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Make a Water Filter and Learn about Purification

November 14, 2013

The most important elements for human survival are oxygen, shelter from extreme weather, and water. Depending on health, physical activity, and environment, and with limited activity, humans can survive:

  • five minutes or less with oxygen
  • 10 days or fewer without water at 50 degrees F (and even fewer as temperatures rise)
  • four to six weeks without food

Your survival plan needs to include a reliable source of clean water. Having food storage without a reliable source of clean water is like eating soup with a fork. You’re only getting some of what you need.

Before getting started on sharing my project with you, a few words on terminology are in order. Sometimes the terms filtration, purification, and sterilization are used interchangeably in relation to water. This is incorrect. Filtration removes solid matter (or in some cases emulsified liquids). Purification removes that which is not water (stuff in solution and/or emulsion). Sterilization kills microbes in the water. The confusion of terms is understandable, as many commercial filter units also remove microbes by filtering them out, and many units include activated charcoal or other elements that both filter out solids and remove a lot of metals in solution by adsorption (as opposed to absorption). In fact, they now have filters that are so specific and so fine they actually can filter out molecules: a “watermaker” that filters out salt from seawater would be an example.

Home Made Big Berkey


The home made water filter above was built by me and it works as well as any commercial model and cost me considerably less.

It all started when I became a fan of the Big Berkey water filters. The problem was I could not afford to own a Big Berkey filter and I am sure there are plenty of people out there who cant or wont spend $288 or more for a water filter no matter how critical it is to their survival. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to make your own homemade water filter using only the Big Berkey Purification Elements and a few odds and ends you probably can get at your local hardware store or on ebay. The total cost for this unit that you see above was $180 as of this writing. Thats a savings of $208. Also, when purchasing the Big Berkey you are purchasing a four filter element system at $288 when it only comes with two purification elements and you would have to spend another $107 for the other pair of purification elements. So if you take this into consideration, I actually saved $315.

Big Berkey Black Purification Elements can be ordered online at their website or from a number of vendors such as or with the price range being around $107, not including the fluoride filters.



  • Two Big Berkey Black Purification Elements

Black Elements

  • Two PF Flouride Filters

Flouride Filters

  • Two five-gallon food-grade buckets with lids

food-grade filters

  • Food-grade spigot (specifically to screw on to plastic buckets)


  • Drill with 1/2 and 1 inch bits depending on size of spigots

drill with bits


First drill two 1/2-inch holes in the bottom of one of the buckets and through one of the lids of the bucket that will go on the bottom. The holes should be approximately  4 to 6 inches apart to facilitate changing the filters as needed. Both sets of holes in the bottom of the bucket and those in the lid should match up perfectly when mated.







What you see above is the Black Berkey Purification Elements secured through the bottom of the top bucket using 1/2 inch holes. Note how the elements protrude through the bottom of the top bucket and align with the holes through the lid of the bottom bucket.



This spigot was purchased on ebay.

Next, I drilled a one inch hole in the side of the other bucket. This hole is for the spigot, so drill about an inch and a half up from the bottom of the bucket. This way when it is set on a table or bench, the spigot isn’t touching the surface, where it can be damaged or broken. I chose to drill a one inch hole not at random but because it was the appropriate hole for that spigot that I purchased.



Install the Big Berkey Black Purification Elements securely through the 1/2-inch holes that you drilled in the bottom of the first bucket, using the supplied rubber washers and wingnut fasteners. Be careful not to overtighten the nuts or you could cause a leak or even break the tip of  a purification element.



Now if you are like me and you understand the importance of eliminating flouride from your life whether its getting it out of the toothpaste or out of the water, you may or may not want to also order the PF-2 Flouride Filters and these will need to be primed and screwed to the bottom of the Berkey Black Elements. By the way you should also prime the Black Berkey Purification Elements before installation as well.




To use this unit, put the lid with the 1/2-inch holes on top of the bucket with the spigot and set the other bucket with the filters installed on top, aligning the holes so the Berkey filter tubes extend through the lid of the lower bucket.

Pour the water to be filtered into the upper bucket and cover with the remaining lid. The water in the top bucket will drip through the filter elements and into the lower bucket, filling it with clean drinking water. As you can see from the photos, its very simple. You can do it yourself or if you like you can hire me to do it for you.


From → Survivalism

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