwater or collect rainwater for drinking purposes. To collect rainwater, place open containers outside during a rainstorm to catch water. This water will also need to be sanitized.[13]
    • You can also melt snow and use it in a similar manner, sanitizing it first.[14]
  3. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 9
    Consider wells and springs. If you have wells or springs nearby that haven't been tested, you can use them in case of emergency. Because this water is untested, sanitize it before you drink it.[15]
  4. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 10
    Use your radio or phone. If possible, use your radio or phone to find out where help is being provided in your community. During most disasters, the government and other aid organizations will have areas set up that will provide food and water to those in need. You can also find shelters if your home has been destroyed.[16]

Part 3
Making Water Safe

  1. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 11
    Filter the water. If the water isn't clear, you need to filter it first. You can use a clean piece of cloth. You can also use a coffee filter or paper towels. If none of these are available, allow the water to sit until you see clear water at the top. Spoon or draw off the clear water, being careful not to disturb the sediment at the bottom. If the water is already clear, you don't need to take this step.[17]
    • One way to draw off water is to use a clean towel. Roll it tightly into a rope-like tube. Place one end in the drinking water and the other end in a container to hold the water. The end in the new container should be several inches below the end in the water. The water will wet the towel, then drip off the end.[18]
  2. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 12
    Boil water. Though you've found a source of water, it may not be safe to drink. Even if you have access to tap water, it could be contaminated if pipes are broken or flooded.[19]
    • Boil the water for a full minute. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, make sure it boils for a full minute or for 3 minutes above 6,500 feet.[20]
    • Store in sanitized containers.[21]
  3. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 13
    Disinfect water as an alternative. If you can't boil water, you can disinfect the water with chemicals. Add chlorine bleach (5-6%) to water at a ratio of 1/8 teaspoon per gallon if your water is clear. If it's not, you need to double the amount to 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. Make sure to incorporate the bleach thoroughly. Let it sit for 1/2 an hour before drinking.[22]
    • Once disinfected, the water should be kept in clean, sanitized containers.

Part 4
Storing Water for an Emergency

  1. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 14
    Calculate how much you'll need. Plan on a gallon a day for everyone in the household. You should include your pets in this calculation. Store at least 3 days worth of water, though 2 weeks is better if you have the space.[23]
    • For instance, if you have 3 people and 1 dog in your household, that's 4 gallons a day. For a 3-day supply, that's 12 gallons of water. For a 2-week supply, that's 56 gallons.
  2. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 15
    Purchase bottled water. Water that has been commercially bottled is the safest to store.[24] It is less likely to be contaminated with bacteria, and it will keep for longer.[25]
    • If you prefer to store your own water, use 2-liter soda bottles, as milk and juice can leave behind a residue that can grow bacteria.[26] Use soap and water to clear the jug of any residue. Make sure all the soap is out of it. Add a teaspoon of bleach to a quart of water. Use that solution to sanitize the bottles. Pour it in. Put the lid on the container, and shake it thoroughly. Wait half a minute or more to pour it out.[27]
    • Let the bottle air dry. Only rinse if you have clean (sanitized) water already available.[28]
    • Add tap water. Once you have cleaned the bottles and let them dry, you can add tap water. As long as your city adds chlorine to the water, that is all you need to do. If you are on an alternative source for water, you need to add bleach yourself. Use unscented bleach at a ratio of 2 drops for each gallon of water.[29] Screw the lids on tightly when you're done, then label it as drinking water.
  3. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 16
    Store the water. Put the water in a cool area. The area doesn't need to be completely dark, but it shouldn't be in sunlight. Also, make sure to not store the bottles near pesticides, gasoline, or other chemicals.[30]
  4. Image titled Find Water in an Emergency Step 17
    Replace the water as needed. Check the expiration dates on commercially bottled water to figure out when you need to replace it. For water you bottle at home, replace it every 6 months.[31]


  • You cannot remove chemical contaminants by boiling water.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (28)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | First Aid and Emergencies | Fire Emergencies