Finding Water In the City When the SHTF

We all know how important water is so I’ll spare you the rule of threes speech. But I will say that we might find ourselves working harder in a grid down event or post collapse situation causing us to drink more water than normal because we won’t have access to all these convinces we have today.

Hopefully we all have some amount of water stored and are prepared for this situation, but the amount of space that water takes up makes it very difficult to hide, and the amount of water we use means that at some point or another that water will be gone.

If all the water we have stored is gone because we used it, or someone has come and taken it from us, what would we do at this point? Finding water in the city when the SHTF will be difficult, but if we can stay away from the “zombie zones” and think about places other people might not think about, we might be able to find some drinking water in an urban area safely.

Disclaimer: Because our water is treated we have not built up the immunity to microorganisms like our ancestors did, this can be done, but usually not without a bout of sickness once or twice.

Use your own judgment on water sources but just know that giardia and cryptosporidium can cause serious illness. We can build up an immunity to certain levels of these bacteria but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

This article is not a recommendation of any technique, it’s just meant to give you some ideas, use at your own risk!

Well Water

Earth StrawWhere we live we have a well, but what do we do if the grid goes down? My solution to this is installing a manual pump. We haven’t gotten around to this yet but it is on the top of my list. An option we are seriously thinking about is the Earth Straw Hand Well Pump.

Todd from Prepper Website has done a detailed video about installing one of these that you can have a look at here. You can also save 5% by going through the link below the video.

Our well is between 50 and 100 feet deep so it will cost about $600 to install this, but when you think about the advantage of having all the water we need, $600 is a drop in the bucket.

Not all of us have access to a well, so let’s think about some ideas where we could find water and still maintain our safety by staying away from the zombies and the trained monkeys all heading to the grocery stores.

Zig When Everyone Else Zags


Some of these will require us to travel out and find water, and some of these can be found right in our back yard. The key to this is to go to places other people will not think about, giving you a better chance of getting in and out safely.

Most people will not take the time to learn about this, let alone think about it when they are dying of thirst and hungry.

This list was put together with the help of our Apoco-List Facebook group. With the wealth of knowledge the members have, that group has become (in my opinion) the best preparedness group on Facebook…Thanks everyone!

This is a private group, but if you would like to join just send me an email from our about page.

Water heaters And Pipes

Water HeatersWater heater store 30 to 80 gallons of water depending on the size of the home. Some businesses will have even bigger (commercial) water heaters for you to tap into. Another bonus is that this water has already been treated and is probably safe to drink.

There will also be water in the pipes that run through walls, you might have to do a little demolition to get to this, but desperate times call for desperate measures right?

If you have some warning you can also fill your bath tub giving you an extra 40 gallons or so. Unfortunately this is something most people will not think about, and something that can be done in just minutes.

If the water in your home runs out, think about places that might be abandoned, every business and home these days has running water, and there for a water heater.

Garden Hoses & Sprinklers

The residual water that you can find in a garden hose won’t be 50 or 100 gallons, but it could get you through the day.

Sprinkler systems can be found in parks as well as personal residences, although tearing up your neighbors front yard might lead to more issues than finding water.

Thomas from the Facebook group also mentioned that Sprinkler pipes build up bacteria, sometimes legionaries. Also if the piping is black iron it will contaminate the water with oil from its original manufacturing. Drinking legionaries is probably safe, just don’t get it in your lungs.

Toilet Water Sprinkler

Toilet Water

Older toilets hold 5 to 6 gallons of water, new toilets us only 1.6 gallons. New EPA requirements are 1.6 gallons for water conservation, but if you can find (or have) one of these older toilets you have 5 days’ worth of water.

Keep in mind I am talking about the tank, not the bowl. Either way I would still boil the water. Anytime a plunger is used on the toilet it can push feces contaminated water backwards into the tank. The CDC states that water in the toilet tank is safe to drink, but I’m not taking any chances.

If push came to shove I would boil and drink water from a toilet bowl, it might sound gross, but I would rather be alive.

Golf Courses and Parks

Think about areas around you that have ponds or fountains. Golf courses and parks are places that might have streams running through them and other water sources.

