Water Storage for the Average Joe
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The government recommends storing 3 days of water, more if you live in a disaster prone area. As I noted before, the official pandemic flu website recommends 2 weeks worth of water or even more. Certainly, being prepared for an emergency (water main breaks, power outages at the plant, etc.) is a good idea.

Practically, though, the idea is a little overwhelming. The experts recommend 1 gallon per person per day as a rule of thumb. My family? That's 126 gallons! Where do you get it, and where do put it?

A 3 day supply of water is more manageable, and a good place to start if you are truly overwhelmed. You can add to your stock little by little.

  • You can buy gallon bottles of water, refill from spigots at the markets, and so on, storing in a cool place (coat closet? Pantry floor? ) Any food safe waterproof container can be used to store tap water for an emergency - soda bottles, milk jugs, and so on. Don't leave them where they will get too warm or in direct sun, because the plastic can leach chemicals into the water (although, if your choice is life threatening dehydration or possible ingestion of BPA's, pass the plastic!)
  • If you have advance warning that a natural disaster is going to strike, you can fill your bathtubs and washing machine (if you have a top loader!)
  • A regular size bathtub will hold 40-50 gallons, as will a top loader (I think mine holds about 40 gallons. I vaguely remember measuring it at some point and coming to that conclusion).
  • A jacuzzi tub can hold up to 100 gallons. (Info shamelessly ripped from the Web of Lies, aka, the Internet, including this IL county government document.)
  • And, of course, your hot water heater holds water (unless you have a point of use system installed.)
  • Make sure you boil or disinfect it before drinking - people wash their rear ends in that tub!
  • If you are planning to use this option, make sure you test it out! Aaron Newton found out that his bathtub plugs leak - emptying overnight - during a test run of off grid living. Also, be aware that if a sudden water emergency happens, like a water main breaks, you won't have enough warning to fill your tub.
  • You can also fill other containers, like pitchers, pots, bowls, and coffee pots.
  • Disinfect water by adding 8-10 drops of plain chlorine bleach per gallon, and letting it sit for 30 minutes.
You can use natural water sources with the right water purifier, like Berkey Water Purifier They're pricey, but you can pour scummy river water into it and get safe, fresh drinking water. We were actually planning to get one until the transmission on our van used up our extra tax refund.

From the Berkey website:
The Berkey™ Filter element had extensive testing at State & EPA accredited laboratories and far exceed EPA & ANSI/NSF (Std. 53) protocol. The Black Berkey elements have been Tested by the University of Phoenix. Spectrum Labs and the Department of Toxicology and Environmental Science Louisiana University.

Because the versatile Black Berkey® purification elements fit most other manufacturers gravity filters, off brand gravity filtration systems can be upgraded. This replacement filter vastly improves other brands housings ability to remove unwanted water contaminates.

(Although if you buy from the Amazon link, you'll help Mama's Old Age Fund! wink wink)

We considered the Berkey after Hurricane Ike. We were told not to drink the water. But, the land was flooded! Water, water, every where, but not a drop to drink... Also, the Berkey doesn't use electricity.

Other things to consider:
  • If the water isn't running, you won't be able to do laundry. Unless your handy husband can whip up a James washer real quick like! (Uses 8 gallons of water for washing, another 8 gallons for rinsing.) If you use cloth diapers, rags instead of paper towels, etc., you will not be able to do the wash. Plan to use disposables.
  • When planning your food supply, take water usage into account. Rice uses less water to cook than pasta, for example. Kidney beans use more water to prepare than lentils do. You'll need water to reconstitute powdered milk or drink mixes.
  • Alternately, your food supply can provide water. Green beans are canned in juice that can be used to drink or prepare food; pineapple or fruits contain natural juices; or even buy bottles and cans of fruit juices. Stick with 100% fruit juice, if you go that route. The vitamins, especially vitamin C, will boost your immune system. Caffeinated sodas or juice with high fructose corn syrup can make you thirsty and are bad for teeth that may not be getting brushed on a normal schedule. In my experience, it's also best to avoid vegetable juices (tomato, V8) because they are very salty and will increase thirst.
  • You will not be able to brush your teeth, wash your hands, or shower with running water. Have a dishpan or basin available for "bird baths"; pour water into a bowl to wash hands the old fashioned way.
  • You will have to do dishes by hand, but your dishwasher still makes a great drying rack! Use the old fashioned method of filling the sink with just enough hot soapy water, washing, draining the soapy water, filling with rinse water, and then dipping and rinsing.
  • Have a potty plan! Set aside additional water (doesn't need to be drinkable) to flush the toilet, or consider a compost toilet. Good hygiene is critical if your family becomes ill, and planning ahead will be critical to successfully keeping germs at bay without running water. But, also remember in an emergency that the toilet does not need to be flushed every time someone makes a "number one". You could always use a bucket with a lid as a "chamber pot", but I would imagine that would smell and be hard to clean. (Just between you and me? I think a compost toilet is kind of cool but husband dear would have a heart attack and die if he thought I was actually serious about making one and using it. I guess after 7 kids I'm just used to poop, now. He won't do cloth diapers, either.)
  • The true survivalist can install a rainwater catch sytem, basically to hold runoff from your houses downspouts. The basics are here, but really, it's not rocket science. Large barrel, waterproof and foodsafe, to hold water. Hole in to for water to enter. Net or filter to keep out debris and mosquitos. Hole and tap in bottom to get water out. Leave enough room under tap to put a container. Some systems have a roof runoff container that will discard the first few gallons of runoff because it's nasty - bird poop and shingle muck. Do NOT drink roof runoff unless it's been purified and filtered! You can water your garden, flush toilets, and so on with it, though.

Random Flu tip: Teach your children NOT to cover their mouth when they cough, but rather, to cough into their elbows. A child who coughs and snots on their hands, and then touches every surface in the house, might as well have just coughed into the air.

Random Disaster tip: Plan ahead for some little treats to "smooth the bumps". Whether it's comforting junk food that you don't usually buy (cookies, pop tarts, lollipops) or little activities (new puzzles, new box of crayons, bottle of bubbles) that you pull out to combat cabin fever, it's the little things that can make things better or tolerable.

What are your tips for storing water?

**Please note: No, I have not lost my ever-lovin' mind. I am not planning to fashion a homemade washing machine out of scrap lumber in order to do laundry during a swine flu meltdown. Although I was tempted to do the wash in the bathtub when the washer broke. I'm simply presenting tips and techniques that I've come across for your information. Take what works for your family, and leave the rest!

*** I do have gallons of bottled water stored, and I really would fill the bathtubs and washer, though. And I ran to the store today and bought some extra bottles of bleach, paper towels, and TP just in case.

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 4/30/2009 07:13:00 AM | Permalink | |