the rogue turtle the rogue turtle
Our Mission
We provide information on survivalism, camping, food storage, cooking and grilling, and self reliance.

Our goal is to ensure you are prepared for natural and man-made disasters, before, during and after they occur.
Home Research Sign Up Links About the Rogue Turtle Contact Store

Sign up for newsletter updates!
Water Wisdom
© 2006
The single most important item on the survivor supply list!!!

Regardless of the weather conditions, water is probably the most important item to find FIRST. OK, if you are freezing to death in Alaska, find some shelter and build a fire to warm up. NOW, GO FIND WATER.

The human body can survive for many, many days without food. It can only last a few days without water. The better the quality of the water is, the better your chances of survival are. My ex-brother-in-law was a missionary in Zambia. He had to return to the USA once a year to be "de-bugged" from malaria and intestinal parasites he picked up during the year. All of the parasites were picked up by drinking contaminated water. Yuck! Boiling the water seems a better solution, doesn't it?

The following "water wisdom" covers alternate sources of water and how to purify it once you get it. It is never safe to assume that water is OK to drink during disaster-type scenarios. Having a supply of bottled water prevents all this from being necessary...until the bottled water runs out. You have to drink, cook and clean with water. It is essential to life. Drinking contaminated or salt water will kill you...slowly. Here's a few ideas that will help you find water and use it safely.


Easy to assemble, standard plumbing parts, cheap cost. What more could you ask for. This is a simple system for getting water out of a pre-dug well when there is no electricity to run the pump. According to the author, Keith Hendricks (Ohio), the pump works great from 0' to 20'; good at 20' to 35'; OK at 50'. Beyond that the weight of the water is just too heavy to lift.

A 5/8" or larger garden hose, inside diameter
B 3/4" NPT to garden hose adapter
C Open eye hook, washers and nut
D Well cap
E 1/2" diameter nylon cord
F 3/4" PVC (sched. 40) to 3/4" NPT adapter
G 1/2" carriage bolts, washers and nuts
H 1.5" ID PVC (sched. 40) collar
J Electric power cord wiring
K 3/4" ID PVC (sched. 40) pipe collar
L 3/4" ID PVC (sched. 40) pipe section (s)
M Electric power pump feed line
O 1.5" ID PVC (sched. 40) pipe
P 1/2" holes in 1.5" PVC pipe sleeve
Q 1/8" diameter weep hole
R 3/4" foot valve
S 1.5" PVC (sched. 40) pipe cap
T Metal wall casing
Tools & Equipment Needed: PVC Solvent, PVC glue, Rags, Pipe tape or compound, drill & bits, crescent wrenches, pipe wrenches, Allen wrench for caps.

This pump uses the existence of a non-functioning drilled well, by placing a long thin pump in with the existing electric pump. If there is not enough room, take out the electric pump. But, usually it will fit right in. The key to success of this pump is the valve at the bottom of the pump. Red items on the Legend are usually already in place when you find the well.

Theory of operation: This pump is extended down into the well so that the point valve is about 3' to 5' under water. The entire pipe (and valve) is raised up and then plunged forcefully down into the water. As the pipe goes downward, the 1" rubber ball is displaced allowing water to flow freely inside the pipe. As the pump/pipe is raised up again, the ball is forced back into its seat, trapping the water in the pipe. On the next stroke, more water is trapped, until the entire pipe is filled and water begins to exit out the hose attached to the top of the pump. Each stroke after that gives you usable water.

ASSEMBLY: If you are fast, you can put this puppy together is 20 minutes for about $20.00. The foot valve should be made first. Foot Valve: Use 2.75" to 1.5" PVC adapters. Cut a short section of 1.5" PVC pipe to glue them as shown.
  1. Glue the upper adapter to a section of .75" ID PVC pipe. My preference would be a section about 6' in length, for now.
  2. Glue the short section of 1.5" PVC to the inside of the upper adapter. Stand the pipe up, with the larger end upward.
  3. Drill a hole in the upper adapter, through the inner glued 1.5" PVC section, and back out the other side of the adapter. Glue a pin (brass or stainless steel) in this hole, to prevent the ball from sealing the upper .75" PVC pipe.
  4. Drop in the rubber ball, and glue the second 1.5" PVC to the upper adapter. Don't forget the rubber ball!!!
  5. Glue a short section of .75" PVC to the bottom of the adapter. This is the intake for the whole pump. If debris is a potential problem in the well you are using, you can clamp on a piece of screen over the intake to prevent the debris from jamming up in the valve.
  6. Drill a 1/8" weep hole (one side of the pipe only) to allow water to slowly drain back into the well. It should be placed about 6" above the check ball.

