Prepare for an Emergency with 17 Easy Water Filtration and Purification Methods [Bonus Product Guide for 2020]

methods for off grid and emergency water filtration and purification

It is so easy to take clean drinking water for granted.

After all, when its delivered right to our faucets, we don’t have to think twice about getting sick if we drink or cook with it. 

This can put us in a place of comfort but also complacency.

If we lost access to this clean water, would we be prepared to provide our families with clean drinking water?

Would we even know how to provide this water? How do we filter and purify water anyways?

In this article, I will address how you can provide safe, potable drinking water to your family in time of emergency.

I will also go over the best emergency water filters on the market today so you can make an informed purchase.

Read on!

The Basics of Water Filtration and Purification

There are two steps to getting your water to a safe drinking level:

Step One: Filtration

Filtration is the first step that removes most contaminants. Large debris such as leaves, algae, and sediments are removed along with smaller contaminants that cause cloudiness and bad tastes.

Filtration can also remove VOCs, chlorine, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and more. This is all dependent on the micron size the filter is rated for. You will need to check with the manufacturer to see exactly what the filter can catch per each system. 

Step Two: Purification

Once filtered, the purification process then removes bacteria, viruses, and cysts along with chemicals. Although some bacteria are removed through the filtration process, viruses are too small to be caught and require purification to remove completely.

It is absolutely necessary to purify your water! I have noticed through much research that many websites only offer up filtration methods for emergencies, and this will NOT cut the cheese!

You cannot simply run water from the wild through carbon and deem it as safe to drink. Even though the water may look clean, especially from mountain snowmelt, animals can contaminate the water through fecal matter introducing harmful bacteria.

different sizes of microbes that contaminate water

Some of these bacterium are e.Coli and giardia. These bacterium can cause diarrhea which can be deadly in a survival situation.

Viruses are a concern as well, although typically in first world countries it is not nearly as much of a problem. The World Health Organization notes that water can be contaminated with norovirus, rotavirus, and many more. 

Scenarios requiring emergency water Purification

Boil order – boil orders are given from health authorities when municipal water sources could be contaminated with pathogens.

Water under boil orders needs to be brought to a rolling boil for a minimum of two minutes.

Municipal water source being shutoff – we’ve all had this happen before, a planned shut off from the city or an unplanned shutoff from someone hitting the main water line. For the first few hours, we go to the faucet expecting water to come out. It is a tolerable situation for a while, but when morning comes around and the water still doesn’t come on, it becomes a bit unnerving! When will the water come back on? I have dishes piling up! I need to take a shower!

Water scarcity/rationing – Now this is probably the lesser common of situations, but if a draught were to be severe and persist over a long period of time, water rationing could be ordered, and possibly even water shutdowns. If that were to happen, water would have to come from the wild.

Flooding and natural disasters – flooding can bring catastrophic amounts of contamination to municipal water sources and well systems. Earthquakes and fires can cause damage to water infrastructures placing you into a possible water emergency.

Scenarios requiring survival water purification

Backwoods trips – If you are going on a prolonged hike or camping trip or are backpacking, you will want to have a portable water purifier handy. No sense in lugging around liters of bottled water if you will have access to water in the wild. 

Prolonged emergency situations – If emergency scenarios persist, a mobile water purifier may become necessary if you need to relocate or lose access to municipal water sources entirely. 

Off grid lifestyle – You will need a permanent water purification system if you are living the off grid lifestyle and collecting water from a wild source – even rainwater needs purification, mainly due to spontaneous bird turds. 

Things to consider for emergency water filtration Situations

Will you be mobile or stationary?

If you are in a situation where can stay in your home, a whole house water filtration system is a good choice.

If you are in a prolonged emergency situation and must evacuate, a portable water purification option would be essential.

Where will your water come from?

Municipal water on a boil order will require less filtration whereas murky water from the wild will need a more intensive filtration process. It can be hard to know what your water situation will be in a possible future emergency event, but the more scenarios you can apply to your situation, the better prepared you can be.

Will you have access to water at all?

In a water shutdown/scarcity event, you may not have access to conventional water. I suggest locating the nearest water source to your home or bugout location and judge the quality of water to be the best prepared.

How much water will you need?

The WHO made an excellent PDF about emergency water usage, I recommend you download it here.

Having access to clean water is not just for drinking, you will need it to cook and practice safe hygiene practices. Certain activities only required filtered (not necessarily purified) water.

How long will you be surviving on emergency water?

 An emergency water situation can quickly turn into a survival water scenario if a perfect storm of events happens. Be prepared for both short term and long term water purification plans.

Uses for Potable Water vs Non Potable Water

Potable water is another term for safe drinking water. This water has been both filtered and purified of contaminants.

Non-potable water may look clean but has not been purified to get rid of viruses and bacteria. However, there are certain water activities that you can perform with non-potable water.

Non-Potable water uses:

  • You can water your garden so long as you wash your fruits and veggies first.
  • You can take showers as long as you do not consume the water or have open wounds exposed. Personally, I would want to take showers in purified water, if possible.
  • Washing your clothes.
  • Watering your pets.
  • Washing dishes only if you can provide a bleach bath afterward.
  • Washing your hands only if you have antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer.

Potable water uses:

  • Any water used for drinking.
  • Any water used for cooking that has not been brought to a boil.
  • Water used for bathing if there are open wounds involved.


Natural ways to build an emergency water filtration system

I have written a comprehensive guide to all sorts of ways to filter and purify water, I will touch on them lightly here as well.

Natural water filtration methods

Run your water through activated carbon. You can purchase activated carbon or make your own. Now place the carbon at the bottom of a container and layer sand, then gravel on top of it.

You can dig a hole a few feet from a water source to get cleaner water. Layer some rocks in the hole and then add a top layer of sand.

Filter your water through a ceramic container. This removes a whole lot of particulates and sediments leaving practically clean water. You can use a ceramic gardening pot, as long as you plug the hole on the bottom (duh)!

Natural purification methods

You can use sunlight to purify water! Ah, I love the Sun! It is nature’s way to provide us with clean drinking water without having to use harsh chemicals. I suggest using a glass container instead of plastic as plastic can breakdown from UV exposure. 6 hours of full sunlight will eradicate bacteria and viruses.

Boil your water for one to three minutes.

You can use a stovetop still to collect distilled water. Distilled is the same as purified, it just uses the process of distillation to become purified. It also clears out virtually all sediments.

You can use chemicals like bleach, chlorine, and iodine. We don’t want to ingest any more unnecessary chemicals than we have to, but it would behoove you to keep a packet of iodine tablets or a bottle of bleach as a backup purification system if your primary system happens to fail. 

Use Shungite stones for purification. Shungite is a type of carbon known as fullerene and only occurs in one spot in the world. Fullerene is a hollow carbon which allows for the absorption of contaminants and microbes, and removes 30 times more free radicals than activated carbon! Just make sure to get the Elite Shungite when purchasing! (source) 

Elite Shungite chips can purify water naturally

Part Two: The Best Emergency Water Filter Systems on the Market

On-The-Go Survival Water Purification systems

The products discussed in this section are chosen because of their portability and design. These filters are primarily used for the purification of water from the wild and are durable enough to withstand a backwoods survival situation. 

These products also work well for long hikes, camping trips, backpacking trips, and expeditions.

1. LifeStraw Family 1.0 Portable Gravity Powered Water Purifier




$ $




30 Days

My Acclaims:

  • Purifies 4,755 gallons of water per filter life
  • High flow rate of 9 to 12 liters per hour
  • Extremely simple to set up, comes with clear directions

My Criticisms:

  • Will not remove chemicals or chlorine
  • Some reports of a plastic taste
  • Water container is somewhat bulky

This LifeStraw family gravity water purifier can be a lifesaver in an emergency water situation and be a solution for long hikes and camping trips. Imagine not having to haul in your own water on such long trips, joy!

