Everything you wanted to know about Water
Water (drinking,cooking,washing) FEMA, the Red Cross and other civil authorities warn us that in the event of a major natural disaster, we should expect little outside help for at least three days. I personally think it will be more like three - five days if not longer, depending on where you live. Storms, earthquakes, hurricanes, fire, and even civil unrest will mean that you face the possibility of extended periods without power, or access to fresh water or even possibly food. During any type of disaster or even when camping, diseases should be a major concern. Maintaining good personal hygiene will prevent illnesses and help morale. This requires water. Water is one of the most important and necessary items for survival. Some of the most common requirements are: Drinking, cooking, washing your hands, proper dental care, washing clothes (clean and dry clothing does wonders for morale), take a bath (in safe water as often as practical), if no shower or bath facilities are available, at the minimum wash were you perspire (personal hygiene areas). During an emergency, an adult requires about one gallon of water per person per day (a normally active person requires a minimum of 1/2 gallon of water per day for drinking and cooking, more in hot weather, and slightly less in cold.): two quarts for drinking and cooking and two more quarts for washing body and clothes. Some of the need for liquids can be met by using juices from canned fruits and vegetables. Avoid caffeine (cola, coffee and tea) as it increases water loss and promotes dehydration. Children require only slightly less, depending on their age. For a family of four, that's a minimum of 28 gallons per week. Don't forget to figure in your pet's needs as well. It would also be a good idea to learn and pay close attention for any signs of dehydration. Not enough water in hot climates or weather means you face the threat of heat stroke, too little in cold climates or weather means you may expose yourself to cold weather injuries such as frostbite or cracked skin, which can lead to infections and possibly other diseases. Probably the best method for setting water aside is to purchase food grade (food-grade containers are any store-bought plastic or glass containers that have previously held food or beverages) 55-gallon drums. These are available new through commercial sources, though they tend to be expensive. However, any food-grade plastic or glass containers can be used for storing water, provided that they have been completely cleaned. Some examples include two-liter soda bottles, water, juice, and punch or milk jugs. Wash your container(s) with hot soapy water. Next, rinse the soapy container well with plain water. Then sanitize by rinsing with a solution of 1/2 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per pint of water. Finally, rinse with clean water. If water is to be stored in used plastic milk jugs, special care must be taken to clean, sanitize and rinse the inside handle area to remove any residue. Empty bleach containers should never be used for two reasons. First, they are not food-grade containers and a young child may not be able to understand that some bleach bottles are safe to drink out of and others are not. It is not necessary to treat water for storage, providing the water comes from a safe water supply. All public water supplies are already treated and should be free of harmful germs. If stored properly, this water should have an indefinite shelf life. But you may want to rotate and replace this water every 6-12 months with fresh safe water. Water that might be contaminated should be boiled for 10 minutes before storage. Water from untested and untreated water supplies, such as a farm pond or private well, should be purified and treated before storage. Make sure you clearly mark all containers "drinking water", with the current date and store the tightly capped containers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Containers should be stored in cabinets or on shelves that will not tip over or allow the containers to fall off and break as a result of any type of natural disaster. To improve the taste of "safe" water stored for a long time, pour from one clean container to another clean container, several times. Another method of storing water for an extended period of time is to freeze it. Freezing water will allow you to store it in a safe state, and use it, as you need it. If you should ever lose electricity, the frozen water will also help keep the foods in your freezer frozen until power is restored. Make sure you leave enough head space in containers before freezing (2-3 inches). This will help prevent the containers from spilling and breaking. One problem with freezing the family water supply is you will use up a lot of freezer space. Purify them before filling them by using a gallon or so solution of 50/50 pure bleach and water. Rinse the barrel once, but do not worry about the bleach remaining in the barrel. It will help purify your water. Since the barrel will weigh 440 lbs when full, (For every gallon of water there is 8 lb.'s weight) fill your water barrel in the location you will store it. Now that is a lot of weight and bulk. If you plan on relocating to another location, then you need to make sure that you scout out possible watering spots when you plan your routes. Lakes, rivers, streams, melted snow; even man-made water sources can be planned on but should never be counted on. Constantly refill (if water is available) at every stop. Once your barrel is full, add nearly 1/4 cup (2 oz.), or 5-6 Tbsp (180 drops/tablespoon) of pure chlorine bleach. It will dissipate from the water quickly, so be sure to cap the drum tightly. Make a note on your family calendar to check the contents at least once every six months. Cover the barrel to protect it from sunlight, this will extend the life of the barrel and will minimize the growth of algae, etc., in the water. To extend the life of the stored water, you can add pure chlorine bleach every three months or so. Exchange the stored water for fresh at least once or twice a year. An average hot water heater holds 25-40 gallons. The back of your toilet tank, from 2-5 gallons. A spa or hot tub holds 300-500 gallons or more, depending on its size. However, you should not count on these, because they could be damaged, especially during any type of serious natural disaster. Other sources of water supply can come from ice cubes, frozen containers of water, your hot water tank or your toilet tank (not the bowl). Do not drink from the toilet tank if a chemical disinfectant or purifier has been added to the water. Make sure your water heater is strapped or secured to a wall to keep it from falling. Be sure you know where to shut off incoming water to avoid any chance of contamination. To obtain a free flow of water from the hot water tank, it is sometimes necessary to open the valve at the top of the tank as well as the faucet at the bottom of the tank. The flow of water will also be increased if any hot water faucet