    The upper parts of the pump can be either glued together using PVC cement, or screw-together adapters (male and female) can be used to make the pump break up into shorter sections. I prefer to have my pump in 5 to 6 foot sections so I don't have a lot of pipe sticking up out of a very shallow well. The screw-together sections should be sealed with Teflon tape to make sure they are air tight, and come apart easily.

    Delivery End: This is the top-most section of the pump where the delivery hose is connected.
  7. Glue a .75" NPT to garden hose adapter to the end of the pipe. This can also be glued to a 90 elbow if you want the hose to come out the side, rather than the top of the pump. The 5/8" hose is needed to prevent too much back pressure inside the pump.
  8. Measure the depth of the well you are using. Either glue together, or screw together enough pipe to make sure your pump head is 3' to 5' beneath the water level. It must remain submerged during the entire pumping operation. Assemble all the parts and make sure there are no leaks (other than the weep hole). Attach a strong nylon cord to the top end of the pump "just in case" you drop the whole thing into the well. You can drill a hole for an eye bolt into the well casing and tie the end of the safety cord to the eyelet.

USING THE PUMP: With a strong back and a weak mind, begin to raise and lower the pump inside the well casing. The valve opens on the down stroke only. With every up stroke, the water works its way higher and higher inside the pump pipes. Eventually, water will begin to flow out into your water container. How fast it flows depends on how fast you can raise and lower the pump. This pump will work in lakes, rivers and ponds also; and can be used with or without a sleeve.

USING A PUMP SLEEVE: In some wells, it may be desirable to make a "pipe-within-a-pipe" or a sleeve for your pump. If electric wiring or other junk is inside the well casing, this may be a good solution. Just make sure that your entire pump fits inside the new casing, without binding. The sleeve can also be made with screw-together fittings to make its length adjustable too. The bottom of the new sleeve should have a pipe cap on it. The upper end of the sleeve MUST be held solidly in place when pumping. Drill several .5" holes in the bottom section of the sleeve to insure that the inside stays full of water. Like the intake of the foot valve, screening can be used to keep out debris.

AFTER PUMPING IS COMPLETED: If you are staying in the area, the casing (if used) can be left in the well. If you want, you can leave the entire pump and sleeve in the well, using an "S" hook to hold it inside the casing. Always replace the well cap when done with the pumping operation.

WARNING: You must assume that all wells are contaminated unless they are officially tested in a laboratory. Boil or otherwise disinfect all water used for human consumption.


Distilling Water: As water is boiled, water evaporates in the form of water vapor which is very hot as it escapes from the boiling water. In vapor form, no bacteria or contamination can survive in the water molecules. Eventually, however, the hot vapor returns to water form as it cools in a process called condensation. You've seen condensation on your bathroom mirror every time you take a hot shower. Taking it a step farther, we can cool it in condenser coils, collect it in sterile containers, let it cool some more, and drink it.

Distilled water has many advantages over regular methods of decontaminating water: Water distillation removes the broadest range of contaminants over any other form of Point of Use water treatment system; It is the closest to the definition of pure drinking water, and unlike filtration, it is consistent; It is the most effective method for the removal of organic, inorganic and biological (bacteria, viruses, etc.) contaminants.

Ancient Greek sailors would hang sponges over pots of boiling sea water. They would squeeze out the collected water from the sponges and drink it. The water was free from salt and tasted fine. Today, almost all navy vessels convert sea water to fresh by using distillation processes.

Today's water distillers are commercially available for kitchens in either under-counter or above-counter models. The problem is that they all require electricity to run the heating elements. Since we have no electricity, these are no usable.

Laboratory Distilled Water: All steam condensers must have all these parts to work:

1. Contaminated water from any source
2. Heat Source; wood fire, gas flame
3. Beaker with a gas vent at the top, and side vent for water vapor
4. Condensing tube
5. Collection beaker

All distillers have to have these elements, but the arrangement and materials used are up to you. The gas vent at the top is a must: It allows the vapors of some metals and chemicals to be vented out of the system so it will not be re-introduced to the water collected in the condenser.

This schematic shows an electric version of a countertop steam distiller. It has two compartments; one for raw water and the other for the finished distilled water. I like the idea that this particular model uses the (relatively) cool incoming raw water to cool and condense the steam vapors into the "clean" side of the unit. Very clever.

There is no end to design possibilities of a steam condenser. In a survival or camping situation, the heat source will probably be an open fire. Water will have to be heated in a metal container. The metal container will be full of potentially contaminated water. An air vent at the top will let out the vapors of boiling gases that are harmful to your health. A collecting tube (of some sort) will collect the remainder of the water vapor, cool it back down to water form, and be collected in a container.