It is a gravity-fed filter system so no need to worry about electricity or batteries. There is also no moving parts so less chance of product failure.

The packaging states that it will expire in three years, but that is contingent upon heat exposure of the product. It will not expire if stored in a cool, dry, and dark space.

The hard blue vessel can be bulky to haul around. If that is an issue, you can replace the vessel with a water bladder.

This type of purifier is meant for wild water, I do not recommend using it for municipal water as it does not remove chlorine or chemicals. 

Overall, this is a great option for families as it purifies large quantities of water and is good for long trips. 

2. Platypus GravityWorks 4.0 Liter High-Capacity Water Purification System




$ $ $




Useful Life Warranty

My Acclaims:

  • Purified water catches in seperate bag
  • Produces 1.75 liters of purified water per minute
  • The filter gives water a clean fresh taste

My Criticisms:

  • On the more expensive side of emergency water filters
  • Filters 1500 gallons, less than competitors
  • Reports of plastic holes tearing where bag is hung

Platypus makes great water products and this purifying system is no different.

I like the idea of having a secondary “clean” water bladder catch the purified water as opposed to being on a spigot. If you do not like the clean water bladder design, you can purchase a universal adapter so you can remove the bladder and catch water into several types of vessels.

It does handle quite a bit of water with a decent flow rate, although 1,500 gallons per filter is not the highest filter life, it does provide excellent tasting drinking water. 

I would recommend immediately reinforcing the plastic where the bladders hang. Users have reported the plastic starts to tear. This can be done easily with some duct tape.

The purifier will not remove chlorine and other chemicals that a municipal water source carries. However, there is a carbon filter that you can purchase additionally that will remove these contaminants. 

Overall, this is a really great option for filtering large quantities of water and it provides a clean taste, which is an important element. It is much easier to stay hydrated when your water tastes good. It is a little spendier than other options. 

3. Sawyer Products MINI Water Purification System








Lifetime Warranty

My Acclaims:

  • Purifies and IMPRESSIVE 100,000 gallons of water!
  • Squeeze filtration technology
  • Removes E. Coli, Giardia, Salmonella and bacteria

My Criticisms:

  • Does not remove viruses - do not use abroad
  • Filter needs to be backwashed every 5 to 10 gallons
  • Some users report leakage

These Sawyer mini water purifiers are really handy! They are a compact size and very light for good portability. 

The squeeze technology is a good system as you can squeeze water out of the bag into a vessel or straight into your mouth.

The filter lasts for a stunning 100,000 gallons! I was shocked and amazed by this number, but mainly skeptical. I have done a ton of research on water purification and this number is staggering.

I figured out that the reason this filter lasts so long is that it does not catch tiny viruses. This really shouldn’t be a problem here in the states, as it does catch the common E. Coli, Giardia, and Salmonella.

Personally, I would rather spend the money for virus protection if purchasing for emergency water filtration device. 

If using for hiking, backpacking, and camping it should be okay.

Before taking out on a trek, test the unit thoroughly as users have reported leakage and breakage.

The website claims to have a lifetime warranty, but the company’s interpretation of “lifetime” is questionable as some users had issues with returning broken products. 

Overall, its a good purification system for surviving of wild water, but I do not recommend it for emergency situations like flooding and boil orders. 

4. Survivor Filter PRO Water Purifier




$ $




Register for Lifetime Warranty

My Acclaims:

  • Comprehensive system removes viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, chemicals, etc.
  • Purifies 26,417 gallons per main filter
  • Provides excellent tasting water

My Criticisms:

  • 3-filter system means having to replace more filters
  • Pumping system can become cumbersome
  • Low flow rate at 17 ounces per minute

This Survivor Pro water purification system is the most comprehensive filter for removing viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, chemicals, and sediments.

This is done through a three filter method – the pre-filter, carbon filter, and internal ultra filter.

The unit makes for a great companion for international travel, municipal water sources under boil order, and emergency water purification.

The pump is made of heavy duty material that should withstand many uses and rugged environments.

My main concern is having to manually pump for fresh water. This could be quite tiring, especially if used for multiple people. Best to take turns. 

My other concern is that since it has moving parts, it could be likely to break. Luckily, it comes with a lifetime warranty if you register the unit. 

Note that the carbon filter will only last for 2,000 liters as opposed to the other two filters. 

Overall, this is a great choice for a filter as it removes a comprehensive amount of contaminants and viruses. Good for emergency water situations, just be prepared for a workout!

Recommended Product:

Potable Aqua Water Purification Treatment (50 Tablets)

No matter what, ALWAYS have water purification tablets handy for a backup purifying system!!!

Stationary Emergency Water Filtration systems

I have chosen these products for an emergency event where you can still stay at home but need a water purification system.

These systems also work well to upgrade your water’s cleanliness for everyday use and for well water or off grid water systems. 




$ $ $




6 Months

My Acclaims:

  • 6 gallons of purified water safe for consumption
  • Removes flouride and pharmaceutical contaminants
  • High quality durable filtration

My Criticisms:

  • Filters can clog prematurely
  • Washers and stoppers are made of rubber
  • Will not ship to CA or IA

The Crown Berkey is an ideal choice for providing clean drinking water in an emergency situation.

The filter removes all sorts of contaminants including bacteria, pathogens, viruses, chlorine, industrial chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, and even fluoride if you purchase the additional fluoride filter. 

This unit uses gravity to filter water, so no electricity needed.

The capacity is quite large in relation to the size of the unit, which is 30″ by 11″.

The filtration elements can be cleaned which allows for a long lifespan of 6,000 gallons.

However, the filters can clog prematurely if high concentrations of sediment travel through the filters. I recommend purchasing a whole house water filter to remove heavy sediments before running through the filter, especially for well water and off grid water systems.

I also recommend replacing the rubber stoppers and washers as these can cause some odors and tastes in the water. 

Overall, the Crown Berkey is an excellent emergency water filtration system that can be transported and also looks good on the counter top. 

2. Woder 10K-Gen3 Undersink Ultra High Capacity Direct Connect Water Filtration System




$ $




1 Year Warranty

My Acclaims:

  • Selective filtration removes toxins but leaves healthy minerals
  • Super easy and quick installation
  • All parts needed for install included, just need a pair of pliers and a drill

My Criticisms:

  • small but noticeable reduction in flow rate
  • Only filters cold water - install on cold water line
  • Need to install an additional unit for each fixture

The Woder 10K filtration system is an undersink filtration unit that can filter 10,000 gallons of water. 

This filter removes:

  • lead
  • heavy metals
  • chlorine
  • chromium
  • mercury
  • VOCs
  • carcinogens
  • turbidity
  • odors and bad tastes

This system installs under the sink and requires no plumbing or electricity to run, making it a good candidate for an emergency water filtration device.

Keep in mind that this filter has no purification system, so you will need to have an additional method for purifying your water.

This unit only filters water to one faucet in your house so you would need to purchase an additional unit for each fixture that you want filtered water delivered to.

Overall, could be a good solution for stationary emergency water filtration if used in conjunction with a purification element.


Recommended Product:

HQUA-OWS-12 Ultraviolet Water Purifier

Install this UV water purifier along with a water filtration unit for whole house disenfection.

Just make sure to have a small backup generator to power the unit if the electricity should fail. 

3. Aquasana Whole House Well Water Filter System w/ UV Purifier and Salt-Free Descaler




$ $ $ $ $




5 Year Warranty

My Acclaims:

  • Comprehensive filtration system removes scale and microbes
  • Filters and purifies 500,000 gallons of water
  • Heavy duty system built to last

My Criticisms:

  • Very high end price point
  • Will likely require professional installation
  • Pre and post filters will need more frequent replacing

This Whole House Aquasana water filter is the mamma-jamma of all filters! If you want to go all out for the highest quality of water then this is the filter for you.