Be careful with these though because parks and golf courses are usually manicured to look pretty meaning that there could be pesticides and chemicals in the water, and filtering water will not take out chemicals.

Using a solar still, or finding another way to distilling this water might be necessary. But again, in a worst case scenario, being sick and alive is better than being dead.

Parks and Pools

Swimming Pools

Many people have swimming pools, they could be small above ground pools or larger swimming pools in the ground. We don’t have many here, but in places like California I’m sure they are everywhere.

In a SHTF scenario you might want to be looking for pools that have been left untreated for a while. The sunlight burns out the pool chemicals in a hurry and leaves it just water. You would still want to filter and boil the water.

Personally, I would drink water out of a toilet before I would drink water from a public pool…Boiled and filtered of course.

Local Businesses

In a SHTF scenario local businesses and offices could become abandoned. People will most likely overlook these places because they will see them as unnecessary, and we see them as a resource.

Office building will have refrigerators, storage closets and vending machines that you can take advantage of. Not only can you find soda and water, you might find a few snack’s to munch on and some coffee to take back home with you.

Seriously though, businesses could turn out to be a good place for supplies other than just water. Look around your office or place of work and see what you might be able to use.

Office Water and Rivers

Rivers and Streams

When thinking about rivers and streams that run through a city you need to think about where that water came from. There might not be anything around you that could contaminate that water, but just a few miles upstream there could be factories or other factors that could contaminate that water.

Again, filtering will not remove chemicals so you will need to figure out a way to distill this water. Distilling might take longer, but you still need to protect yourself…even if that means from yourself.

Rooftops – Anywhere Water Collects

Depending on how much it rains or snows in your area finding places where this water collects could become a good alternative water source. Any place that water collects without being disturbed could be a good water source in the city or urban area.

Places like flat rooftops where water will pool after snow fall or rain could be a good water source that other people would not even think about.

All buildings have a way for this water to run off and enter the sewers, if you could find the path this water travels and collect it or trap it before it made it down into the sewers you could have a water source that is stored in these gutters that no one else even knows about.

I haven’t cleaned my gutters in two years, so in a pinch I’m sure I could collect some rain water from them. We are not legally allowed to collect rain water here in Colorado, but in a SHTF situation I would, without a doubt, be collecting this rain water.

Water drainage

The Zoo & Theme Parks

Places like the zoo, pet stores, theme parks or any place that needs to have a lot of water available could be a good place to look for water. I’m not saying jump into a bear enclosure and get water from their pond, but that water has to come from somewhere.

Theme parks and water parks might be a good option as well. People will not be thinking about going down a waterslide when the SHTF so these might be a good place to find water and avoid the chaos at Walmart.

I’m not so sure I would be going inside a mall during a SHTF event, but there are stores all over the city that are in industrial areas or separated from large structures.

When and if these places get looted the shelves will be empty, but looking in places like storage rooms and employee areas could lead you to some hidden treasures.

Find 5 Areas Around You


Try to think about 5 places that are within 5 miles of your home or work that you could use as a water source. Think about places that other people wouldn’t give a second thought.

Think about where water would collect in your area, on roof tops, gutters and other places that could be an emergency water source.

Most people will be panicking and looking to Uncle Sam for guidance in times like these and this gives us an upper hand. And I hate to say it, but these same people that have no clue about water safety might just drink contaminated water because they have no idea about what is in that water…and we all know what happens then.


This Thursday July 17th at 6PM MST we will be doing a free live workshop that goes through urban and wilderness survival.


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We will talk about why these skills are not only important in the wilderness, but anywhere you live. The tools in your head are more important than any tool you own.

What you will get…

  • Find Out the 7 pillars of primitive skill
  • Over 15 FREEBIES at the end of the workshop
  • Find out what the only tool you need to survive is
  • Watch live on Google Plus, YouTube or at the academy
  • Question and answer session
  • Chance to win 1 of 10 signed copy’s of BE PREPARED FOR ANYTHING
  • Everyone gets the PDF version of BE PREPARED FOR EVERYTHING

If you have any ideas we would love to hear them. Leave a comment below and tell us your ideas about finding water in an urban area.


