By 1LT Chris Post

If the municipal water supply goes down in a catastrophic zombie outbreak, then you must purify your drinking water or risk death.

A number of commercially available filters and chemicals adequately treat water, but as desperate times stretch on indefinitely you may need to craft an improvised filtration system from commonly available materials.

To build a basic filter, you’ll need some cotton fabric (such as a t-shirt), a five-gallon bucket, sand, gravel, and crushed charcoal. Collect the charcoal from your campfire, making sure it’s roughly the size and consistency of gravel. Do not pulverize it into a powder.

First, make several small holes in the bottom of your bucket. Line the bottom of the bucket with the cotton fabric, and cover this with some of your gravel to a depth of about two inches. Next add another two inches of crushed charcoal. Cover this with another layer of cotton and add two inches of sand. This set-up should give you a filtration depth of approximately six inches.

Repeat the process to create a final filtration depth of about one foot.

Mount the bucket off the ground, allowing you to pour water in the top and collect it as it comes through the holes in the bottom. Finally, before drinking any filtered water, bring it to a rolling boil for at least five minutes.

Humans need a near-constant supply of clean drinking water to stay alive. Taking this fact for granted could mean certain death when the dead rise.


  1. Pot still is good but be sure of your source water. if it is toxic going in it will not be totally clean coming out.
    other things boil, turn to steam and re condense besides water.

    on the point of urine from a while back. I have checked around and the maximum times you are supposed to re use it even if filtering is 8.
    now that is probably 8 more times than I plan on doing this but if you have to I’d stop way before 8>
    just my call on it though.

    • you actually reminded me of something. after you make distill water you have to add sumthings to it. or it will go right threw your body and not hydrate you. run it threw clean sand over iron any way you can get sum mineral into it so your body can use it. even a cap of bleach in ten gallon with help. as far of chemicals being evaporated yes its posible but should be semi obvious if water has chemical contamination of a toxic to humans lv. ive personally tryd the distillation method works well. ran it over a bed of sand and had no issues with pissing it right threw. tho the arizona heat made me sweat it out fast. 🙁

  2. guys got it all wrong. distillation. every true serviver need a kinda still. take any source of water nasty or nice. run it threw a pot still. youl have pure virus free drinking water that can be maid from any source. also collect rain water if you have that ability. i live where rain wood and runing water are plentiful. and the still can also be used to make fuel. all carbarated engine can run ethanol. and the by product of distilling is a useseble food source. that will last threw winters not the best but hey its food. nutrition and protein.

  3. yes, you can filter urine and you need to because t carries a high concentration of toxins when it comes out (especially first thing in the morning) that’s one reason why you have to Pee in the first place, your getting rid of waste. This method might work but I would research before using it. Buy a filtration straw or a small commercially built filter though if you can, if not i think I might add a bit more charcoal. that’s me though.

  4. Stef- I’ve read in more than one place, and seen in educational tv programs that urine itself is entirely sterile. (Now, that is brought into question in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies, but generally, urine is an ok way to hydrate- for the short term: I imagine it would start to dehydrate you after awhile, considering it’s really just the body’s leftovers.

    • So true Anna, I’ve seen & read many times that in case your without water, that urine would be safe enough to drink, I’ve actually seen shows where survivors had to do it. Of course you cannot continue to drink it for long amounts of times, but whether u think its waste or not. It was once in your body at some point. & if carrying that urine didn’t kill u, I’m pretty sure drinking it/putting it back into your body won’t kill u either, lol. Is it healthy, of course not… but neither is going without anything to drink. Both scenetios are not healthy, but one just cancels out the other. If your thirsty w/o nothing to drink, best bet is your urine & if u don’t want to drink it… then dehydrate waiting for something else to drink.. simple!…lol

  5. If you live in a humid area or near a large body of water there are water vapor collection systems that can be purchased for as little as $200. Some are literally set it and forget it with no extra filters and things to replace. The smallest of them are enough to keep 1-2 people in steady drinking water. They do need electricity though.

  6. Question: Can urine be safely filtered into drinking water using this system? Just winding in case you’re in a situation where you need to go on lock down mode for a few days and an scalable water source is no where in the immediate area.

  7. Courtney, you’re right that the system can be scaled up. In theory, you could filter thousands of gallons in a large enough system. I went with the five gallon system because I wanted to demonstrate something that doesn’t take a lot of material and can be transported with minimal difficulty.

  8. Courtney Miller

    I actually use a system just like this for my rain water catch and it gets stored in a cistern that I built a few years ago. I use that water for everything except flushing toilets and washing clothes. I’ve actually had the water company come out and not out right threaten me but tell me they can take legal action because it’s not safe. Well I hired someone to come out and take a tap water sample and a sample from my cistern. I’ll just say that I haven’t had any issues from the water company for a few months now. Lol and the materials cost less then a months water bill and last about a year. I’m sure in a survival situation where water is being conserved it can last much longer.

    The only major difference is I have 2 55 gallon drums instead of a 5 gallon bucket.

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