The filter’s main carbon chamber will last for 500,000 gallons or five years. Note that additional filters will require more frequent replacements. 

This model comes with a built-in UV disinfection system. The bulb will need to be replaced yearly and does require electricity to run. You will want to have a small backup generator to keep the UV filter running in times of power outages. 

This filter has six stages of water treatment along with a salt-free water conditioner which is ideal for treating well water systems. 

This unit is very expensive and the cost of the replacement filters will add up over time. However, the main and most expensive filter will not have to be changed out for 500,000 gallons and the unit comes with a long 5 year warranty.

Overall this is one of the best choices for water filtration and purification and will last through an emergency water event so long as the UV light system is provided with power. Be prepared to drop a wad of cash!

Being prepared for an emergency water situation is no joke, but luckily we have access to some great products that can make our lives easier if faced with this situation.

I hope you have found my article on the best emergency water filters both informative and entertaining.

Now you can make a sound decision on your purchase suiting your unique situation.

Please feel free to leave me any questions or comments and share my article! Thanks!


Hello, I am Regina! I am the creator and brain-child behind Maximum Off Grid. 

My goal is to educate and inform people interested in becoming independent from the system. 

I also provide valuable reviews on products and service that I research thoroughly and make quality  recommendations.

I hope you are enjoying my website!

Regina C. 
Creator of Maximum Off Grid

The 3 BEST Gravity-Fed Countertop Water Filters on the Market for 2020[Complete User Guide Included]

I love gravity-fed countertop water filters!

Why? Because they require no plumbing or electricity to run. 

This makes gravity-fed water filters a completely autonomous system thar are perfect for off grid living, removing toxins from municipal water, and are handy for boil orders and emergency filtration situations.

In this article, I go over the three TOP gravity water filtration systems available on the market.

I also cover pretty much everything you need to know about these systems from off grid use to maintenaning the filter and more.

Let’s get started! 




$ $ $




6 Months

My Acclaims:

  • Extremely purified water removing 99.99 bacteria AND viruses
  • 6 gallon capacity at only 30” by 11” dimensions
  • Removes pharmaceutical contaminants
  • Purification elements last for 6000 gallons of water

My Criticisms:

  • Instructions and diagrams are vague
  • Filters can clog up quickly
  • Will not ship to CA or IA
  • Stoppers and washers made of rubber

The Crown Berkey is the best in class as it offers the highest capacity gravity-fed water system on the market. The filter removes bacteria AND viruses so it qualifies as an emergency filtration unit. It can also remove pharmaceuticals and flouride from your water. 

best gravity-fed countertop water filter reviews

Product Why I Recommend It Link

Crown Berkey

Top choice! High quality build and can eliminate toxins that other filters cannot

Propur Big

Filters microplastics and you don't have to primer filters

Zen Water Filter

A holistic approach to filtering water and at a very low price point

My Acclaims:

  • 6 gallon capacity at only 30” by 11” dimensions
  • Extremely purified water removing 99.99% of bacteria AND viruses
  • Removes pharmaceutical contaminants and flouride

My Criticisms:

  • Instructions and diagrams are vague
  • Filters can clog up quickly
  • Will not ship to CA or IA
  • Stoppers and washers made of rubber




$ $ $




6 Months

The Berkey water systems are well known as the best off grid filtration and purification countertop system available.

There has been extensive testing done on the output quality of the water and the company touts itself as the most powerful gravity filter currently on the market.

The Berkey calls their filters Black Berkey Elements. These water filter elements remove:

Fluoride – 99.9%

Viruses – 99.9%

Pathogenic Bacteria – 99.9%

Coliform and e-Coli – 99.9%

Pharmaceuticals – 99.5%

The Berkey also removes lead, arsenic, iron, mercury, chlorine, chloramine, pesticides, etc.

The Berkey can remove fluoride with an additional element which is called the Berkey PF-2 elements.

The company publishes its testing results which show all the contaminants eliminated and is far too long a list to put in this article. You can find this list here.

Users have reported that the unit is well manufactured and sturdy, although I do recommend to immediately upgrade to the stainless steel spigot as the plastic one can break.

As with any product, there are concerns and drawbacks that you will want to consider.

The first problem is the rubber stoppers and washers. Users complain that it makes the water taste rubbery. I am surprised that the manufacturer would even use these elements and I suggest immediately trading them out.

Plastic elements tend to break so upgrade to stainless steel immediately if applicable.

Another problem is the slow rate of filtering. Some users report that their filters clog up within days of use. This is a typical water filtration system problem if water has higher level of sediment, especially from well water and off grid systems.

I strongly recommend getting a whole house prefilter to clear up sediments and debris before running water through this unit.

The instructions are written poorly, and someone remarked that it seemed like a non-english speaker wrote them. I noticed this with the website too, lots of clunky writing on their website.

Many users have turned to YouTube for step by step instructions which works out well. I recommend this instructional video:

One final note that I want to make about the Berkey:

I have noticed some people saying the Berkey is a scam and that their test results have been doctored and question why Berkey will not comply to Iowa and California lead certifications. They have addressed this issue in an article that does a decent job discrediting the claims.

Although there are some with strong claims against Berkey, I cannot find any credible evidence that can be held against them. Other than the usual low reviews that practically all products get from defective systems to leaks, the majority of users have had a great experience with the Berkey and they have published their testing results on their website.

Overall, I recommend the Berkey for their powerful purification process to remove virtually all bacteria and viruses from their water. I also like that the unit is well made with high quality materials.

My Acclaims:

  • Can filter out microplastic, a unique feature
  • No priming of filters required
  • All-in-One filter removes contaminants and fluoride

My Criticisms:

  • Mixed customer support
  • Users report of rust
  • Largest sizing available is only 2.75 gallons




$ $





Propur rivals the Berkey water systems as its new ProOne G2.0 filter elements can remove viruses, bacteria, and cysts from water. This makes the unit compatible with filtering and purifying water in the wild.

The filters do not require priming which is a huge plus as some people have struggled with the finicky priming process.

Propur leaves good minerals in the water so the flavor is spot on. The filters are infused with silver that prevents the growth of bacteria.

Another thing I like about the Propur is that the fluoride removing element is infused with the main filter so you don’t have to purchase any additional filter for that benefit. However, because of this, the filters need to be changed out more often.

Propur touts that their filters can remove microplastics. What is a microplastic, anyway??

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that break off into the environment. These pieces leach out chemicals such as phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA).

Sounds like stuff I don’t want in my water!

Propur’s ProOne G2.0 series “all-in-one” filters are NSF/ANSI -42 certified and you can find their in-depth water testing reports here.

Unfortunately, one big con to this filter is the reports of the unit rusting after a few months of purchase. This doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem but it would make me think twice about buying it.

I have also read reports that customer service is non-responsive. I do think the company has worked to remedy this issue as more recent users have had good customer support. Therefore, I rate it as a mixed bag.

Overall, there are things I do love about this filter such as the microplastics removal, built-in fluoride filter, and the use of silver for bacteria prevention. Just keep a lookout for any signs of early onset rust.

My Acclaims:

  • Homeopathic water filtration
  • Very low price point
  • Unique filtration system

My Criticisms:

  • Does NOT remove Viruses!
  • Does not remove flouride
  • No published water testing reports








30 Days

Zen Water filters totally rock. They are unique because they add holistic features that improve your health homeopathically.

In their filter, they include far infrared balls that promote growth and health of cells. It also ionizes the water which activates water molecules in cells and blood.

The water passes over a magnetic tip; magnetized water is thought to be cleansing and detoxifying to the body.

Filtration stages:

Stage 1: Micro-Ceramic Filter Dome. Compressed ceramic dome filters down to .2-.9 microns in size.

