Need more water? Training says look for safe sources of water but what are they when there has been a CBRN event?

THE DON’Ts when you suspect CBRN

Quickly I’ll mention that myths like flowing clear water is safe, rain is always pure, fallout looks like snow, poisonous gas is always visible, and all contamination has a odor and looks like a greasy film on water. AS SAID, MYTHS.

Uncovered sources like roadside and field drainage, streams, rivers.
Swimming pools, ponds, lakes not forgetting uncovered wells.
Snow, ice, rain collected off something, moisture / condensation from plants or cold surfaces, etc.
Industrial cooling systems, drainage pipes.
Don’t forget that covered rain barrels are filled from somewhere and that somewhere may have been contaminated.
Dare I add fluid from sewage systems? (LOL)
Indoor fish tanks may look clean but fish do “poop” in the water so it’s hardly potable YET it could be purified in an emergency.
Car radiators and central heating systems usually have corrosion inhibitors  or antifreeze added. This makes any water in their systems undrinkable.
I’d also hold off using any roof tank UNLESS YOU KNOW it was sealed.

It’s sort of simple really, if air can get to your water source, so can chemicals and biological stuff. As for radioactive material (fallout)? That’s  mainly particulate but can be in liquid (droplet) form. Add a bit of wind and it can get into air vents, under roofs, and unsealed doorways and windows.

It’s also correct to say that chemicals and radioactive fallout ain’t always like the disaster films when it always falls in large fluffy snowflakes or pretty green or yellow clouds for gas. Everything could be colorless, odorless and tasteless let alone just too small for the human eye to see.

PREFERRED sources of water
when you suspect CBRN

In House only because if you are outside looking you are either desperate or daft and probably contaminated anyway.

Immediately after an event I would be using tap water.
My aim being to quickly fill the bath**, buckets, pans, and anything else I can lay my hands on PROVIDED it is clean and seal-able. Use plastic food wrap for jugs and other non lidded items.

** Notes.
Remember to block off the overflow and seal the plug in place. I got hold of a roll of plastic pallet wrap. Pulling that over the bath may help keep particulates out.
Then a garden hose is fitted to allow siphoning.

This is a one time action as the longer you use it, the more chance there is that contaminates will get drawn into the local water distribution system and eventually into your taps.

Hot water tanks.
If you can, turn the feed off from any header tank in the roof.
For direct fill systems, it’s also a “one shot source” as is using the cold taps.
Simply turn off the supply to the tank and let it run dry.

Ice from the fridge and of course any SEALED bottled water. Finally using the water from toilet cisterns that DON’T have chemicals added. Remembering to block off the overflow and tie off the ball valve.

Finally some dwellings draw water from bore holes. Provided the hole is covered (which they usually are), there is a case that this water is safe.
HOWEVER, contamination could leech into the water table.
There is no way of knowing this is occurring (unless you have a testing kit).


It’s a good start although you MUST consider that what you have stored may have got contaminated.

After all your first action would have been to strip and decontaminate, then seal your shelter to keep out as much contaminate as you can and that takes time.
Time is the enemy here.

Probably why being good little preppers you already have a store of water i.e. an absolute minimum of 2 liters per person, per day, and in our case 14 days worth. 90 liters is what I store.


Biological is easy.
Our plan is to pass everything through our ceramic filters and BOIL before use using bleach or Iodine for anything laid down as stores. That’s it.

We could use our reverse osmosis (RO) system BUT it’s wasteful using a lot more water than it produces. RO systems also strip out essential minerals and adding a bit of salt or potassium is advised. We’d also be popping multivitamins just in case. Besides, it’s VERY hard work for little gain being a manual system.

Chemical. Tough one this.
Chemicals come in two forms, fast acting short life or persistent i.e. they hang round a long time.  We have no testing kits so basically we have to rely on “advice from the authorities” which in the UK would take about a month and even then would probably be wrong.

Again we are thinking simple. We have a reverse Osmosis (RO)  system and would pass the filtered water through an additional activated carbon filter.

Activated carbon filters suck up a lot of heavy metals and some chemicals so are useful. Problem is they are not 100% efficient. Still I may have no choice.

In case you are thinking distillation with chemicals, consider that some chemicals boil at lower temperatures than water thus the result MAY have higher concentrations of chemicals than when you started.

Not looking so good eh?

Radiological. Where to start?
The official fix is to cleanse water with a combination of activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and an ion exchange system (household “resin type” water softener).
Jeez, what a game.
Particulates should be stopped by the RO system but the problem I worry about is that some radioactive iodine’s are water-soluble.
It’s those suckers that cause the problem.

I’m not too convinced that even after 3 stage treatment everything will be 100% safe BUT over time, I’m hoping that radioactive decay will drop levels to something approaching safe.

Boiling or chemical cleansing will not work. Remember that some radioactive material boils at temperatures under that of boiling water 100ºC / 212ºF. Thus like chemicals, you could just be concentrating the problem.


If you were hoping for a definitive answer to CBRN contamination sorry, I’m not that bright. Although biologicals scare the poo out of me, I can’t quite see how I’m going to be 100% sure my efforts with the “CRN” bit of CBRN will work.

I’m going to follow standard prepping philosophy i.e. BE PREPARED with my 90 liters of stored water plus anything I can store immediately after an event. Although I’m pretty confident about dealing with biologicals, everything else is a worry. Even then boiling is expensive on fuel BUT out of the three it’s the one I’m least worried about.

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3 Responses to Drinkable?

  1. a2zprep says:

    Good stuff,..we have enjoyed your insights and appreciate you also stopping by our little corner of the world,…PLEASE stay in touch, and share any insights you have,..we like your style!!!!!!!

  2. equippedcat says:

    How about a ‘bathtub bladder’, such as this?


    • Seen that, looks like an idea.
      Currently we use a simple thin plastic decorators sheet in the bath when we have to emergency fill it (loads of broken mains water pipes round us in summer). 12 x 12 feet means we can fill the bath (no losses from the plug) and using duct tape (which I LOVE) the excess sheet drapes over the top to keep dust out.
      Cost to us. £1 GBP.

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