Essential Water - Supply
As we start talking about a 3-day scenario, we need to review the importance of water to our survival. We frequently take for granted the benefits of safe, clean drinking water in America since it is so abundant and relatively cheap. The average American household uses 100 gallons a water per day. While drinking water including food preparation might only be one gallon a day per person. The amazing thing is that this essential resource is available in almost every home in America on demand turn-of-a-spigot. Since 70% of our body is water, while you can go for weeks without food, you can only go days without water. Ancient civilization sprang up where there were sources of water, you need to insure that you have reliable source of water available wherever you may find yourself.
Globally only 2% of all the water in the world is fresh and 70-80% of that is locked up in the polar ice caps, almost all the rest is groundwater and only about 1% is available for our use.
Access: Women in Africa on average carry 44 pounds of water 4 miles each day. (A pint of water weighs a pound so this is just over 5 gallons of water). Here in the US, we might walk a few feet for a glass of water.
Safe and Clean: Worldwide 3.6 Million people die each year of water related diseases.
The good news is that the water that we use today is not destroyed. It eventually evaporates and then precipitates back down to the ground in a never ending cycle powered by the sun. So we are never at risk of running out globally but your local situation might vary considerably.
Image Courtesy of USGS
While water is plentiful, our lifestyle includes liberal use of water for non-essential activities. But if municipal water supplies are contaminated or the systems just stop working (water mains break or pumps stop operating), turning the tap is no longer a means of supplying your water requirements on demand with the turn of a spigot.
How does the average household in America use water now? About 25% of those 100 gallons per day is used for toilets, over 20% for clothes washing, and just under 20% for showering. Surprisingly, less than 5% is used for drinking and food preparation. The first takeaway is that your lifestyle will dramatically change if you don’t have an abundance of water. It should be one of your first priorities to establish a reliable source. Secondly note that all of the municipal water you currently use is potable (drinkable) so using that drinking water used to flush your toilet is not the best use of treated water.
Wells: this is the ideal solution. As long as the area you are in has an underground aquifer, you can drop a well. This gives you a separate and independent source of water. Ground water may be potable (impurities have been filtered out as it seeped through the ground substrate). As part of the commissioning process, have the water quality tested to insure it is potable (or determine what treatment would be required to make it potable). Plumb it to an elevated tank and if the power fails, you can pull the water using gravity for use during the outage. As a back-up, have a hand pump available at the well-head. We will have a separate blog on how to drill your own well in the future.
Catchment: You should look at where you might be able to place catch barrels from your gutters and downspouts. This water can be treated later as needed (or can provide non-potable water for showering, washing clothes, or toilets) but most importantly, your catchments are replenished every time it rains. Tops should be covered so mosquitos don’t use this standing water to hatch larvae and large debris doesn’t fall into open tops. If you like, spigots can be installed near the bottom so you can fill buckets easily. Note catchment water will require treatment before drinking.
I have a fairly large house with a footprint of over 5000 square feet and a family of five. We average over 50 inches of rain a year in my area and on average it rains about 100 days each year. Do the math and rain on my roof averages over 1500 gallons per rainy day. If I put a 55-gallon barrel at the base of each of my downspouts, I could capture 500 gallons each storm and assuming I use that before the next rainy day maybe capture 50,000 gallons in a year. But bottom line, even at per capita usage of 100 gallons of water, theoretically, I could supply about 30% of my water needs just through rain catchment. Increase my storage and I might be able to bump that up to near 90%. With some rationing, catchment could provide all my water needs (in terms of volume).
Surface water: if you have access to a pond, lake or nearby stream, you can always make a trip to fill water containers. The problem with surface water is you can never be sure if it is contaminated (someone upstream is using your water source for their water disposal or even worse), so it will have to be treated.
Temporary storage: you might fill your tubs for a shorter duration scenario but this is not a sustainable solution. For a three-day scenario, you will need a minimum of three gallons of water per person. Total weight of three gallons is 24 pounds (excluding containers). If you have a water cooler in your home, this is less than three 5-gallon jugs. I recall many instances when a hurricane has been approaching the coast and people swarming the stores for cases of 8 oz bottled water. Don’t be one of these lemmings. While you might keep some water stockpiled in bottles, you can just as easily have some empty jugs handy and fill them before the storm hits and/or the power goes out. Remember plastic bottles may leech chemicals into the water when stored for a long time, particularly in hot weather or in sun light (not to mention that some bottled water lacks the quality we frequently assume it has). So if you do store extra water, rotate your stock.
Conservation: You might need to adjust how you use water (washing dishes from a basin versus with the tap running, wash clothes less frequently, take shorter showers) based on the amount of water you have available. Priority will always be drinking water, food prep, and washing cooking utensils.
Distribution: If you can plumb your water supply to an elevated tank, you will have water on demand via gravity feed. But in the absence of electric power, the tank will not be re-filled. A wind mill might be appropriate for filling elevated tanks. Otherwise you might end up lugging water by the bucket from a source into your home / safe haven. If this becomes the case, you are going to quickly start figuring out on your own how to conserve water (and save yourself a lot of work). You may not think about it but water is heavy.
I mentioned that three days of water for one person weighs 24 pounds because you really cannot carry all of your water supply around with you on your back. You need to be able to replenish water as you move (even if only on excursions for foraging or reconnaissance). You will need to seek out sources of water and establish your operating base around these locations (such as your home or your safe haven). When you are planning moves, you need to have a means of carrying enough water until you can get to the next watering point.
I also mention how much drinking water you might actually need for a three-day requirement so you can balance this appropriately with all the other requirements you may face in these instances.
Next we are going to talk about water treatment and heating.
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