Stage 2: Silver Impregnated Granulated Activated Carbon. Removes chlorine, bad tastes and odors, radon, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, VOCs and many other man made chemicals. Silver prevents bacteria buildup.

Stage 3: Mineral Sand. Removes granular impurities.

Stage 4: Far Infrared Balls. Ionizes water and promotes cellular health.

Stage 5: Natural Zeolite. Absorbs cations, heavy metals, ammonium, organic contaminants, radioactive elements, and some bad odors.

Stage 6: Magnetic Tap. Magnetizes water.

When you get this filter, run a whole tank of water through the filter a few times before use. This gets the carbon, sand, and zeolite activated and going.

There are some drawbacks to the Zen Water Filter.

The first and most jarring drawback is that it does NOT filter out viruses! According to the Water Quality Association,  the size of a virus is 0.004 to .1 microns in size. The ceramic pores of this unit are much too large to catch viruses.

Personally, I would set up a whole house UV water purifier to remove viruses for all my water, then you could use this filter at ease. I wouldn’t want to bathe in potentially pathogenic water anyways.

If you are on a municipal system, this is no problem as most municipal systems use both chlorine and UV light to kill viruses and bacteria. However, if a boil order would be put into place, you’d be S.O.L.

Another drawback is that the filter does not remove fluoride. Flouride gets completely dissolved into water and the technology of the filter simply cannot eliminate it. This is where a more expensive filter pays off.

Yet another thing I do not like is that I cannot find any water testing reports published anywhere. I emailed the company to see if they can send me a copy but I have yet to hear back.

Users have complained of algae beginning to grow, so I suggest keeping a keen eye out for any green in the tank. If it does grow, wash thoroughly with white vinegar to clean exterminate it.

Overall, if you are in a municipal system or have a purification system for your water in place and you don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Zen Water System is a great filter at a very affordable price.

How Does a Gravity-Fed Water Filter Container Work?

A gravity container filter uses the sheer force of gravity instead of water pressure to filter water. This eliminates the need for plumbing and electricity, which is great for an emergency or off grid situation.

The container is separated into an upper and lower chamber. Water is poured into the upper chamber and flows over the water filters to collect into the lower chamber.

The main filtration element that gravity filters are known for is the porcelain filter. Unlike standard porcelain, gravity water filters use specialized porcelain that has micro-fine pores so the smallest of viruses can be removed.

Because these types of filters can capture contaminants including bacteria, viruses, and cysts, water from wells and the wild can be drank after being filtered through these units.

Each system does vary and will have different types of additional proprietary filters installed. 

Benefits of a Gravity-Fed Water Filter Container

The biggest benefit to these filters is being able to take water from the wild and make it drinkable. Just be sure to prefilter water so you don’t gunk up your unit with too much debris or sediment.

These units work well in a survival or emergency water situation. If your water gets shut down or you only have access to untreated water, these filtration systems can provide you with accessible drinking water without having to boil or use chemicals.  

You do not need electricity or plumbing for this filtration system to work.

The filters come in various shapes and sizes which can accommodate being placed on a countertop and are easily transportable.

The water tastes wonderful; odors and bad tastes are completely removed.

Drawbacks of a Gravity-Fed Water Filter Container

The flow rate is pretty low on these filters. The typical gravity fed filter can provide from 2 to 6 gallons a day.

You do need to refill these filters manually, so make sure to keep on top of topping it off.

You will need to calculate how much drinking water you need before purchasing a unit. Make sure to see the output of these filters so it can match your family’s water usage.

There will be additional filters that will need periodic replacing and replacement parts can be expensive.

Pitcher Water Filters vs Gravity-Fed Water Filter Containers

You may be wondering if a standard water pitcher, such as a Brita or Zero Water pitcher, would work to get your drinking water clean enough.

The bottom line is that these pitcher filters are not going to be tough enough to filter water from the wild.

This is because these filters are not designed to eliminate bacteria and viruses, only sediments and chemicals.

However, pitcher water filters work decently enough to filter water from municipal sources.

I personally use the Zero Water Pitcher Filter in my camper when I am on a municipal source. I like this pitcher because it comes with a PPM tester so I can see how much contaminant is being filtered out of my water. I typically get .001 PPM readings after running through this filter; in one area my municipal water was reading at 112 PPM! Gross!

The main reason for purchasing a porcelain gravity water filter when on a municipal source is for emergencies. If you have a boil order you will need additional purification of your tap water. If your municipal water source gets shut off and you have access to wild water, you can use this system to make it potable.

Things to Consider when Purchasing a Gravity-Fed Water Filter Container

Capacity – calculate how much drinking water your family needs then purchase a filter accordingly.

Flow Rate – Depending on the system will depend on how fast or slow the water gets filtered. Typically, the slower the flow rate, the better the filtering job will be done as the water has to pass through smaller pores.

Contaminants removed – although most filters take out the most prominent contaminants, if you have a special water situation with a particular contaminant you may need to do additional research to make sure that filter will work for you.

Filter Changes – aside, from the ceramic element, there are typically additional filters in the system that will need more frequent changing. Make a note of how often you need to change those filters.

Using a Gravity-Fed Water Filter Container Off Grid

It is highly imperative to prefilter your water before running through your gravity fed water filter. Well water with high sediment levels and water from the wild with debris needs to be cleansed thoroughly or else you will clog your container filter quite quickly.

A whole house water filter will help keep your filters clean

A simple cheap whole house water filter will do the trick. I recommend if you are pumping water from the wild to build a screen enclosure around the pump to keep larger debris out before running through the prefiltering unit.

Make sure that when you purchase a filter, that it will filter out viruses too. Many filters can catch bacteria, but viruses are so teeny tiny that they can clear through filters which are only built to catch bacteria.

I suggest looking at test analyses for the unit you are looking to buy. I have included these test results in my reviews portion of this article.

Prep And Maintenance For A Gravity Water Filter

There is a preparation period for these systems that require a priming process. This process is when the filtering elements become saturated with water. This may take up to a few days to complete, depending on the filter.

Some elements require initial water flow through the filtering elements; these need to be primed with water pressure from your faucet.

Follow all manufacturer directions to make sure you properly prime your filter.

Maintenance is easy for these units; filtering elements need to be cleaned periodically with a water rinse and a wipe down from a wet clean cloth.

NEVER EVER use soap or hot water! Soap will ruin the filters and need to be replaced.

Filters that need replacement will reduce the flow rate. Try to wash out these filters and if the flow rate does not improve it is time to replace them.


Gravity fed water filter containers are an innovative way to provide fresh drinking water to your family in normal times and times of emergency.

Being able to filter and purify water free of bacteria and viruses without electricity and plumbing makes this filtration system extremely versatile.

This could be a great solution for you in an off grid situation or to purify well water. 


I hope you have enjoyed my Best Gravity-Fed Countertop Water Filter Reviews article!

Please let me know if you have any questions and if you have found this article helpful, I would love a share!

Have a wonderful day.


Hello, I am Regina! I am the creator and brain-child behind Maximum Off Grid. 

My goal is to educate and inform people interested in becoming independent from the system. 

I also provide valuable reviews on products and service that I research thoroughly and make quality  recommendations.

I hope you are enjoying my website!

Regina C. 

Got Crummy Water? Get a Whole House Water Filtration System! [Product Reviews for 2020]

old stone water well with bucket

In a perfect world, we would have sparkling fresh and clean drinking water available right to our taps.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Most municipalities use chlorine to remove bacteria, viruses, and cysts from the drinking water. 

There are also traces of all sorts of impurities in municipal water, ranging from heavy metals to industrial residues to VOCs.

Using a countertop water filter gets rid of these impurities and that is great for water to drink.

But what about the water we bathe in? Wash our clothes in? Run through our expensive appliances?

All of these contaminants are not healthy for drinking, bathing, or even our plumbing system.

