Better Than Gold: Ceramic Water Filters as Tangible Barter Items

Posted on Jun 22, 2013 in DIY Projects, Emergency Preparedness & Survival, Urban Gardening, Farming & Homesteading

Kevin Hayden –

Source: Russ Michaud, Owner of Homespun EnvironmentalTruth Sponsor

Times sure are looking uncertain; families are getting tossed from their homes due to foreclosures, communities are breaking down and decaying as the middle class is destroyed (and subsequent shrinkage in the tax revenues force ever deeper cutbacks in government services), schools and post offices are closing; the list goes on and on.   It gets depressing thinking about how far we’ve fallen in such a short time.

All the while, our “Red” and “Blue” politicians fiddle in Washington and work harder to smear the other party so they can get re-elected, rather than try to fix the plight of the people they are supposed to be representing.

It is no wonder that many folks are taking matters into their own hands and preparing for some kind of change.   Hopefully, for the better, but the process of change will almost certainly be rough.  The powers engorging themselves on the status quo will resist strongly and perhaps even forcibly, prompting even greater resistance from the masses.  The American Revolution wasn’t exactly peaceful either.

I am not a ‘hard core’ prepper with a bunker in the hills and an armory full of weapons and ammo.  Quite the contrary.  I fervently hope that we will be able to find a way to improve the situation quickly and peacefully, however I am still looking at ‘what if’ scenarios to figure out how I can manage the impending social turbulence.

Assuming some form of an unpleasant scenario, it is likely that most folks will not have everything they need, or if they do, many things will run out quickly.  Credit cards, ATMs, and banking will definitely not be amenities in a meltdown.  It is also very possible that paper money will not be accepted, or it will take tons of it to buy anything.

Given these conditions, one item that should be added to the prepper’s list, along with the critical items for personal survival, is either hard cash (tangibles, such as old US silver coins, gold, jewelry), or items and skills that are widely needed and can be bartered.  I would surmise that it is the skills and items that are useful to others that will actually hold their value better.  Gold and silver are not useful in and of themselves and bartering will keep a community functional and strong.

Any items or skills that are needed for living might be used in lieu of cash:  food, shelter, toilet paper, ammo, shoe repair, carpentry, butchering, etc.   A very crucial item high on any list is clean water.   Unfortunately, water is very difficult to transport for any distance.  Try carrying a few buckets of water from the creek a mile away.  In a “government down” situation, municipal water treatment sources will most likely cease to operate.  A lot of folks will be unprepared.

Boiling water is currently the cure for potential contamination and isn’t too difficult if you have gas or electricity.  However, this takes a lot of resources, even when boiled over a wood fire.  Basically, the point to be made is that people will value clean water very much and it can be used as a great bartering item.

Instead of actual water, you can trade water filter devices that can make clean water out of the natural water sources that are available nearby.  Not just any water filter devices will make good candidates though; they need to be portable, require no electric power to operate, be easy to assemble and maintain, have decent flow rates, and provide decent quantities of water.   It is also very helpful if they do not cost too much.

These same characteristics have been needed already in disaster situations in different parts of the globe.   A device called a ceramic water filter cartridge has been developed and used widely by NGOs and missionary groups for many years.   As an example, at least thirty thousand were sent to Haiti after the earthquakes and similar numbers were sent into Japan after the tsunami last year.

Cut-away diagram of a DIY water filter. Much cheaper than the Big Berks.

Cut-away diagram of a DIY water filter. Much cheaper than the Big Berks.

Two pictures are presented here (in lieu of a few more pages of text) to explain these devices and how they are used.  This system at left uses a couple of 5 gallon buckets (procured locally).  Other systems just have a water bag that can be rolled up and require no containers at all.  The picture further below shows the parts that make up an ‘emergency kit’ which is used to create the system at left.  This kit sells for only $25 and at this price point should be considered as a good candidate for a barter item, as discussed previously.  More technical details can be found at

These systems are portable, require no power other than gravity to operate, are very simple to set up and maintain, and are low cost.   They can be used with just about any freshwater source as has been proven throughout the world for the last couple of decades by a multitude of refugees.  They are also easy to pack and take up very little storage room.

Conclusion:  Bartering is a great back up for anything that you didn’t anticipate a need for in your preparations list and also to deal with unforeseen situations that could be encountered.   Both skills and goods can be bartered.  This paper proposes that low cost water filters would make excellent barter items and would hold their value very well in an inflationary environment as clean water is a crucial life necessity and it is likely that sources for clean water will be scarce.

A small investment now could prove to yield a much better return than buying silver or gold if our worst fears are realized [not to say that precious metals don’t hold a place in your preparedness inventory!].

Considering the cost of an ounce of gold (around $1600 as of this writing) and the difficulties in ‘making change’ on it, low cost, useful, barter items make a lot of sense.  For the same $1600 needed for a single ounce of gold, about 60 emergency kits could be purchased.  Another nice benefit is that unlike an ounce of gold, much smaller quantities of kits can be procured, so the investment made can be easily fit into the existing prepping budget.

Homespun Environmental is a small business specializing in affordable, emergency water filters.    Along with water filter kits and components, technical details and application notes can be found on the company’s website:

Hayden’s Disclosure: Russ Michaud, the owner of Homespun Environmental, has been the flagship sponsor of for over two years.

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