If you don't have the time or energy or skill to make one yourself, you can purchase a steam distiller, like the one on the left. Made of stainless steel, it sells for about $350.00. It is 12" high and 12" in diameter. It produces 3.2 quarts of distilled water in a little over an hour, and running continuously can produce 16 gallons a day. ***Sorry, this product is NOT available to California residents.*** I have no idea why. Sneak over to Nevada and buy one.

Working with steam presents some safety concerns that California either doesn't want to face, or thinks that its' residents can't cope with. However, the concern is real. Water, in steam form, is very powerful. It is still used today to power ships at sea using nuclear reactors. The steam engine has never been developed to its full potential simply because the power of steam (to explode) is so strong that humans cannot make a material strong enough to contain it. IT CAN BLOW UP IN YOUR FACE!!!

Never try to "coax" a little more pressure from a distiller. Even if a little vapor is lost, the alternative explosion can be fatal.


Using the power of the sun to distill water is nothing new. Mother Nature does it every day when it cooks off water vapors from the ocean, makes the vapor rise up and form into clouds, and rains down on your picnic. Ma Nature has a quirky sense of humor.

The photos and diagrams below show just one idea presented to show you how to build your own solar still. Since you rely only on the heat from the sun, it does not work at night, and is severely slowed down in the winter. It works best in the areas of the world with a lot of year-round sunshine.

This solar still was designed and tested in New Mexico. It looks a great deal like a collector I once made for heating water for my swimming pool. The principle is the same.

The glass is the same stuff used to replace shower doors. It shatters when cut, so use it "as is" with no modifications.

Unlike steam units, it does not need a gas vent, since the water never reaches the boiling point.

Shown to the left is a construction cut-away of the still shown on the right. The bottom area of the collector is always painted black to encourage the water to warm up quickly. It works very simply. As the water in the bottom is heated, it evaporates and the escaping water molecules condense on the underneath side of the glass. The slight slope of the glass makes water droplets run downhill until the reach the bottom and drop off into a small collecting trough. This trough is also sloped slightly downhill and runs out of a tube into a collecting bottle. No maintenance needed other than to periodically clean all the "junk" out of the collecting pan after a few weeks of operation. Remember, the contaminants remain in the water left in the tank.

A lot of insulation is used to construct this particular still and this will help keep the heat in and the cold out. An overflow tube is carefully set up so that you cannot overfill the unit and have the incoming raw (untreated) water mix with the condensed water.

SAS: British Special Air Service, is the top Special Warfare branch of the U.K.

This solar still on the right really does work, but it's output is low. This one is designed for one person only. If you have three people, use three stills. I have used this in the jungles of the Philippines and found the taste... "plastic", but wet.
If the plastic is contaminated, boil the water before drinking.
You can also pack the sides of the ground under the plastic sheet with vegetation and even urinate on the sides (yuk!). Only the water condenses on the plastic sheet.
This still stops working at night as it relies on the heat of the sun to work.


There are numerous publications floating around out there that specify exactly how to purify water of questionable quality. None of them agree with the other. Here are a few examples of conflicting information:

From Dale Andreatta, Ph. D., P. E., of Columbus, Ohio:
" is not necessary to boil water to make it safe to drink...Heating water to 65 C (149 F) for 6 minutes, or to a higher temperature for a shorter time, will kill all germs, viruses, and parasites. This process is called pasteurization... Pasteurization will not help if water is brackish or chemically contaminated."

From Walton Feed ( which specializes in survival foods and supplies:
"1. Two percent Tincture of Iodine - To use this add 12 drops per gallon of water. Note: pregnant or nursing women or people with thyroid problems should not drink water with iodine. 2. Chlorine Bleach - Household bleach can also be used. This should contain a 5.25% solution of sodium hypochlorite without soap additives or phosphates. Use 1/8 teaspoon (about 5-8 drops) per gallon of water."

"...Bleach can also be used to treat tap water from municipal sources. Added at a rate of about 1 teaspoon per gallon, ...boiling water is the best method for purifying water you gather from natural sources. ..a rolling boil for 20 or 30 minutes should kill common bacteria such as...but...will not remove foreign contamination such as radiation or heavy metals."

"Bleach Treatment of Water...The procedure to be followed is usually written on the label...find the percentage of available chlorine on the label and use the following...1% chlorine in bleach...40 drops per gallon. 4-6% chlorine in bleach ... 8 drops per gallon. 7-10% chlorine in bleach...4 drops per gallon. The treated water should be mixed and allowed to stand for 30 minutes...Boiling Treatment of Water...Boil water at a fast boil for at least 8-10 minutes to render it potable."