Chlorine makes skin dull and dry, heavy metals and sediments can cause buildup in our plumbing systems and eat away at our expensive appliances. Even our clothing gets damaged from these harsh contaminants!

That is why I strongly recommend a whole house water filtration system.

It will enhance you and your family’s overall health and protect your expensive investments – like your plumbing system and appliances. 

Living off well water or in an off grid situation? You will need to take extra precautions from heavy sediments and microbials!

Wells and off grid water systems need extra protection

In this article, I will go in-depth on whole house water filtration system reviews, including systems for well water and off grid setups.

I will also provide valuable information about whole house water filtration systems, potential contaminants, and so forth.

Read on!

Whole House Water Filtration System Reviews – including Well Water and Off Grid Systems 

Product Why I Recommend It Link

Aquasana Rhino

Mega heavy duty filter that lasts for 6 to 10 years!

Express Water

Comes with a stainless steel built-in enclosure


Good quality filter at a decent price

My Acclaims:

  • Filters lasts up to one million gallons or ten years
  • 4 filters rid water of virtually all contaminants
  • Massive warranties cover from 6 to 10 years

My Criticisms:

  • Installation is complex and may require a pro
  • Additional filters require more frequent replacement
  • Expensive system gets even more spendy with additions




$ $ $ $ $




6-10 Years

The Aquasana system is a heavy duty class water filtration unit as the filters don’t have to be changed out for five to ten years – or one million gallons – depending on the model you get.

The one shown above is the most basic model – it has three stages of filtration and filters 600,000 gallons of water which should last for six years.

This model also comes with a massive 6 year warranty whereas the competing systems usually only come with 1 year. 

Although there are various models and additions, every system consists of three stages:

Step 1. Rhino filter – This is the filter that is placed at the top of the unit. This filter is what removes the VOCs and chlorine from the water.

Step 2. Activated carbon filter – this is the large main tank on the unit. It is full of carbon which catches the remaining contaminants such as herbicides, pesticides, and metals.

Step 3. The post-filter – this is the final, smaller filter that extends from the unit. It catches any final sediments and organic particles that may remain in the water. This needs to be replaced every six to twelve months.

Since the main carbon filter is so large, the water gets a higher level of processing compared to smaller systems. 

The carbon filter also lasts a whole lot longer than smaller cartridges by five to ten times!

Users are raving about the super high quality of water this system has to offer. 

However, the pre and post filters do need to be replaced every six months to one year, so it’s not completely set and forget, not to mention the extra expense of changing these filters. 

The install kit that comes with the unit is plastic and somewhat generic; users recommend to upgrade to the professional install kit – another expense to tack on.

I am also surprised to see that the instructions for installation are so vague. 

Customer service is on the slower side, but they do follow through eventually. 

If you have a well or an off grid water system, you can upgrade your unit to include a descaler and a UV system.

This is super nice because it all comes together as one unit as opposed to purchasing these parts separately.

This means the additional filters in the system are covered by their whopping 10 year warranty!

This comes with an additional pre filter that removes sediments down to 5 microns in size. This helps keep your main filters clean and will last longer, especially with hard water problems.

This does drive up the price quite a bit but the descaler is important so the extra sediments don’t clog the other filters and the UV light needs to kill any microbials in the water.

Overall, I like the fact that you can purchase all the components you need from one manufacturer; this works out to your advantage as everything is covered under their whopping 10 year warranty!

My Acclaims:

  • Has built in stainless steel housing
  • Pressure gauge mounted on each filter
  • Much easier installation than other systems

My Criticisms:

  • Only comes with one year warranty
  • May have to replace cartridges more frequently
  • Some leaking reported




$ $ $




1 Year Warranty

I really like the fact that this Express water filtration system comes with a sturdy stainless steel enclosure so you do not have to worry about building one yourself. 

Each filter has a pressure gauge above it so you can monitor the PSI flowing to each one. This is a unique feature that I have not seen on any other models.

The system can handle 100,000 gallons of water before filters need to be replaced, which is typically up to one year of water usage.

The high flow design handles .25 gallons of water per second, that equates to 15 gallons per minute, which is a pretty standard flow rate for most houses.

Each filter housing is connected with industrial bonded high capacity flow connectors and the housing is made of high durability food grade ABS and PCE plastic.

This is a three stage filter:

Stage One: Sediment filter will catch contaminants down to 5 microns. The filter design has a coarse outer layer and with a finer inner layer so the life of the filter lasts longer and catches more crud.

Stage Two: Granular Activate Carbon filter catches chlorine, VOCs, herbicides, industrial solvents, insecticides, chemicals, bad odors and tastes.

Stage Three: Carbon Block filter captures pharmaceuticals, TOCs, more chlorine, turbidity, pesticides, and more chemicals.

Users have reported that the unit is built with quality in mind and that the installation process is pretty easy.

The unit weighs in at 63 pounds and is 23.5 x 8.5 x 29.5 inches so you will need some good space to accommodate it; these measurements also include the stainless steel housing.

There have been some reports of leakage from where the gauges are screwed in. 

Users have also stated that the inlet and outlet pipe can fit loosely, so be prepared to use some Teflon tape and possibly pipe dope to get the good fit. 

Overall, this is an excellent whole house water filtration system at the price they offer. 

This is the exact same filter as their overall model, but the middle granulated carbon filter is swapped out for a “kinetic degradation fluxion” filter.

This filter is designed specifically for a wide variety of heavy metals, namely iron, lead, mercury, and aluminum. It also clears chloramine, sulfur, arsenic, algae, viruses, hydrogen sulfide, and fungi from the water.

This filter is made with catalytic carbon and is ionically charged with copper and zinc granules.

This is a special filter for these specific contaminants so if your water tests for these particular issues this would be the proper filter for you.

My Acclaims:

  • 100,000 gallons of filtered water per filter change
  • Strong customer support
  • Minimal reduction in pressure and prolonged filter life

My Criticisms:

  • Relief valves can loosen during shipping
  • Installation can be tricky
  • Replacement filters are spendy




$ $ $




1 Year Limited Warranty

The iSpring will filter 100,000 gallons of water ( or one year) and remove 98 percent of chlorines, sediment, chloramines, chemicals, bad tastes and smells.

This filter is a three stage process:

Stage one – sediment filter removes contaminants down to five microns.

Stage two and three – these are the same filters, so it gives the water more surface area to remove contaminants. The filters are made of coconut shell block carbon; block carbon is highly effective compared to other forms of carbon as the material is finely ground up and condensed into a block, therefore squeezing the water through the higher density material and catching more contaminants.

The carbon block filters remove over 90% of chlorine and remove VOCs, pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals.

This unit is a 1 inch inlet/outlet and can get up to 15 GPM.

The unit is quite large and heavy weighing in at 49 pounds and has a dimension of 21 x 8 x 28 inches (not including any additional upgrades) so plan your installation accordingly.

Make sure to check your water PSI as the filter can handle a range of 40-90 PSI.

Overall, users are pretty darn happy with the results of this product. Many have reported a massive upgrade to the quality and smell of their water.

It is known that this unit can have leaks. Sometimes the relief valves loosen during the shipping process and need to be retightened. The manufacturer has recognized this as an issue and could remedy the problem within the manufacturing process, but so far this has not been resolved. Just something to be aware of.

The installation can be a bit tricky, so you may have to call a professional to install for you if you do not have plumbing experience. You will need to build some sort of support system to withstand the weight of the unit.

You will need to replace these filters at least once a year which can add up. Many users have reported having to change them out more frequently. If you are on a well system, these filters may clog much faster, depending on the sediment amount in your water. The filters are not cheap to replace, so you might want to consider either buying the pre sediment filter upgrade or buying a more heavy duty unit.

Reports of support have been pretty good as any damaged or faulty equipment gets replaced fairly quickly.

Overall, I think this is a great filtration system with high remarks, I just wish it had a built in enclosure.

