About two years ago the affluent Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove was under a mandatory boil order for the entirety of its water supply; all businesses and residences had tainted water coming out of the faucets for about a week. Every drop had to be boiled before it was safe to consume.
As you might imagine, there was a bit of a run on bottled water at the local WalMart. All 43k+ residents and business owners had to either treat ( boil ) the water they were getting or seek uncontaminated water elsewhere. For a week. Restaurants and offices, home, showers, baths, ice cube trays, mop water, dishwashers, clothes washers, and the tap you ran your toothbrush under all had a bit of fecal coliform nastiness in it.
There had been no tornado, no terrorist attack, not even a thunderstorm to speak of. And the water still pumped, coming without a problem to you from Wherever. Just a state-of-the-art suburban water system going on the fritz, and a hoity-toity suburb was unable to deliver potable water to its residents. For two weeks.
Knowing this, how do you think your water system will fare in a disaster?
( a bit of silence. maybe )
Right. So, let’s talk about water Prep: How much you need, collecting and storing it, and making it safe to drink when necessary.
What we need
Do you know what’s a hundred times easier than finding water in crazy places, boiling, treating, and/or filtering it, waiting it to cool, and doing this at least once every day all during a crisis?
That’s right- collecting water beforehand and storing it. Prepping. Straight from the almighty tap into something that you can put on s shelf, under a bed, or otherwise keep until the city starts putting poop microbes in your tap water, or until it just stops flowing altogether. Doing it now is always easier than doing it later.
Most human beings need about a gallon of water in some form every day to keep functioning at somewhat-normal levels. This gallon is just for consumption, and isn’t at all talking about any water you might need for washing, flushing, giving to the dog, full-on showering, or whatever. The frugal suburbanite might be able to get by with two gallons of water if you take washing into account, if they’re not averse to using a lot more deodorant and wearing a baseball hat.
If you’re thinking about skimping, please don’t.
Getting less than the minimum water a day leads very quickly to bad things. After a single day of less-than-a-gallon of water, you start making bad decisions; your thought processes start to become affected by the onset of dehydration, and things you’d never have considered before will start to sound pretty reasonable. In the light of a sunny day this is somewhat questionable, but in a disaster situation when your family is depending on you to make sound decisions, it can be deadly.
After 3-4 days of no water, you’re dead. Those people you’ve heard of on CNN on hunger strikes for weeks…? they drank tons of water, every day. A human being can’t live for more than 4 days without a certain amount of water. This makes the water thing is kind of important.
So, our realistic target amount is one gallon a day per family member, and two a day would be better. Planning for less than three days is dumb. Planning for less than a week is gambling. Planning for 2 weeks is probably going to cover most of the Bad Stuff that might happen, even out in Buffalo Grove. Also, storing more water than your family could use in two weeks starts to be kind of a pain for most suburban housing situations.
Also note – when the temp is in the high 80s or higher, you need more water. Budgeting 1.5 to 2 times the “normal” estimates would be smart.
So a family of two adults and two kids would need an absolute minimum of 56 gallons of water ( assuming the bare-bones, one-gallon amount ) to get by for two weeks. In the summer, this would be up to 112 gallons. For Fido, add another 14 gallons. These are minimums, if you’re do nothing with the water but drinking it.
Of course you might get by in your daily life today without drinking a whole gallon of water… but you get it from other sources that probably aren’t available in a disaster.
Collection & Storing
To get together that 56 gallons of water, you have many options:
For starters, hit WalMart ( or wherever ) and buy one case of bottled water for every member of your family. Put these on a shelf somewhere and forget about them until something bad happens to the water supply. Also, stop throwing out or recycling 2-liter pop bottles; instead take a bit of soap and clean them out, rinse them well, fill them with tap water, and stick them under someone’s bed. Do this until you stop drinking soda, or until you run out of room under beds. Think about buying a few of those blue water containers over in the sporting goods section. Do a little math and work to your goal of water for everyone for two weeks. For the serious Prepper with a bit of room, 55 gallon food-grade plastic barrels might be just the thing.
Storing pre-bottled water, filling up 2-liter bottles or the blue water containers from the tap are pretty simple steps, and hard to mess up. One thing to keep in mind is to never store water kept in plastic on a concrete floor; the plastic will react over time with the concrete and do unpleasant things to your water. Never store water in old milk or juice containers; they’re not sturdy enough to handle it long-term and it’s not possible for you to clean it well enough with stuff you have on hand under your kitchen sink.
If you’re storing water in the 2-liter bottles or blue containers, you might be concerned with preservation. You can add 6 drops of clear, unadulterated bleach to these containers, stir them, and let them stand for 30 minutes if you’re concerned, and your water will stay fresh.
For the barrels, you’ll definitely need to add a little bleach… 13 teaspoons ( a little less than 1/3 a cup ) for a 55 gallon barrel, stirring then standing for 30 minutes still applies. Also, if you get these barrels new you still need to scrub them within an inch of their lives before you put water your fam will drink in them. If you got them second hand, use your head. If they were used to store consumables such as pop syrup or sugar, fine… scrub them raw, rinse them out and use them with gusto. If they were used to store anything organic like egg products or juice, or any kind of chemical, don’t use that barrel to store your drinking water.
“Catchment” refers to water you grabbed from somewhere, usually rainfall. whether you MacGyvered a solution with your roof and gutters or simply blew up a couple kiddie pools and stuck them out in the rain, that water needs to be treated somehow before you drink it.
part 2 to follow…