* Are You Really Prepared for a Water Emergency?
In the past few years, several water emergencies have happened right here in the US. These emergencies provided reasons to store water that even non-preppers would have to find pertinent.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just go to the store and grab a few bottles,” but when everyone else in your area has the same idea, it doesn’t take long for the shelves to clear, potentially leaving you and your family without water.
Back in 2010, a water main broke in Boston, Massachusetts. The resulting leak flooded into the Charles River, and officials were forced to use the untreated backup reservoirs. A state of emergency was declared, a boil order was announced, and absolute chaos erupted as more than two million people suddenly found themselves without running water. A local news outlet reported:
The run on bottled water caused near panic at some stores throughout the Boston area Saturday night.
At the BJ’s in Revere, the crowd got so big and the rush for water so intense that police were called in. In order to maintain control of an unruly crowd, the store was shut down for the night.
Shortly after residents in Boston received an emergency call warning them of the water crisis, supermarket aisles stocked with water were quickly wiped out.
“They are fighting over it, literally fighting over water,” said a customer at the Roche Bros. in West Roxbury. “I just had to fight my way through the aisles ’cause it’s crazy in there.”
“Not since Blizzard of ’78 have I seen something like this,” said the store manager. “New shipments that arrived were gone within seconds.”
In Coolidge Corner in Brookline, long lines formed at Trader Joe’s, CVS, and Walgreens for any kind of bottled water, including sparkling and pricey designer bottles.
The Governor of Massachusetts was able to lift the boil order a mere three days later, but during that short span, the National Guard was dispatched to deliver water, businesses were called upon to increase the water inventory brought to the local stores, and many restaurants were forced to close their doors due to the lack of safe drinking water.
In 2014, a crisis struck in West Virginia.
Up to 300,000 people in West Virginia have been banned from using tap water after a chemical spill in a river, which has also forced schools, bars and restaurants to close.
The state’s governor has declared a state of emergency in nine counties following the industrial leak. The ban has lead to long lines for bottled water and locals are reporting that stores are running dry, and people are fighting over the bottles that are available.
Residents in a growing number of affected areas have been told not to drink, wash or cook with the tap water and only use it for flushing toilets.
Laura Jordan, external affairs manager for West Virginia American Water, said: “It could be potentially harmful if swallowed and could potentially cause skin and eye irritation.”
The spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, a chemical used in the coal industry, into the Elk River happened above a water treatment plant in Charleston – the largest in West Virginia – and affects 100,000 homes and businesses. (source)
And just this past month, disaster struck in Alabama.
More than 100,000 residents have been told that they can’t drink or cook with the contaminated tap water in Alabama by the West Morgan-East Lawrence Water Authority…but this isn’t just a week-long clean-up. The restriction is expected to last until September.
The issue is synthetic chemicals that have the potential to cause cancer, birth defects, and developmental delays in children. Traces of PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) were found in the blood of nearly every single person tested, according to the EPA…
…The thing with chemical contamination is that the water simply can’t be purified. Boiling it, in many cases, simply intensifies the strength of the toxins. Filtering it does nothing to remove the chemicals. (source)
And these are just a few of the water issues the United States has seen over the past few years. There were also crises in Ohio, Utah, and Michigan.
If you don’t have at least a one-month supply of fresh pure drinking water properly stored, along with plans for long-term water sources, let these emergencies and industrial accidents be your wake-up calls. An epic disaster doesn’t have to be a dramatic, end-of-the-world scenario. They should serve as cautionary tales to those who are blithely unprepared.
Your Plan Should Have 3 Components
Water is second only to oxygen in the hierarchy of survival. Without it, in 3 days, you’ll die. But it goes much further than that. Water is vital for basic sanitation, for growing more food, for raising livestock, for cooking, and for treating injuries. So even if you have enough to drink, without enough for those other needs, your chances aren’t good.
The solutions you choose for water should be based on whether your plans for long term survival are bugging out to a secondary or unknown location, or sheltering in place. This week we’ll talk about solutions for bugging in.
There are several aspects to water that you should consider if your long term plans are to bug in at your current location. Many of these solutions can also be put into place if you have a secondary location to which you will travel in the event of a crisis.
First things first, you must store water. This is absolutely the initial step that people should be taking in their preparedness journey. The good news is, it is also one of the least expensive preparations. There are many different ways to put back a month’s supply of water. We store drinking water and water for pets and sanitation. Keep in mind that in the event of a disaster, even if water is flowing from the taps, it may not be safe to drink. Waterborne diseases like typhoid kill many people in the aftermath of natural disasters, sometimes causing more deaths than the disaster itself.