I highly recommend purchasing this additional prefilter sediment catcher for people on well water systems. It is reusable and flushable and will catch sediments down to 50 microns.

This will keep your main unit from clogging up so quickly therefore making your expensive filters last longer.

The filter is made of a fine mesh stainless steel that needs to be flushed every week or even every few days. The flushing process is easy; you don’t have to uninstall any components.


You will also need a UV purification system for well and off grid systems. iSpring makes an 8000 hour UV light system that will compliment the main filtration unit.

I like this UV light because it has a smartflow sensor that turns the UV light on when the water is flowing and turns it off when it is not needed. That will preserve the bulb life by quite a bit!

This unit can handle 12 GPM and needs a 100-120V power supply and is 37.5 inches long, so keep that in mind when installing the filtration system.


How Does a Whole House Water Filtration System Work?

A whole house water filter is installed onto the main waterline and provides clean filtered water to all the faucets in the home.

This in turn offer many benefits to the plumbing system, appliances, and health of you and your family.

When choosing a filtration system, you will notice some are much more expensive than others.

This is because there are two types of systems: Heavy duty systems and standard capacity water cartridge systems.

The heavy duty filtration systems have the best contaminant removal because of the sheer size of filter media that the water gets filtered through. These large filters can last for five to ten years before needing replacement.

Standard capacity water cartridge filters are more affordable and smaller than their heavy duty counterparts. However, the water filters will need to be replaced more frequently, typically every six months to one year, and they are not cheap.

When choosing a whole house water filtration system, make sure to choose the correct unit that will solve any specific issues you are having with your water.

There are general types of systems that take care of the most common sediments and contaminants and there are upgraded systems that can clean up specific types of contamination. 

City water without any specific issues can be treated with a general multi-purpose filtration system. These multi-purpose systems will clean up sediments, chlorine, bad taste and odors, VOCs, herbicides, pesticides, and industrial contaminants.

These specific contaminants could be a variety of different metals such as iron or mercury.

You can also upgrade your system with UV light water purification to eliminate bacteria, viruses, and cysts.

An installed whole house water filter mounted on the wall.

Potential Contaminants found in municipal and off grid water

The list of contaminants that can be detected in municipal water sources is insane. The Environmental Protection Agency has created a Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) that has hundreds of potential contaminations. (source)

Now, just because the contaminant is on the list doesn’t mean it is detrimental to your health, but there are quite a few to be concerned about.

Some of these concerning contaminants are:

Heavy metals  – chromium, lead, mercury, barium, arsenic, barium, cadmium, copper, selenium, nickel. (source

Volatile Organic Chemicals – known as VOCs, are compounds that become vaporized such as solvents, cleaners, degreasers, paints, inks, pesticides, dyes. (source)

Trihalomethanes – a potential carcinogen that is created when chlorine that is used to treat water combines with naturally occurring matter in water. (source)

Scale – hard water minerals that leave a deposit in pipes and appliances. Examples are calcium and magnesium.

Well and off grid water systems need to pay special attention to microbial pathogens. You will need to make sure your whole house water filtration systems come with a water purifier as well to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites. This is typically in the form of a UV light purification system.

Well water systems may also face exceptionally hard water. This may require an additional layer of prefiltration to catch these sediments so they don’t gunk up your water filters. 

Benefits of a whole house water filtration system

There are many obvious reasons to install a whole house water filtration system, such as better tasting and smelling water that is healthier for you and your family delivered to every faucet in your entire home.

There are some reasons you may have not considered which may convince you to make the investment:

  1. You will notice that your skin and hair become healthier. Contaminants in untreated municipal water can be absorbed through your skin and damage your hair.
  2. When water evaporates in the shower, VOCs can be released from the molecules potentially contaminating the air you breathe. Whole house water filters remove VOCs.
  3. Your appliances will last longer, and your dishes will be spotless.
  4. The plumbing system in your house will have a longer lifespan as the sediments that cause buildup in your pipes will be removed.
  5. Cooking with clean water produces better flavors and shorter cooking times.
  6. Your clothing will be softer, brighter, and last longer.

Investing in a system will save you money and increase health which will pay for itself over the years.

What to Look for when Buying a Whole House Water Filtration System

There are a few key factors when purchasing a system that you will want to consider.

Flow Rate

This is measured in gallons per minute. In order to figure out how much GPM you will need from your filter, you need to look at the demand ratings on your appliances.

Typical Water GPM Demand Ratings

  • Showerheads – 3 GPM
  • Toilets – 5 GPM
  • Dishwasher – 3 GPM
  • Washing Machine – 2 GPM
  • Kitchen Faucet – 5 GPM
  • Bathroom Faucet – 1.5 GPM
  • Water Heater – depends on size and type of unit

You do not want to get a filter system with a flow rating under 10 GPM. 15 to 40 GPM is the standard flow rates that most households fall into but take the time to calculate your usage first.

Port size

The size of the port is a critical measurement that you need to take into account when purchasing. The minimal port size you are looking for is 1 inch, even if your current system is ¾ inch. Some large homes may require 1.5 inch ports.

Typically, a 1 inch port will be more than substantial for the average home.

Lifespan of filter

The main factor in filter lifespan is the quality and quantity of sediment running through it. This information will be indicated on the unit and will vary in accordance with the type and size of the filter.

Size of filter

The larger the filter, the better the flow and the longer the filter will last. This is where price comes into play. As mentioned above, small standard capacity filters will need their cartridges swapped out much more often than the large heavy duty filters.

Micron filtration

Your micron blockage needs will depend on if you have bacteria present in your water. The only way to discern this is to get your water tested.

special note for whole house well water and off grid filtration systems

You will need to have a system in place to kill bacteria, viruses and cysts.

There are two ways to do this effectively: either chemical additives or UV light purification.

I would suggest using a UV light system so you don’t have to subject yourself to harsh chemicals. After all, that’s the reason you want a filtration system in the first place!

Bacteria range from .2 to 1 micron in width and 1 to 10 microns in length so a 1 micron filter will work to catch these.

However, viruses are much tinier and range from 0.004 to 0.1 microns and will require a purification system in the water system. This is important for off grid water setups and also well systems if the water tests positive for viruses.

Cysts are more resistant to disinfecting processes but range from 2 to 50 microns and can be caught with most water filtration systems.

You can find all this data at

How to Install a Whole House Water Filtration System

Depending on the type of filter system you purchase will depend on the level of skill you need with plumbing systems.

Small systems will install relatively easily, but the more heavy duty systems will require some expert knowledge; you may need to hire a plumber to get the job done correctly.

This guide is a generic version to install a simple system and is here to give you some pointers; it is not a replacement for the instructions that come with your kit!

Tools you will need:

  • Bucket
  • Pipe cutter
  • Adjustable wrenches
  • Teflon tape
  • Whole house water filtration kit (obviously)
  1. Start by turning off the water supply at the mainline shutoff. Find the lowest faucet on the line to drain the water and pressure in the pipes.
  2. Cutting the pipe. The kit will come with a template so you can mark exactly where you need to cut the pipe. When choosing a placement for the system, make sure that you have easy access to it so you can change out water cartridges.
  3. Install the compression nut and fittings onto the pipe ends and use Teflon tape to get a good seal. Do not over-tighten the fittings; they should be snug but not wrenched on too hard.
  4. Position and install the filter to make sure that the in and out port are facing the correct way. Don’t install backward!
  5. Get the water filter into the desired position and then hand tighten the compression nuts. Once in position and hand tightened, go ahead and tighten with two wrenches.
  6. Now you can turn the water back on. Filtration systems come with a bypass switch so make sure yours is set to be filtering the water.  

Changing a whole house water filter

Depending on what model you purchase will depend on how frequent you need to change the water filter.

Every system will have a different set of instructions on how to change the filter, so make sure to keep your instruction manual handy.

