Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Water in your Preparations

Hey Ferfal,
Just wanted a second opinion on water.
I obviously know it is of utmost importance, but since I have a couple of good springs on my farm I have not done any water storage out side of my standard system and my one back up spring that originally fed the house.
My question is if I am missing something here or are my two springs/systems “good enough”?
The one that feeds the house is gravity fed from a 1000 gallon cistern on the hill behind the house. (We have more water pressure than the local town) Even the drought a few years ago did not stop this spring even though it did slow down. As long as I keep the pre-filter clean the tank stays full of water. This spring use to feed 3 houses, but I have purchased the property the other two houses where on so now it is just feeding my one house.
The second spring is about 20 yards from the back door and is the one that fed the house when it was originally built. Its tank is a combination of natural stone and concrete block and it holds roughly 750 gallons and stays full all the time with the overflow going into the creek that runs close by. This spring seems to run a lot faster than my other spring, but I have never measured either and am just going by how much water comes out the overflow.
The creek comes through 2 stone quarries up the valley so I only water the garden with that water and don’t count on it for drinking. (It is probably ok but I don’t trust it after going through two industrial sites.)
I have as a back up roof runoff that I can catch from my gutters as I run all of my drinking water through a Berkey anyway (Probably not necessary for the spring water, but and easy safety step to perform) catching water off of the roof would not change anything as far as how I treat my drinking water anyway.
I feel pretty safe with these options, but wanted to know what someone who has been there done that thought of not having cases of bottled water or a couple of hundred gallons water stored up when I have the above options available to me.
Hi SD, good to hear from you again!
Water is still one of the most overlooked aspects of preparedness in my opinion. Even when considered and understood how vital it is, I often find that some people don’t fully understand the way they would be utilizing it.

Lets take a quick look at some of the essential aspects regarding water:

1)Its vital for life, part of the rule of three which says, (give or take) you cant live 3 days without water. That we all know, at least those that have been into survival and preparedness for any length of time.

2)Its bulky and heavy. We get that too, and that’s why most people just don’t store enough water and even those that know how important it is often make the mistake of not having enough in their personal kits and car kits, nor do people take with them a small bottle of it in their everyday carry bags. I’d say 99% of the posts seen online about bugout bags and survival kits, some have a rifle, handgun, and 200 rounds of ammo, but just a small amount of water if that. Its not rare to find EMPTY camel backs and water filters in these bags, the essential part which is water itself often missing.

Those are the ones people into S&P know, but then there’s other facts about water that are either ignored or easily forgotten.

1)Drinking Water is RARE. We live in a world where you can’t throw a dead teen pop star without hitting some sort of store that sells bottled water, the urbanizations in first world countries all have a somewhat reliable tap water grid. It seems so plentiful that people often fail to drink enough of it and spend half their lives slightly dehydrated. Has anyone gone backpacking? Not just throwing a pack on the back of a truck, driving to some nice park  and go hiking for a few days but actually walk forests, roads, cities, deserts, with no help except for maybe a hitchhike or two. That’s when you really get how a) important b) heavy c) hard to find drinking water really is. The truth is that without these artificial networks, we’d all die rather quick of lack of water.

2)Water is easily contaminated. Potable water isn’t really that common. In the third world even tap water must be filtered. Most of the water people get from wells is polluted too. We know that even out in the country its very common for factory deposits, mines, cement factories, pesticides, the list is really endless and all these contaminate water. Out in the pampas of Argentina people are born with malformations because of the pesticides used. These underground rivers appear to be clean, but the truth is that all the junk poured or buried in the ground eventually leaches. Don’t take anyone’s word for it (especially previous land owners form whom you bought) have the water tested yourself so as to know the pollution levels and see if its somewhat safe for human consumption or not.

Just as a couple examples I can give you right away, both in recent years and here in South America. The first was in Chile after the earthquake. Within the same day people were getting aggressive not because they didn’t have food (that happened too the following day) but the same day of the earthquake trouble already started because of lack of water. The second example is right across the Andes in the Argentine south, Patagonia, when the active volcano covered the land for thousands of miles with tons of volcano ash. We’re talking about one of the richest parts of the planet in terms of natural resources, including crystal clear lakes and rivers which you can drink right out of them. I’ve actually done that for weeks without filtering or treating the water. But the volcano ash ruined that for everyone, the rivers became contaminated and even the lakes where covered with a dense layer of ash muck, one yard thick. Not only could you not drink from it, you couldn’t even row a boat in that stuff! And these are just natural disasters. Then you have thousands of industrial disaster possibilities, forest fires producing ash as well or causing chemical spilling. A natural/industrial disaster combo like the one we saw in Japan and the nuclear plant simply ruins all water sources in the area for you. In Argentina the economic collapse affected the water grid as well, lack of maintenance and budget cutting ended up in tap water that shouldn’t be used without filtering.

What you need to have:
1)Stored water: Small bottles are more practical, but you can also use barrels for storing more quantity. I can tell you from experience those 2 and 1.5  liter soda bottles are very handy for washing your hands, preparing food, etc. Try washing the plates or brushing your teeth with a gallon bottle or jerry can and you’ll see what I mean.  This is the essential water supply you have in spite of nearby water sources or even a water well already in place. The well may break, dry out, get polluted. You may be too weak to walk down to the stream, maybe injured, it might be too cold, too dangerous. Again, water stored in place. What you have is what you can count on during a disaster, the rest is a bonus.
2)Means of purifying water: Berkey filters are great, and my sponsor Jeff “The Berkey Guy” is someone I’ve met face to face and is an outstanding person to deal with. Sometimes you have water, but its not water you can use directly and needs to be treated. The Berkey filters are the most tested and proven filters, that’s why they are so popular. They’ve been used in NO, Haiti and a number of other disasters where they did what they are supposed to. Besides a good water filter I keep pool shock (make sure its pure, with no additional stuff) and potassium permanganate for water treatment as well.
3)Having a source of actual water: This is one of the most important advantages you can have. Keep this in mind when buying property, spend the money in having a well if it is at all possible. I cant emphasize enough how important this can be during an emergency. You should have a spare mechanical hand pump you can install and not depend 100% on having electric power since this would be the Achilles knee of your plan.
You don’t get email notices or letters warning about disasters, they just occur. One day you turn the faucet and nothing comes out. Empty bottles with a “fill me during an emergency “ post-it are just…
Take care folks.

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Anonymous said...


You probably have already seen this, but it is an interesting thread about one man's experience in surviving the Bosnian civil war:

Anonymous said...

Quick warning for others: I cleaned and filled used milk jugs to store water. Just added a dab of bleach for purity and stored them in the basement. A few months later 20%in or so had cracks and had leaked out all the water. Not sure if it's the bleach or what. Milk jugs aren't as reliable as I'd hoped.

Anonymous said...

Milk jugs are made to be biodegradable. As such, they are absolutely useless for long term storage of anything. For short term they are adequate, but plastic soda or juice bottles are a much better long term storage solution. They don't degrade like the milk jugs and are much sturdier as well. I actually prefer the half gallon rectangular juice bottles over the round 2 L soda bottles because their rectangular footprint packs better in freezers, coolers, packs, etc.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1, thanks for Bosnian survivor link, had not seen it. There is a Sarajevo survivor story online that is also pretty revealing but much briefer.