When I moved to one particular home, I bought spring water in one-gallon jugs. We used this for drinking and cooking water (we are on municipal utilities and we don’t trust the supply for consumption.) Once we emptied a one-gallon jug, we then refilled it with tap water and stored it in the basement. This was our back-up supply for sanitation and for our pets. We used this method to store over 300 gallons of tap water.
For drinking water storage, I purchased some of the large BPA-free 5 gallon jugs. We also have a top loading water dispenser that can be used whether or not we have electrical power. I have gradually acquired a one month supply for 4 people of this water. In my basement, I have stored 30 of these jugs.
The standard advice for drinking water is one gallon per person per day. I like to add a little bit to that in order to have extra for cooking. Also, keep in mind if you are working outside, particularly in hot weather, you’ll drink more than a gallon per day. Sick people and pregnant women also tend to hydrate more.
Water is heavy. Be sure when you choose a place to store it that you won’t impair the integrity of your structure. For this reason, storing it all on one end of the attic might not be the best idea, depending on your situation. Also, keep in mind that extreme temperatures can cause plastic containers to break down. Depending on the type of plastic, this can leach harmful toxins into your water. If your water is subjected to freezing temperatures, it expands and can cause the containers to burst.
This step is even more important than storage, particularly if a situation turns long-term. What are you going to do after that water storage runs out? You can’t store a 30 year supply of water, in most cases. You have to be able to replenish your supply.
The best solutions are either a deep well or a natural spring on your property. Those will keep you in fresh, pure water indefinitely in most cases. Some exceptions are if the groundwater is contaminated due to a natural disaster like an earthquake or a manmade disaster like fracking.
Some naturally occurring sources to look for if you have yet to acquire your property are rivers, creeks, lakes, or ponds.
Keep in mind that you may be transporting the water from its source to your home. Look into back-up solar pumps for your well, and be sure that a manual pump is also available. If water is going to have to be carried for any distance, consider what type of conveyance will make the job easier. As people age or become injured, the job of carrying two buckets full several times a day will become a lot more physically strenuous. A sturdy wheelbarrow, pushcart, or wagon would make the task easier.
If your property doesn’t have these natural resources you must plan a catchment system for rainwater. Depending on your area, you may want a cistern or other enormous amount of storage for the water you harvest. If you get frequent precipitation throughout the year numerous water butts at the corners of your structures may supply enough water for your needs, including supplementing your garden. (Be warned that the eco-police in some places believe that the government owns the water falling from the sky – rainwater catchment is illegal in some states. Many may wish to disregard this flagrant insult to natural law.)
Bear in mind that the water from most natural sources MUST be filtered, so an investment in a high-quality water filtration system is vital. When you purchase your filtration system, go the extra step and also purchase extra elements. I have enough elements to keep us in safe water for many years to come as well as the spare parts to replace the wear-and tear items like spigots and gaskets. My personal favorite water filters are the AquaPail and the ProPur. ProPur also has a powerful component that you can hook up to your sink to purify the water straight from the tap. I used to recommend Berkey products, but during the crises mentioned above, they couldn’t filter out the contaminants, while AquaPail and ProPur could.
It’s important not to just purchase a filtration system and leave it in your closet until it’s needed. Particularly if water is in short supply, you don’t want to waste it as you try to figure out how to use your system or as you run a gallon through before using it for drinking water. Practice now while water is readily available.
Finally, if the availability of water is limited, you must make every effort to make it stretch as far as possible. I recently wrote about the drought situation on the West Coast and the toxic water due to a chemical spill in West Virginia. Our resources are finite and it doesn’t pay to waste them. This would be even more true in a world without water as near as the closest kitchen sink. If you have to go to the well or the creek and haul every drop of water your family uses back to the house, you will have added impetus to make the most of it.
Installing systems in your home to make use of gray water and black water can help you make the most of every drop of that precious liquid.
Gray water can be used for watering plants, for example, and sometimes for cleaning depending on the origin of the gray water. Gray water is the water that comes from bathtubs, showers, and clothes washing. Systems can be devised that separate the disposal fo gray water and black water, and the gray water can be diverted for use in irrigating your garden.
Black water is the water from human waste, like toilet water or dish water, and contains bacteria and pathogens. There are some recycling systems that make black water acceptable for use in watering outdoor plants.
Declare your water independence!
Declare your independence by getting prepared for a water emergency. If you never buy a single canned good or bag of pasta for long term food storage, please store water. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to see the good sense in being prepared for an event that could happen any place, at any time.