Standard cartridge filter systems are easier to replace than heavy duty systems; This list of instructions is a generic principle for standard systems.

  1. Typically, you need to turn the system on to bypass mode.
  2. The tank will need to be removed from the housing. When doing so, have a bucket underneath to catch any water, if applicable.
  3. Pour out the water from the tank and wipe the inside dry.
  4. Insert the new cartridge, place the tank back onto the housing, and turn the filter back onto filter mode.
  5. Now, turn on one of your faucets and let the water run for a little bit to pass trapped air.


I hope you enjoyed my whole house water filtration systems reviews and that my informative section gave you the knowledge you need to make the right purchasing decision. 

I put a lot of time, effort and energy into researching and writing quality articles and making videos.

I sure would appreciate any likes and social shares that you have to give, and feel free to leave me a comment below!

Have a wonderful day!


Regina C.
Creator of Maximum Off Grid

Hello, I am Regina! I am the creator and brainchild behind Maximum Off Grid. 

My goal is to educate and inform people interested in becoming independent from the system. 

I also provide valuable reviews on products and service that I research thoroughly and make quality  recommendations.

I hope you are enjoying my website!

Your Complete Guide to Off Grid Water Filtration and Purification

There are so many more contaminants in the world than there used to be in the lives of our forefathers. 

Widespread contaminants from industrial processes, such as factory farming, have added a ton of toxins into our environment, even into rural areas that seem pristine. 

Factory farm waste pits probably leaking waste into groundwater

Animal waste from these factories leech contaminants into the ground. This builds up major toxins, especially nitrate, according to a study done by UC Davis

Another contaminant from factory farms commonly overlooked is antibiotics. The animals are fed antibiotics in order to grow the animal quickly, not just keep them from being ill. 

Antibiotics are excreted and seep into the groundwater, completely altering the microorganism world.

The human boom on the planet that have introduced even more toxins into the water. Lots of bacteria runoff from city streets into rivers and creeks. Even if you live far away from the city, the runoff toxins may still be detected.

Because of this, water filtration and purification must be taken to new heights.

When building your off grid water system, figuring out how to filter and purify your water can be tricky due to the volume of water needed. 

Boiling a pot of water on the stovetop simply won’t cut it for all of your living needs like bathing, drinking and cooking.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to get your water filtered and disinfected no matter what the source. 

My guide to off grid water filtration will help get you there. 

Let’s go!

The Basics of Water Filtration and Purification

Filtration vs Purification vs Distillation


Filtering the water removes debris and impurities that can typically be seen with the naked eye. Some examples of this are leaves, sand and living organisms.

Filtering the water is the first step of potability and should remove all the visible traces of murkiness and cloudiness of the water. Filtration does not remove chemicals and viruses, which takes us to our next process.


Purification cleanses the water to the point of removing all impurities that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

different sizes of microbes that contaminate water

Some examples of these impurities are viruses, chemicals, E. Coli, and other biological contaminants. In order to be considered purified, the water must have less than 10 parts per million (PPM).


Distillation is the process of capturing the steam off boiling water and condensing it back into a liquid. The residual contaminants stay in the original pot. Distilled water is considered purified as it contains a tiny number of particles at 1 PPM.

There is no difference between purification and distillation; the only difference is the process to reach purity.

Super nice stovetop still

When making a water filtration system, the term is a little misleading. The reason being that water needs to be both filtered and purified to be considered drinkable. Keep that in mind when designing your system.

When You Can Use Filtered Only Water

The additional process of purifying water can be a cumbersome task for use in large amounts. Not everything we do requires purified water, so knowing what can and cannot use filtered only water will help preserve your water purification system.

According to the NH Department of Environmental Services, you can use unpurified water for:

  • Watering your garden, as long as you wash your fruits and veggies before consumption
  • Doing laundry
  • Taking showers, as long as no water is swallowed, or open wounds are exposed
  • Washing dishes, as long as there is a final decontamination process, like a bleach dip
  • Washing hands as long as a sanitary soap or disinfectant is used
  • For watering pets, as they are not usually affected by the same diseases as humans (use precaution)

Different Methods for Off Grid Water Filtration

1. Make an Activated Carbon Filter

An activated carbon filter consists of three layers that water runs through to remove debris and contaminants:

  1. The first most coarse layer is pebble gravel.
  2. The second layer is sand.
  3. And the third layer is activated carbon.

The gravel is placed on top where the water is first treated, removing the bulkiest of material, the sand removes even more particulates, and the final activated carbon layer removes certain metals and chemicals.

Carbon filters act as a great prep for the purification process as it removes bad taste, odor, cloudiness and many contaminants.

Please take heed that a homemade activated carbon system will not remove bacteria and viruses from the water, as shown in this study by the University of Cornell

This seems to be a common misconception on the internet. 

It’s not to say that all activated carbon applications will not remove pathogens; a review published by Science of the Total Environment states that “Carbon nanotube (CNT) adsorption technology has the potential to support point of use (POU) based treatment approach for removal of bacterial pathogens, natural organic matter (NOM), and cyanobacterial toxins from water systems.”

In conclusion, a prefabricated activated carbon filter meant specifically to eliminate pathogens can work to remove some bacterias in water, but will not be able to remove teeny tiny viruses. 

Contaminants that a basic activated carbon will filter:

  • Chlorine and chlorinated byproducts
  • Lead
  • Organic chemicals
  • Radon
  • Petroleum products

Contaminants that a basic activated carbon will not filter:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Dissolved metals
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Fluoride
  • Nitrate


A homemade activated carbon filter is a good method to filter your water and prepare it for purification.

One idea for making a large activated carbon filter is to run your water through a barrel system.

Rainwater collecting barrels are ideal and can be connected together. In the first barrel, fill with pea gravel. The second connected barrel gets filled halfway with sand and then activated carbon. A third barrel is for catching the filtered water.

A tank full of activated carbon

This method can be made on the fly in a survival situation as well. As long as you have a plastic container you don’t mind pilfering a hole into, you can layer gravel, sand, and then charcoal into the container.

You can purchase or make your own activated carbon!

Your charcoal can be made by burning hardwoods. Don’t just grab any old chunk of charcoal out of the bonfire; use a metal container that can be sealed and place small chunks of hardwoods inside. The goal is to burn the hardwood without the use of oxygen.

Make a fire around the contained hardwoods and stoke the fire for three to five hours.

You can make activated carbon on the oven too!

Once complete, the hardwood should be a deep black.  This can be crumbled into smaller chunks to place in your makeshift water filtration container. Do mind that you still need to purify your water for any potential viruses.

Note: Only use cold water through an activated carbon filter.

2. Dig a hole in the ground

This method is technically considered a crude form of a well. If you have access to a water source, such as a stream, river, lake, or creek, digging a hole near the water source will allow for the ground to filter out a large amount of debris and particulates.

Start by digging a few feet from the water source. Dig straight down until you hit water. The deeper you dig, the cleaner the water will be.

You could also use a wellpoint in your dug hole. Dig a good deep hole, place your wellpoint in the middle, then fill it with gravel and sand. The sand and gravel should help filter the water even further. 

This method can work well in a survival situation as well. Although the digging process would be difficult, once the well is dug, you will have access to decently filtered water.

Keep in mind that the water will still need to be purified.

 3. use a ceramic container

Will a typical ceramic gardening pot filter water? It sure will, as long as you completely plug the hole on the bottom!

A ceramic water filter works by utilizing its tiny pores to filter out contaminants in the water. The water will slowly work its way through the pores and drip into a catching container. This makes for an inexpensive way to filter water.

Although a basic ceramic filter will remove bacteria, it cannot remove viruses and chemicals as these particulates are too tiny even for the tiny pores of the ceramic to catch.