Survival and being prepared should not only be a passion, it should be a lifestyle. The definition of a prepper is "An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances, without substantial resources from outside sources" Like the Government, police etc. I don't believe that the end of the world will be the "end of the world" I believe it will be the end of the world as we know it now. You can also find me on Google Plus and Twitter

    10 replies to "Finding Water In the City When the SHTF"

    • Bradley Robertson

      Good prolegomenon on H2o pursuit Dale! It stimulated me to think of those coffee machines most offices have because they have a reservoir that hold about a pot or 2 of water. Keep those piquant traceries coming.

      • Mic

        This is a good article for the early days of a SHTF scenario.
        What it fails to take into account is the population of the city that will be seeking out water from most of above ground water sources. So they will start to dry up quickly. Any large or remaining ones, will quickly be taken over by gangs or groups that will limit access to them. So within a month or so, such sources will not be an option. a city of 1 million people will consume 10 to 100 million gallons of water a day. Remember that non preppers will not be practicing water conservation, so they will waste a lot of water, while still expecting the Gov’t to come in and rescue them.

        So hand pumped or wind pumped well’s and other “covert” sources of water will be a must for any long term survival. Many rivers and streams will be blocked off or dammed up to provide water for other people, so don’t plan to rely on them either. Water heaters and Plumbing will quickly run out also. So concentrate your efforts on finding viable, renewable, water resources.

    • Dale

      I had to Google prolegomemon Bradly, but thanks! I never thought about the coffee pots, great idea.

      • Bradley Robertson

        LOL =0) I just love my thesaurus!

    • Rancher

      Only a fool has no plan. Having water at hand and for years to come with no grid or whatever separates the men form the boys in this playing field…..period. Us real preppers will be picking up all the toys laying around from the non preppers and the foolish preppers. Enough said cause we just don’t care anymore if you want to play at prepping.

    • Wendy Mollin

      Reading Farrell Kingsley’s book “Nine Meals To Anarchy”, which is the best prepper book I have ever ready by the way. He tells of how with in just a few months of a SHTF situation virtually all the free slowing water is contaminated by waste and needs heavy doses of cleaning or purifying to get clean. Anyone preparing should keep this in mind and have purifying items first on their list. Boiling won’t make sense because it takes so much fuel.

    • bigben

      Good article. I like to read these helpful hints regarding prepping. Thank goodness I can have a rain barrel where I live, but the 55 gal. won’t last long when everything goes down.

    • Mike the Gardener

      I have a 55 gallon rain barrel and we have the 50 gallon water heater tank as well. I was originally going to go to a tank less water heater, but then I read an article on having that extra water available.

    • Kevin

      Most large buildings like apartments and condos have mechanical rooms in the basement that distribute water up to the building with pumps. In Canada anyway there is a requirement that these buildings have a back flow valve to stop the water pouring back into the city supply.
      If you go into the buildings mechanical room and open up the test or service valves there is a huge stored column of water available.
      Also, Storm drains and San drains are separate in city buildings (also in the burbs) so open up a storm drain and bring a bucket and some rope. You probably wanna avoid drinkin’ out of the San drains. Take all water purification precautions of course.

    • Nehmo Sergheyev

      People are assuming some sort of zombie apocalypse, and the author uses SHTF, S Hit The Fan, but numerous lesser catastrophes can cause people who are used to utilities to be without. A common reason in modern society is simply having the water cut off by the utility company.
      For example: Once, my wife called the gas company in Kansas City, Missouri, Missouri Gas Energy, to inquire about the bill. The customer service asked her name, which was not on the bill because it was in my name. Once CS had her identity, it turned out a previous address of her’s had an unpaid bill of $200, which had been incurred after she had left that address. It didn’t matter. We had our gas shut off and had to pay to get it turned back on. We actually didn’t have the $200 (plus the outstanding bill I don’t remember what) at the time but pulled it together in a couple of days. I kid you not.
      Anyway, lots of people loose a utility connection for one reason or another.

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