From North Carolina A&T State University Cooperative Extension, After the Storm - 2, Make Sure Your Water is Safe:
"To disinfect water use one of the following methods: 1. Boil at a rolling boil for 3 to 5 minutes. 2. Add 16 drops of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Make sure the bleach has no active ingredient other than four to six percent sodium hypochlorite. 3. Add 20 drops of two percent iodine per gallon of clear water or 40 drops per gallon of cloudy water. 4. Add water purification tablets according to directions on the package. These tablets can be bought at most drug and sporting goods stores. Thoroughly mix these solutions and let the water stand for at least 30 minutes before using."

From North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (same group as above): Treating drinking-quality water for storage:
"To treat water for storage, use liquid chlorine bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use bleach with soaps or scents added...4 drops bleach per quart...container of water. 8 drops bleach per 2-quart, 2-liter, or .5 gallon container of water. 16 drops bleach, or 1/4 teaspoon, per gallon or 4-liter container of water...When treating larger quantities of water, use the following table to convert drops to standard measuring units. 8 drops = 1/8 teaspoon. 16 drops = 1/4 teaspoon. 32 drops = 1/2 teaspoon. 64 drops = 1 teaspoon. 192 drops = 1 tablespoon. 384 drops = 1/8 cup which is equal to 2 tablespoons. Stir the water and allow it to stand for 30 minutes."

From Federal Emergency Management Agency (1999) Virtual Library & Electronic Reading Room.
"Before storing water, treat it with a preservative, such as chlorine bleach, to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Use liquid bleach that contains 5.25% sodium hypochlorite and no soap...Add four drops of bleach per quart of water (or two scant teaspoons per 10 gallons), and (containers) in a cool, dark place...Emergency Outdoor Water Sources. If you need to seek water outside your home, you can use these sources. But purify the water before drinking it.

  • Rainwater
  • Streams, rivers and other moving bodies of water
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Natural springs
  • Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color
Three Easy Ways to Purify Water...Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a roiling boil for 10 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinkingChlorination uses liquid chlorine bleach to kill microorganisms...Add two drops of bleach per quart of water (four drops if the water is cloudy), stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not taste and smell of chlorine at that point, add another dose and let stand for another 15 minutes...Purification tablets release chlorine or iodine. They are inexpensive and available at most sporting goods stores and some drugstores. Follow package directions. Usually one tablet is enough for one quart of water. Double the dose for cloudy water."

Are you as confused as I am? Which one is right? What do I use when the poo-poo hits the fan? HELP!!!


I couldn't figure it all out until I put all the information in the form of a chart. Here's what I discovered:

Water Storage PreparationLakes, Rivers, Cistern Water Treatment
Source 5.25 % Bleach Drops per Gal. Boil 5.25 % Bleach Drops per Gal. Boil
Dr. Andreatta, Ph. DNot mentioned149F for 6 minutesNot mentioned149F for 6 minutes
waltonfeed.com5-8 drops per gallonNot mentioned5-8 drops per gallonNot mentioned
survival-center.com16 drops per gallonNot mentioned1 teaspoon or 64 drops per gallon20-30 min. rolling boil
(Industry web site)
8 drops per gallonNot mentioned8 drops per gallon8-10 min. fast boil
NC State
After the Storm
Not mentionedNot mentioned16 drops per gallon3-5 min. rolling boil
NC State
Treating for Storage
16 drops per gallonNot mentionedNot mentionedNot mentioned
(Web site for Clorox bleach)
16 drops per gallonNot mentioned16 drops per gallon3-5 minute rolling boil
F.E.M.A.4 drops per quart = 16 drops per gallonNot mentioned8 drops per gallon if clear, double if cloudy10 minute rolling boil

Boiling water:
Not required prior to putting (already boiled) water away for storage.

When using outside water: 10 minute rolling boil. It is best to err in favor of safety, even if it costs extra fuel to heat the water.

5.25% Bleach:
Prior to storage in an approved container: add 16 drops of bleach per gallon. Store in a cool dark place. When commercial water is lost, or you are forced to use outside water, use 16 drops of 5.26% (or higher) bleach per gallon. Filter water to eliminate solid contaminants. Ultra Clorox Bleach is 6% hypochlorite. Use at the same rate as the 5.25% stuff.

Avoid using Iodine: You never know who'll come for dinner. 16 Drops = 1/4 TEASPOON (not tablespoon)


To make boiled water taste better, add extra oxygen by pouring the water rapidly back and forth between open containers. Add other ingredients such as Kool-Aid or lemon aid to hide the flat taste.