Saturday, May 28, 2011

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

Whether you're a "Worrier" who just kind'a sort'a wants to be ready in case something happens, a "Prepper" willing to lay out a few bucks and commit some space in a corner of the garage to being prepared in case something happens or a full fledged "Survivalist" who's made major lifestyle changes preparing for TEOTWAWKI you're most likely going to need water first whenever it (whatever "IT" is) happens.

Worriers will want enough water to last a day or two until the water company gets "it" fixed. They'll probably have no idea how much "enough" is.

Preppers know that the average adult human requires one gallon of water per day and will want enough water to last at least three days (times the number of persons expected to be present when the disaster occurs) plus a little extra for washing dishes and persons.

Survivalists Consider three days worth of water a good start.

Water Storage
One US Gallon of water (H2O) weighs approximately eight and a third pounds and cannot be compressed (as I discovered in my youth when I tried to use a wooden mallet to hammer a cork into the top of a brim full of water glass milk bottle -- in our living room).

That's about sixty-two and a half pounds per cubic foot so you probably shouldn't store large amounts of water in your attic.

If you're serious about storing water there are two ways to go about it: actual storage and faux storage. Faux storage would be simply collecting containers for filling if an emergency occurs. Actual storage is a bit more complicated.

Faux Water Storage
You can assuage your water worries, and spend virtually no money, by washing out and storing empty thoroughly dried out food grade plastic bottles like one gallon milk and juice containers.

Going to the next step there are food grade five gallon water bottles like you see atop water coolers available in grocery stores that can be stored full or used and then stored empty. Just remember they don't come with reusable caps so you'll have to improvise your own.

Commercial distilled water, stored away from light, should be good for at least a year probably more before green stuff starts to grow if stored in complete darkness. You can put oxygen back into stored water by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers.

Storing one gallon bottles of chlorine bleach (to use to treat suspect water) is problematical. During the run-up to Y2K I stored two one gallon plastic bottles of unscented Clorox bleach® under a sink. A year or so later I discovered the bleach had eaten through the side of one of the bottles emphasizing a point to keep in mind i.e. commercial containers are not designed for long term storage.

In view of the above I'd be hesitant to store full or used chlorine bleach bottles for long periods. However, instead of washing used chlorine bleach bottles out (you'll never get all the Chlorine bleach out) try filling the used (empty) chlorine bleach bottle with tap water and clearly marking it (with a felt tip pen) to be used for sanitizing and washing ONLY. By diluting the little bit of bleach left in the bottle you'll probably avoid the mess I found under the kitchen sink.

Actual Water Storage
My wife prefers to get her H2O from a reverse osmoses kiosk down by the shopping center. She buys gallons of bottled water from the supermarket and then reuses the plastic bottles. At any given time we've got about a dozen one gallon bottles of water on hand and the stock is constantly being rotated. Naturally we'd have to refill some of the empty ones in an emergency since there's little chance that whatever happens will occur on the day after she's filled all the bottles. But we have the bottles on hand.

Another way to conserve water is to have a supply of paper plates; plastic spoons, forks, knives and 'sporks' on hand. The plastic utensils are listed in the order of the numbers you'll need. If nothing else get spoons.

Sanitation suffers if you don't wash dishes so being able to toss the paper plates and plastic utensils saves water while preserving sanitation.

And, of course, if you need heat you can always burn the paper plates.

Googling for large (over 55 gallon) water tanks I found that although prices varied, many of the "Survival" and "Preparation" sites had this same picture of the large tanks (meaning they're all ordering from the same place) so you'd best call around if you're shopping for price and don't forget the freight charges.

Where's the water?
Of course your stored water will eventually run out so what are the alternative sources?

Anyone who's ever watched one of those "disaster preparedness" videos knows there are gallons of drinkable water in the tank above the toilet. Dip it out right away and start poopin' in the back yard, there's no use flushing that valuable liquid resource down the toilet.

If you own a home it probably has rain gutters so collection barrels, treatment & storage containers can extend your water supply virtually indefinitely with sufficient uncontaminated rainwater.

If you live in a desert you'll have to depend on water storage for short term emergencies and migration if necessary.

How can you extend your water supply if it happens?
Tap water from municipal utilities has enough chlorine in it for long term storage. Be sure to cap containers tightly because chlorine will dissipate if exposed to air.

Water disinfecting
Katadyn water filters come well recommended. Or you could carry a small amount of household bleach (unscented Clorox) to disinfect as you go.

Solar water disinfection

Other methods

Water from puddles, lakes & streams should be filtered. You can use cloth/clothing, coffee filter, or a screen in combination with either of the first two to get the lumps out. Then comes phase two; purifying.

Purifying water with bleach
Two drops of unscented 5% bleach can be added per liter or quart of clear water and then allowed to stand covered for 30 to 60 minutes. After this treatment, the water may be left open to reduce the chlorine smell and taste.

Purifying water with iodine
Iodine should be allowed at least 30 minutes to kill Giardia

Purifying water with chlorine
Ratio of Clorox Bleach to Water for Purification
2 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per quart of water
8 drops of Regular Clorox Bleach per gallon of water
1/2 teaspoon Regular Clorox Bleach per five gallons of water
If water is cloudy, double the recommended dosages of Clorox Bleach.

Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:

Emergency Last Minute Water Storage
If you are lucky enough to get word of an oncoming disaster that will impact your water supply fill everything that'll hold water. Non-sanitary containers like bathtubs and dirty clothes cans can hold "gray" (non-drinking/cooking) water or, if worst comes to wurst; it can be boiled, treated or filtered and drunk. Using it for cooking might be better.

Remember, you'll need a gallon a day per person so you'll want to deal with quantity first and quality later.

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