Once the disaster has passed, you have inspected your home and found it to be safe for the family Water is the next priority. We talk about having or needing food and water in our conversations as if that is the proper order in which to put them, but that is untrue. Water is many times more important than food when it comes to survival.
The average person can survive 3 to 4 weeks without food but will only last 3 to 4 days without drinkable water. While drinking water from contaminated sources may give you another day or so, in most cases the dehydration resulting from the diarrhea and accompanying sickness will finish you off anyway, so don’t do it.
As stated before, if you have planned and prepared for such times as these, you are setting on a goodly supply of food and water. Supplies that will carry you and your family through theses type of situations until help arrives or the situation improves.
To you I say congratulations for having the foresight to provide for your family. For those that did not plan, the bulk of these following articles are for you. Although everybody may benefit because we will be discussing topics such as:
How and where to find alternative water sources.
Water Collecting, Purification and Filtering methods using items normally found around the house.
How to bulk transport and store water, again using items found around the house.
Short term water filtering methods and Long term water filtering methods (should the current situation extend beyond our supplies).
Let’s first talk about what we mean when we use the term water. For the sake of this article we will be talking about 3 kinds of water and its 3 major uses.
Water for drinking or hydration (also called potable water). This is our most precious of the 3 types. This is water that has been filtered and purified and capable of being used for long term storage.
Next is water for cooking and washing of clothes and us. This can be water that may or may not be filtered (depending on clarity) but has not been purified. At this point the chemicals that we have on hand for purification must be stretched to last as long as possible. In washing clothes the UV rays from sunlight will sterilize our clothing when we hang them out to dry. As for washing us this water is fine, although it is recommended that you keep this water away from the face, any wounds or broken skin. I can already hear you saying what about cooking, aren’t we going to be eating this? The answer is yes. Since the cooking process includes boiling, this is where our purification will come from.
Finally is water for sanitation and/or gardening sometimes called Raw water or Black Water (in other words flushing of the toilets, and such, BUT use for this only if existing water supplies allow, we will discuss how to build latrines in later articles). We do not need to waste any chemical nor waste any energy to filter this water, just use as is.
Our Hunt for Alternative Water Sources Begins at Home
Hopefully before or immediately following the disaster while/if our tap water is still working we have filled our bathtubs, pots, pans, and glass containers with water to begin our supply and buy us time to look for other sources of water. (Plastic is O.K. for short term storage but long term storage requires food grade plastic, most ordinary plastics will leech chemicals into the water over time. We will discuss in later articles how to quickly tell the difference).
Once the electricity is gone and our tap water has stopped flowing we are left with whatever is on hand.
Remember to account for all sources of hydration in the house including sodas, fruit juices, bottled waters, sports drinks, beer (as long as taken in small quantities at a time) and milks before they spoil. Look for hydration sources around the house and through what supplies you have with new eyes (survival eyes). You may be surprised at what you can find. Save any hard liquors you find we can use them as sources of fuel or for disinfection later.
Here are some sources of water (hydration) available inside most homes usually that are over looked.
First ice cubes, remove these from the ice maker while still frozen and put them in a bowl or container until they melt. If left in the refrigerator they will melt anyway and go down the ice maker drain and end up in a puddle on the floor wasted.
Second toilet flush tanks (not the bowels). I know most of you will not like this but with a little extra purification for safety (which we will teach you to do later) it is a source.
Third and usually the greatest source in most homes is the tank type hot water heaters. Depending on the size water heater they can hold anywhere from 30 to 60 gallons of drinkable water. I will include a diagram and instructions on how to remove this water in our illustrations section.
Fourth just as a test, when looking through your supplies did you see any cans of condensed or evaporated milk? These require no refrigeration, have a long shelf life and are a source of hydration.
This is what I mean about looking with survival eyes. Open your mind to using things that are available to you even if they are not used as you are accustomed to. By the way if you did not like the toilet flush tank idea, just to let you know we have our eyes on that big fish tank (if you have one) for multiple uses but I will get back to that later.
Let us now begin to move our search for alternative water sources outside the house. If you live in a rural area and are fortunate enough to have a well as your source of water, consider yourself lucky.
Unfortunately the problem with most modern wells is that they use submersible pumps set toward the bottom of the well casings to pump the water to the surface. With no electricity we have the issue of plenty of good water but we need a way of getting it to the surface.
The way around this problem is by building a bail bucket. Detailed plans and instructions for how to build and use a bail bucket can be found on our illustrations page.
If you have a swimming pool or a hot tub and have kept up with your proper maintenance, again you are fortunate. These both can be a good source to stockpile from but only for 2 or 3 days.
Following that point in time with no electricity to continue filtering and treating you will have to consider these sources as stagnant and should be avoided for drinking purposes except as a last resort.
That’s not to say that stagnant water can never be used as a drinking source but the amount of filtering and purification required to make it safe to drink may make the effort and materials needed too costly if a less polluted source is available.
The second advantage to having a pool or hot tub means that you probably have treatment chemicals such as HTH (chlorine concentrate) and water testing kits on hand and that just increased your purification supplies tremendously.
Next begin making plans and build or find whatever is necessary to catch and hold rain water. This can be a huge source that will require very little of our supplies in the way of filtering or purification to prepare it for storage. One inch of rain fall will yield approx. 6 – 7 gals/per square yard of roof surface. But make these plans and preparations now (even if the sun is shining), and have them ready to put into place at a moment’s notice.
If we wait for a cloudy day to prepare we may miss the opportunity and that is something we cannot afford. Who knows when it will rain again? I myself live in Texas and during our long summers it is not unusual to go for 2 to 3 months without rain.
I will include some ideas and plans for catching rain water on our illustrations page. I will also include some ways to capture water released from trees and ground evaporation but these are only to be used in the most extreme survival scenarios due to the amount of effort and energy that it takes verses the amount of water that they will yield.
O.K. we have now gone through our home both inside and outside and identified our water sources and have begun to stockpile our water supplies accordingly. We have also made preparations to catch and hold rainwater.
Our next move is to begin to identify our closest sources to our homes. In a long term situation having to transport water back to our home may have to be done on foot so it becomes a trade off between the quality of the water source verses how far away it is. That decision can only be made knowing the conditions that exist for you at that time.
Just keep in mind the better the source the less of our purification supplies we will have to use to make it safe. Consider all water at this point will need at least some kind of filtration and purification for drinking purposes.
If you have lived in your area for some time you may be familiar with where water sources in your area are. If you do not know learn Now. The water sources common to most people and listed in there order of best to worst quality are as follows:
Hand dug wells or seepage wells.
Large deep lakes.
Rivers and creeks.
Smaller lakes and ponds (the bigger the pond the better).
Video about drinkable water: