Expedient Family Survival Water Filter

safe drinking water

The ability to purify water in an emergency situation is not a “nice thing to have”, it is an essential part of your preparedness plan.  Whether you are planning to bug in or bug out, safe drinking water is the foundation for survival.

By Dave H, a reader of SurvivalCache.com

In my never ending quest for DIY (Do It Yourself) survival tools, I have found a way to purify larger quantities of water at a low emergency water filter for safe drinking watercost for my survival community using gravity.  Although for some it would be easier to go with a turn key solution such as a Berkey water purification system, I wanted a low cost system that I could afford to keep in multiple locations (cars, home, bug out location, work, storage locker, etc.)


Dome water filter (Included cloth cover & rubber band)

2 x 5 gallon buckets with lids

1 spigot

Prep Work:

You will need to drill a hole in the bottom of one of the 5 gallon buckets. My filter required a ½” hole.  Drill a hole in one of the emergency water filter for safe drinking waterbucket lids. This hole must be larger than the hole in the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket you just drilled.  The larger hole is required because the filter will have some clear tubing that allows the filter to drain from the top bucket to the bottom of the bucket.  The larger hole also allows for some imperfection in the drilling process.

Next, drill a hole in the side of the bottom bucket to accommodate the spigot. My spigot required a 1” diameter hole.


Remove the plastic nut and one of the silicone washers from the filter. emergency water filter for safe drinking water Slide the bottom of the filter into the hole in the bottom of the 5 gallon bucket. Slide the silicone washer onto the bottom of the filter that protrudes from the 5 gallon bucket.  Install and tighten the plastic nut to ensure a water tight seal.  Install the clear plastic tube on the bottom of the filter.

Install the spigot in the bottom of the other 5 gallon bucket.

Place the lid with a hole on top of the 5 gallon bucket with the spigot.  Set the bucket with the filter on top of the bucket with the spigot. Make certain the plastic tubing runs through the hole in the lid.

Options:emergency water filter for safe drinking water

My filter came with a cloth cover. Install this cover over the dome filter and secure with the rubber band that was provided.  The filter can run slow. To improve performance I would consider using a Gamma Seal lid on the top bucket. I would drill a hole in the gamma seal lid and install a bicycle tire valve stem. You can then use a bicycle pump to pressurize the top bucket and force the water through the filter.


Conclusion:emergency water filter for safe drinking water

If you anticipate having to care for a large number of people (survival group, church group, refugees, etc.) and want to purify large amounts of water with the least amount of energy at a low cost.  Think about trying this DIY gravity water filter.  It works.

All Photos by Dave H.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry June 20, 2013 at 6:24 am

That would be Just Water filters and not Berkey . Just thinking out loud since i've built about 20 of them.


MacTex August 28, 2013 at 4:04 am

Absolutely correct, and I'm not sure that these filters are rated at the same level as the Berkey Black filters. You can make the same type setup using Berkey's, and be sure that the water is safe. Yes – a little more expensive outlay but works out about the same when you consider the amount of water that can be filtered by each filter.


Terry June 20, 2013 at 6:26 am

Also, i'd recommend the food grade buckets at Home Depot or Lowes since i'm not sure the Logo ones are. And use the 5 gallon buckets

Water Survival Solutions


Randy K June 20, 2013 at 7:55 am

Thanks – look good.


Terry June 20, 2013 at 8:29 am

One more tip since i've built so many of these. (not the author) if you put a hose on the bottom of the filter it will cause a siphoning effect and drastically increase the amount of water that is filtered.


Rick June 20, 2013 at 9:05 am

while this is a great idea, I'm not sure it will filter out micro organisms that can make you sick.


Tom June 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm

The Berkey filters do filter out micro organisms. They are used to treat water all over the world.


wally June 20, 2013 at 10:30 am

good review thanks!


Terry June 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Yes Rick, it will filter out micro organisms that make you sick. These look like the same ones used by the Texas Baptist Men in Haiti, India, etc.. They are first responders during many disasters. The new made in USA Just Water Ceramic filters will filter out virus's according to their recent lab report on http://www.justwater.me
I tried one of the bottles in a nasty (*& duck pond behind the house just to see if it would knock out the nastiest taste. It worked but I was hesitant to do so. Nice to know it worked. With the bucket systems you want to test it first and make sure nothing is leaking around the seal.
You can also research them on my website http://www.watersurvivalsolutions.com
Without safe drinking water you have about 3-4 days to live. You can boil it but then you get safe yucky tasting drinking water.


