This easy-to-set-up emergency water collection system can save your life
04/05/2017 // JD Heyes // Views

In a ‘stuff hit the fan’ scenario, the fact is, very early on basic services are no longer going to function. That means no electricity, no trash service, no police protection, no city services and worse, no water. Without water, you won’t last any longer than three days.

So obviously, obtaining a supply of potable water will become your most important task, even before securing a steady food source. And the odds are, you’re not going to be able to; whatever is available will be commandeered by authorities or by the strongest post-collapse gangs.

Fortunately, there is a simple design you can make on the fly that will help you obtain a source of water without having to risk your life for it. As The Survival Blog notes, it’s a basic water collection system that you pre-make before disaster strikes. (RELATED: How To Find Water In The City After A Collapse.)

Here’s what you’re going to need:

* Rain catch barrel (50 Gallon) with an opening on top covered with a piece of mesh held by multiple screws (plastic barrels work best)

* Cement blocks to raise the barrel

* 8 X 6 water proof tarp

* At least 6 fence posts

* Paracord or similar rope

* Rocks and pebbles/gravel

First things first. You’ll need to find a location that does not have a lot of trees, though zero tree cover would be ideal. Make sure to steer clear of any trees that create pollen; pollen and leaves will work to clog up the mesh opening above your collection barrel and the faucets. Also, it will reduce the possibility of contaminating your collected H2O to minimize debris that collects on the mesh.


You’ll use the cement blocks to raise your barrel off the ground to make using the faucet at the bottom of the barrel much easier.

Next, remove the plastic mesh and place the tarp over the mesh opening, cutting a hole in the tarp that corresponds to the hole in your rain barrel. Then, just replace the mesh and screws, which secures the tarp to your rain collection barrel.

If you want, and have the material lying around, you can add a small square of window screening mesh that will allow your device to filter out even more debris and potential contaminants.

At this point you add your gravel and some larger rocks to add some weight, as well as additional filtering of water as it drains into your collection barrel. Also, this step ensures that the tarp will stay secure to the barrel on windy days; the additional weight from the rocks “reduces the stress on the screws during high winds,” The Survival Blog noted.

Next, drive your six metal fence posts into the ground at least a foot, evenly set apart in a row on two sides of the barrel. Leave some room for adjustments as needed (and you’ll know what they are when you get this far), then attach the tarp to the posts using the paracord, which you feed through the eye holes in the tarp before tying each strand off to a post.

At this point, all you’ll need is rain.

Obviously this is a system that is portable and can be set up at any bugout location. But if you’re bugging in – that is, planning to stay where you’re at – then by all means, get your system set up now, in advance, and start collecting a supply of water. Two barrels are better than one, three better than two, and so forth. You’ll need water not simply for drinking but also to wash dishes, clothes, and for general hygiene. You can harvest and save the water collected in plastic containers. (RELATED: How Will You Keep Your Clothes Clean During A Prolonged Emergency?)

Just remember, it’s still best to boil and filter any water you use from the barrel collector, as inevitably there will be some contaminants that find their way in. You can also use bleach to disinfect water; here’s a good primer for creating a multi-layer, redundant water purification system.

For a picture of this amazingly simple water collection design, click here. For more ideas and news on water filters, see

J.D. Heyes is a senor writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.


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