You could filter large amounts of water through a scheme of huge ceramic pots, although I don’t think this method would be nearly as functional as a large activated carbon filtration system or a well.

But, if you are in a pinch and have very murky water, you could set up a ceramic system to get that water cleaned up.

Prefabricated ceramic containers are specially designed to remove chemicals and viruses that normal ceramic will not. Silver is added to eradicate viruses and activated carbon is added to remove chemical contaminants.

Methods for Off Grid Water Purification

Once your water is running clear and is free from odors and discolorations, its ready to run through a water purification system.

You can install a whole house purifier if you want purified water at every faucet, or you can use a purifying container system that you have to fill manually.

Every water system is unique so choose what best fits into your life and accomplishes your water goals.

1. Purchase a Whole House Water Filter and Purifier


filter and purify water

Technology has come a long way and whole house water filters have become accessible and affordable for most situations. 

If you are in an off-grid situation, installing a whole house system is an ideal solution. Just make sure to stockpile filters and have a backup water system in case SHTF.

You are already off grid so you are likely pretty handy at this point, so installation will be a cinch. Install your whole-house water filtration system by your water shutoff valve in a place that also has easy access for changing filter cartridges. 

Premeasure everything before cutting into your preexisting piping according to manufacture specs. Don’t forget to include any valves and connecting fittings into your measurements and turn off your water!

Check out my very thorough Guide to the Best Whole House Water Filter Systems.

Special Note

Make sure that the whole house system all the components for both filtered and purified water.

Typically, you will need to add in a UV light purification system as an upgrade when purchasing a whole house water filtration system.

If your water has a lot of sediment, you may want to look into a pre-filter as to not clog up the filters so quickly. 

2. UV light Water Disinfection System

Yes, UV light does disinfect water! How cool is that! An ultraviolet water purifier uses a particular light wavelength to kill viruses, bacteria and pathogens by destructing the bonds of its DNA. This includes salmonella, E. Coli, and listeria. The light also eradicates mold.

The UV system is manufactured to easily install in your plumbing system. It is not large and cumbersome, rather most UV systems will fit under your household sink.

UV treatments have no residual effects. What do I mean by this? Once the water has passed through the system, the treatment is complete. If the UV system fails to kill all the pathogens, there are no other means of those pathogens to be eradicated.

You could use a secondary form of pathogen eradication, like running bleach or chlorine through your system. These chemicals have a residual effect of killing pathogens.

UV bulbs need to be replaced yearly to be effective. Hence, there is really no way of telling when your water is being fully treated or not. If your bulb becomes less effective before that year is up, you are putting yourself at risk.

Consistent testing of your water is recommended. Purchase a water testing device to ensure that your UV light system is working as it should. These are pretty cheap and worth the peace of mind.

The plumbing around the UV system should be copper, as plastic will degrade from the light shining on it.

UV systems also require electricity so keep that in mind when placing your system. Since the bulb needs to be replaced, you will need easy access to your purifier as well.

A less technical, but just as effective, way of using UV light to purify your water is to put your water in a glass container and place it in full sunlight.

3. Sterilize your water in the Sun

Placing water in a clear container and placing in direct sunlight will sterilize it within six hours. Although plastic can be used, I don’t recommend it as the UV light will eventually degrade it. A clear glass container is ideal.

You could purchase a few of these and line them up in a place that gets full sun. Make sure to keep track of which ones have been in the sun long enough.

The main complication of relying on this source of purified water is if the sun decides to not come out for a while. A secondary method of purification will be needed just in case.

You may not have access to direct full sun; partially shaded stippled sunlight cannot be relied upon to do the job. However, this is one of the easiest and cheapest methods of sterilization that requires no mechanics or electricity. 

4. Purchase a large gravity-fed water filtration container.

A tabletop purifier is a container that needs to be filled manually. This is a good choice for when your water has already been filtered for use and just needs final purification.

One of the most popular tabletop purifiers is the Big Berkey system. The Big Berkey uses several systems for purification including microfiltration, adsorption, and long contact flow rate.

Different sizes of Berkey water filters

This system holds 2.5 gallons of purified drinking water and can filter 15 gallons per day. The filters need to be changed out at 3,000 gallons which is quite a bit of drinking water!

The Big Berkey can purify any water that is clean enough, so if your nearby creek has clear water, you can run it through the Berkey without prior filtering.

Although store-bought pitcher water filters are good for removing contaminants, they are not designed to remove bacteria and viruses and should only be used with municipal water. 

You can read all about gravity-fed water filters in my Guide to the Best Gravity Fed Water Filter Containers

 5. Use chemicals

Although adding chemicals to purify our water is not what we really want to do, it does the trick and might be a good temporary solution before getting a healthier water system installed. The two main chemicals used for water treatment are iodine and chlorine bleach.

Iodine – Iodine must be stored in a dark bottle as light will degrade its efficacy. Note that some people are highly allergic to iodine and cannot use this method. For liquid 2% tincture of iodine, add 5 drops of iodine per quart of clear water. Add 10 drops of iodine per quart of cloudy water. Princeton EDU

Chlorine Bleach – a typical household bleach free of dyes, perfumes, and additives will work to purify water. Cloudy water needs to be filtered before using the bleach method. Use 1 tsp of bleach for 5 gallons of water. Mix the solution thoroughly and let stand for a minimum of 60 minutes before drinking. WA Dept of Health

You can also get chlorine tablets specifically engineered for purifying water. 

Special Note

Even if you have a purification method set up, I recommend having a chemical method as a backup if your primary system goes down.

6. Make a stovetop still

If you want super pure sediment-free water, then a stovetop still will do the trick.

You will need a kettle for boiling, a long tube, and a container for the final water. Copper coiling is the ideal tube of choice.

Attach the copper tubing to the spout of the kettle and place the catching container so the water drips in. The boiling water will create steam and the copper tubing will condense the steam back into water; the catching container collects the drops of water emptying from the coil.

7.  Boil water

Boiling water is a go-to method for purification.

8. Shungite for water purification

Ever heard of Shungite? If not, then its time you did.

Shungite is an extremely rare and extraordinary mineral that can be found in only one part of the entire world: Karelia, Russia.

It is believed that Shungite originates from a meteor that crashed into the earth since it is only found in this one area and is in high concentration.

Elite Shungite is shiny with a silvery finish

Shungite comes in many purities but Elite Shungite is 98% pure fullerene carbon. What is fullerene? It is a unique carbon structure that consists of a hollow cage of atoms that happens in extreme rarity in nature. Since the fullerenes are hollow, Shungite can absorb all toxins and impurities in water.

Shungite also removes free radicals in water 30 times more effective than activated carbon!

Not only does Shungite purify water, it also physically blocks electromagnetic frequencies, but that is for another article.

You can read more about Shungite in the International Journal of Advanced Scientific and Technical Research scholarly article.

Shungite water has amazing regenerative effects on the human body and can help eliminate fine lines and wrinkles, strengthens hair, and can relieve rashes and irritation.

This ultra clean water truly has superpowers.

How to make Shungite Water

Rinse Shungite chips before use.

Use 12 ounces of Shungite to 1 gallon of cold, debris and cloudy free water.

Add Shungite and water to a glass container.

Let sit for 8 to 10 hours.

To maintain stones, place Shungite chips in the sun every month for three to five hours.

Replace the stones every six months.

I sure hope you found my article on off-grid water filtration and purification helpful.

It takes me a lot of work and research to compile this information so I hope you will share with people that could use this knowledge.

If you have any questions or comments about these topics, please leave me in the comment box below!

Regina C. 

Hello, I am Regina! I am the creator and brain-child behind Maximum Off Grid. 

My goal is to educate and inform people interested in becoming independent from the system. 

I also provide valuable reviews on products and service that I research thoroughly and make quality  recommendations.

I hope you are enjoying my website!

Regina C. 
Creator of Maximum Off Grid