MacTex August 28, 2013 at 4:00 am

After boiling the water, simply toss it back and forth several times between two containers to replace the air that was lost when boiled and the water will taste just as it did before boiling, just without the impurities. Everything is still there, just dead, so there is no reason for the water to taste any different. Has worked for me for 60 years now….the tiny packets of flavored energy drinks will greatly improve the flavor of any water as well as provide needed nutrients and minerals while weighing next to nothing to carry.


Chuck B June 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

A better set up would be to use 2 black Berkey filters which filter down to virus levels which actually qualifies it as a purifier. 2 filters ($107.00 shipped) will purify 6000 gallons of water making it cheaper per gallon than the ceramic filter shown and there is no 1 year time limit. They are sold in sets of 2 which means that with 4 buckets you can make up 2 assemblies good for 300 gallons each or one 6000 gallon unit with 2 buckets.


Chuck B June 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Correction: Last sentence should read "…2 assemblies good for 3000 gallons each…"
Chuck B


Rick June 20, 2013 at 10:50 pm

They don't ship Berklys to California.
This is a nice set up, does as good a job as the berkly's, But needs a third bucket, the "black" bucket to transport water to the filter.


Mactex August 28, 2013 at 3:52 am

That does not look like any Berkey filter I have ever seen – the ones I receive when I order them are black, tubular shaped. Also, when you start forcing the water through the filter using pressure (bicycle pump) you are greatly reducing the filtering effect as part of the effectiveness of ceramic filters is that gravity does not FORCE impurities through, so they are FILTERED (get it?) out. Good luck!


Terry June 21, 2013 at 6:47 am

I'm betting on the Just Water 4×4's. They are about $35 with shipping and even though they recommend changing them every 6 months of constant use that's still less expensive and does the same.



Bob June 24, 2013 at 8:00 am

I have one of these rigs (I believe the filter is a "Monogram") built just as you describe here. I acquired the components from CTD several years ago. More recently I acquired a Camelback type bladder from CTD with an integral "Just Water" filter. This small filter is about the size of a billiard ball and, of course, I bought a spare at the same time. Anyway, I got the idea of a portable "Berkey" type filter for my Alice Pack. I use Folger's coffee….it comes in handy plastic containers of about a two pound size. I built a miniature "Berkey" using two of these Folger's plastic containers and my spare "Just Water" small filter. This minature system is easily disassembled/assembled and while in the Alice Pack, I can use the containers to store other essentials, thus I avoid creating a bunch of unused space in the pack. I confess I haven't used this rig yet but see no reason it won't work just like it's big brother while being light weight and transportable at the same time.


MacTex August 28, 2013 at 4:09 am

It would be a real deal breaker if you wait until you REALLY need safe drinking water and find out that it DOESN'T work as promised. Also, keep in mind, this is not designed to be used on the move, this is for an 'in camp' set up.


Terry June 25, 2013 at 5:47 am

It'll work Bob because i've played with most systems already. That is a great idea about the coffee cans and their multi uses.


Garrett June 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm

This is a very handy post. Your process looks super easy and functional. I think I will try and set one of these up as filtered water is an absolute necessity.


PITA45 August 17, 2013 at 1:04 am

Just a little information please. On Amazon who sell them(as of now) for under $20.00
It say it is good for 1000gals of water or one year!
Now does that year start when you start using the filter?
What is their shelf life?


PANative November 5, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Please use food-grade buckets. You don't need to get sick from the buckets or former contents!


guy in alabama January 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm

the filter says it is good for 1 year, when des the year start? I mean, is the filter worthless a year after you buy it or is it hermetically sealed in mylar and it expires 1 year after the container is opened? also why is it only good for one year, is it chemically treated and the chemicals evaporate in one year or what?


dirtedawg April 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm

The filters have a charcoal core inside the ceramic shell. The charcoal is to filter chemicals and is effective for 6mnths to a year after it becomes wet, The silver impregnated ceramic shell will continue to filter bacteria for as long as it is not worn away.


Terri January 13, 2014 at 3:43 pm

how does this work with salt water? if at all


DONNA May 3, 2014 at 9:16 am



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