Expedient Family Survival Water Filter

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.

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.)


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.

Conclusionemergency 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.

If you want to do this project at home, here is a list of all the products:

Last update on 2021-05-10 at 10:22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

All Photos by Dave H.


Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of SurvivalCache.com. After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

31 thoughts on “Expedient Family Survival Water Filter”

    • 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.

  1. 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

    • 2 /2 or 3 gallon food grade buckets with sealed lids can be found at any grocery store that makes custom cakes. they are free for the asking. i usually get 2 to 5.
      Since I'm using a "Sawyer" mini filter ($20 @ Amazon), I have found that one bucket on top another is too slow. So put a long hose before the filter and hang the full bucket up about 5 feet higher that the storage bucket..
      the "Sawyer" mini is good for 0.1 micros and 100,000 gallons, I haven't filtered enough to clog it yet.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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!

  6. 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.


  7. 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.

    • 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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?

    • 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.


  12. I have to tell you I'm so glad to have found your site ! Everything ! Is so informative and helpful I can't stop reading. The material seems endless. 🙂 Thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge ! 🙂

  13. I'm surprised to see that the Sawyer Point One filter (as in 0.1 micron) has not been mentioned yet. Great product! I bought one years ago for $20 back when it looked like the kit was assembled on a table in someone garage; it arrived in a zip-lock baggie with hand written instructions! They have since refined the packaging, and the price to go along with it, but at around $50 it is still a good deal. It is a gravity system where you drill a hole in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket, attach the hose and filter with the included hardware, then let the water gravity feed through the filter into another clean 5 gallon bucket below the first. It is a very complete kit…it even includes the drill bit to drill the hole through the bucket which can be easily done by hand. All that you have to supply is the buckets or other water containers of your choosing.
    They also have a .02 micron filter that will filter out a couple of things that the .1 will not, but for most water sources the .1 will be sufficient and it filters much more quickly.

  14. I buy food grade buckets for $2 each at Firehouse Subs — these are the buckets their pickles comes in. Best days to stop at Firehouse are Sundays and Mondays, especially after a big game or a holiday weekend. Recently, the lids on these buckets have changed, so I am planning on purchasing some gamma lids for the buckets I will get from Firehouse in the future. Also, ask your favorite restaurant for their buckets, or go dumpster diving (with the restaurant manager's permission, of course).


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