Thursday, October 4, 2012

water - do you have enough?

I wrote the other day extolling the virtues of being prepared for a disaster (natural, economic, societal, personal, etc). Well, one of the most important needs you will have is water.

Let's look real quick at survival's "rules of 3":
Serious injury or death can occur if you go
3 seconds without blood (to the brain)
3 minutes without air
3 hours without shelter (in extreme environmental conditions
3 days without water
3 weeks without food

So you can see that water is very important to our survival.

Based on the research I have done, a person needs at least 3 gallons of water a day. This goes beyond just water for drinking, but also for food preparation/cooking and cleaning/hygiene. This amount could vary based on the weather conditions, the level of exertion/work being done as well as other preparations made beforehand.

So first things first, you need to determine just how much water you and those in your care are going to need per day.
Here at the HH homestead we have prepared based on a usage level of somewhere between 10 gallons of clean, potable water a day between a family of 4 (two small children). There are also a couple of dogs, some chickens and a garden at the homestead and while they all need water too, it doesn't necessarily have to be potable so we'll not take into consideration this additional water need just yet.

Now we know how much water we need per day, so intuitively the next step is figuring out just how long we would be without water. FEMA recommends keeping at least a 3-day supply of water on hand at all times (30 gallons for my family). That's a good starting point, but I would recommend a more thorough consideration of your situation before running down to Walmart and buying several cases of bottled water and calling it good.

My advice is to carefully consider your surroundings to:
1. Determine what kinds of disasters/emergency situations are most likely to occcur where you live.
2. Determine how these situations will affect your water supply.

Using the HH homestead as example again, living in central Texas puts us susceptible to most any common natural disaster except earthquakes. Based on the local geography and environment, the two most likely natural disaster to affect the HH homestead are wildfires and ice storms. Both, if large and sever enough, could render us without power for up to a couple of weeks. At the moment our normal water supply is dependent on the electric grid so to be prepared for our most likely natural disaster we would need 150 gallons of clean water for a worst-case scenario.
That's a lot of water bottles.

We also need to think about our water supply's vulnerabilities and how to overcome them by finding other water source options.
What would happen if you had to leave your home quickly? Would you be able to bring your water supply with you? Do you have a way to treat non-potable water while you are traveling?
If your water supply is municipal, do you have a back-up source in a (short- and long-term) grid-down situation?
You have your own well - what happens when the power goes off? Can you power the well with a generator (please have this wiring done by a trained electrician or make sure you know what you're doing beforehand)? Have you considered having another well dug with a mechanical (hand or wind powered) pump?
If there is a lake or pond nearby, do you have the means to purify the water to get all of the bad creepy-crawlies and chemicals out? How far away is it and do you have the means to safely transport the water back to your home? What if your area is in an extreme drought, will there be any water at all?
Can you collect rain water from your roof? If so, can you purify it if need be (water from composite roofs can have harmful chemicals in it)? Will the weather cooperate and replenish your supply?
These are just a few of the things you need to think about with regards to having enough water. Granted, some of the questions/situations above are posed assuming a more long-term disaster situation, but it never hurts to have a plan "just in case".

The next question would be just where are we going to store all of this water? There are many options depending on the amount of water you think you might need.
For a single person that is just going to need a week's worth of water or less, cases of plastic, half-liter bottles might be sufficient. A better option may be gallon jugs. Don't want to buy jugs of water? Then use recycled juice bottles or even 2 liter soda bottles. Just be sure that they are well cleaned out.
Due to space constraints (as well as the amount of trash generated) it wouldn't be practical for the HH homestead to store 150 1-gallon water jugs. So food-grade barrels would be a better option. Better still would be a poly tank specifically designed for water collection and storage.
There are other, more unconventional methods of water storage. One that we utilize is the Water Bob ( It's basically a large bag that sits in a bathtub and hold 100 gallons of water, just fill it up using water from the bathtub spout. They do have a couple of disadvantages such as they can only be used once and you must fill then up before a situation occurs.
Another source for clean water in your home would be the water heater tank and any toilet tanks. These would be more of a "last resort"  source in a grid-down scenario.

There are also many likely sources of water outside the home. Like I touched on earlier though, these sources won't be potable and you will need some way to purify the water to make it safe to drink. I'll save this discussion for another time.

I hope this post has at least got you thinking about this very important aspect of disaster preparedness. Thanks for reading.

God bless and keep your powder dry.

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