Off Grid > How To Purify Water
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Living without municipal infrastructure for any period of time means you’re going to need to produce your own potable drinking water without electrical power, and this article will show you how.

Depending where you live, rainwater is ideal for purification because it is usually easier to come by.

Rainwater is often cleaner than ground water which can be laced with radon, volatile chemical and organic compounds (fertilizers), heavy metals, and so on.

How to Make a Berkey DIY Rainwater Purifier for Drinkable Water

A British Berkefeld gravity filter is also known as a “Berkey”, and the original design was invented around 1827.

In essence, a Berkey DIY water filter is similar to a Brita water filter, however much unlike a Brita filter, Berkey elements can purify water and kill 99.999999% of pathogenic bacteria.

They’re also incredibly simple to build.


  • Purify water without power
  • Each Berkey filter element purifies 22,712 litres (6,000 gallons) of water
  • Using two Berkey filter elements speeds throughput, and extends the capacity of your filter

If you consume about 38 litres (10 gallons) of water per week, and use dual Berkey filter elements, your DIY water filtration system is good for just over 45,000 litres (12,000 gallons).

That’s over 3 years!

Required materials


  • 3/4” drill bit for spigot hole
  • 7/16” drill bit for filter holes


1. Select your buckets


Any stackable bucket with lids from 11 to 22 litres (3 to 6 gallons), round or square can be used. If you’re on a budget, consider “freecycling” some from a local restaurant. Margarine, muffin mix, and hard boiled egg buckets are perfect.

2. Prime your filters


Whether your filters are new or they’ve just been sitting around drying out, you will need to prime them before use. Instructions and necessary priming button come with each filter cartridge, along with instructions.

3. Drill and install

Drill small holes (about 7/16”) in the bottom of the top bucket and the lid of the bottom bucket (it’s easier if you do them at the same time).

Make sure they line up, and that there are far enough apart for your filters to fit inside and connect with each hole.

2” from the bottom of the lower bucket, drill a 3/4” hole for your water spigot.

Install your spigot, and be sure to use a washer on either side of the bucket wall, with the nut on the inside.


4. Stack

Stack your buckets, and seal the lid of the bottom bucket. You’re finished!

Add some water to the top of your unit and give it a little rinse before doing your first water taste test.


Depending on your source water, filter elements may never require a cleaning, while other water sources may require periodic cleaning of your filter and containers once or twice per year.

To clean your Berkey filter, simply give it a rinse, and gently pass water into the water outtake hole. If water won’t pass through the filter element and bead along the outside of it, try giving your filter a light scrape with a brillo pad.

Occasionally Berkey filter elements can separate from the plastic base they are contained in. In order to ensure your filter is still working properly, try running some red food dye through with your source water: If any red dye comes out the other end, your filter is no longer working and should be replaced.

Although your filter is pretty much self cleaning, your water bucket isn’t. In order to ensure your water bucket doesn’t start to form bacteria culture that can make its way into your drinking water, its important to sanitize it occasionally with a drop of bleach and a good thorough rinse.

It is not required to bleach your Berkey element, only the buckets, faucet, and any hoses running between them.

Chlorine bleach in water is more than 3x as effective at disinfecting E coli than an equivalent concentration of bromine, and is more than 6x more effective than an equivalent concentration of iodine.

A little goes a long way, so be sure to only use a drop in a unit which has a 3 – 6 gallon water capacity.

Want the real deal instead?

You can pick up a proper, stainless steel version of this device on Amazon for another $200 on top of the cost of filters. Seemed a lot to ask for a steel casing, thus the tutorial –but this is definitely a nice unit.



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1 comment

  1. Remember to mark one side (same side!) of the both the two buckets and the lid(s) before you start to build the unit.

    This way you do not accidentally rotate any of the elements during building or assembly phases.

    Nothing will cause leaks faster than ill-fitting components / lids / buckets, and nothing will guarantee poor fit faster than rotating components 90 or 180 degrees during construction or assembly.

    IMHO 🙂

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