in the home is turned on before draining water from the hot water tank. Be sure to turn off gas or electricity to the tank before draining off water for emergency use. Stored water will probably not be fresh from the tap when you go to use it. Before drinking it, you should purify it. There are three methods, each with advantages and disadvantages. You also invest in some type of water testing kit. Heat Treatment Boiling kills pathogens after three minutes and removes most dissolved gases (chemicals). It uses considerable fuel and it does not remove solids or dissolved solids. Chemical Treatment There are basically two varieties of chemical treatments: iodine and pure chlorine bleach. Iodine is available in local stores. For clear water, use 5 drops per quart for cloudy water, 10 drops per quart. Do not use iodine if a member of the family has thyroid problems. Pure chlorine beach is readily available. Make sure you purchase a brand that does not contain any additives. For clear water, use 2 drops per quart for cloudy water, 4 drops per quart. Stir or shake thoroughly. Let stand for 30 minutes. When using chlorine, you should be able to smell it afterwards; otherwise, add more. You can also buy commercial purification tablets. They will usually contain iodine or chlorine and are typically more expensive than either of the other options. While killing pathogens, chemical treatment does not actually remove them. Neither iodine nor chlorine remove solids or dissolved solids. Chlorine bleach is a safe, inexpensive, proven method. After you add the bleach, you can help rid the water of the chlorine smell by pouring it back and forth between containers, or by letting it sit for 24 hours. This is not necessary to make the water safe to drink. Tap water already contains small amounts of chlorine added by your city water department. Then use a filter to remove solids and, if you like, the now dead pathogens. You should probably purchase a replacement cartridge at the same time. Store your filter with your water. Filters Filters come in two types: micropore (usually ceramic or another like material) and adsorption (typically activated charcoal). Micropore filters remove pathogens but not dissolved gases or dissolved solids. The filter has a finite life--it can filter only so many gallons before it must be replaced. Adsorption filters remove dissolved gases and dissolved solids, but do not kill or remove pathogens. Some filters will do both. It is a good idea to first treat stored water chemically to kill any possible pathogens. Do not drink pool or spa water until it has been filtered for both pathogens and chemicals using an adsorption-type filter. To the surprise of many, the need for water is much higher than for food. Many people have lived for 30 days with no food, but without water, after three or four days you are in serious trouble. People tend to underestimate how much water is actually needed to perform normal, routine tasks of daily living. Drinking water is the primary need, but you may need additional water for baths, cooking, flushing toilets, cleaning eating utensils, washing clothes and other chores. Water availability is affected in natural and man made disasters. In every disaster, the majority of the general population is totally unprepared for even a small interruptions in normal utility and food distribution services. In most disasters, the victims expect and sometimes demand that "someone" provide needed protection, water, shelter and food. There are myriad ways the water supply can be disrupted. The most common way is due to lack of electricity. With no electricity, there will be no water from water purification plants or your well--unless it is a non-electric well. The second most common way is a water main rupture. Recently, more than 10,000 people in the southeastern United States were out of water for over two weeks due to such a rupture. Wells can be contaminated by flooding, and well pumps can become damaged by flooding. Freezing weather also takes its toll on well and city water lines. Local streams are never safe during disasters because raw sewerage and polluted surface water can enter the streams. During a recent hurricane , the wind blew an excessive amount of leaves into the affected area's reservoirs. The water turned yellow for three weeks and acquired an objectionable taste due to the abnormal amount of leaves that were decomposing. Container storage -- certain plastic containers such as drywall buckets and plastic trash containers are not intended for food contact and may leach undesirable chemicals into stored water. These containers should be used for transporting water or for storage of water not used for consumption. Although the 5 gallon drywall bucket is not good for storing drinking water, it is an excellent choice for transporting water and for storage of water not used for consumption. Any container used for transportation or for storage needs a top. during transportation, the top reduces spillage. Tray transporting water in the care trunk in a bucket without a top and you will see how much sloshes out. During storage, the top keeps out dirt, dust, insects, etc. The 5 gallon buckets used by restaurants for food products are excellent for storing drinking water. If no containers are available, plastic sheets or bags can be used to line porous containers for storing water in emergencies. A depression can ever be dug in the ground and lined with plastic to hold water temporarily. In storing water for emergency uses, most authorities recommend a minimum of 2 gallons per person per day. This should include one half gallon for drinking and the balance for other uses. It is preferable not to ration water in a survival situation because this may have adverse affects on the health of people involved. I store non-drinking water for dishwashing, toilets, washing clothes, etc. in 5 gallon plastic drywall buckets. My drinking water is stored in out bleach bottles and plastic milk jugs. I add 16 drops of liquid bleach (4-6 percent sodium hypochlorite) per gallon of clear water to protect it during storage form the growth of micro-organisms. I suggest storing an extra jug of bleach to purify any new water that is of questionable quality. Be careful not to misidentify bleach bottles as containing drinking water if you also have bleach on hand. This is especially dangerous where children are involved. Always remove the bleach label and replace it with the word "WATER" in large indelible letters on the jugs in which the water is stored. The Utah State University Extension Service offers the following instructions for heat sterilization when using glass containers to store water: "fill clean fruit jars with water, leaving one inch of head space at the top of the jar. Place clean sterilized lids on the jar and process the water in a boiling water bath as fruit juice is processed. Quart jars should be processed 20 minutes. Two quart jars 25 minutes." Whatever the container used, it is probably a good idea to date each container with a large magic marker or other marking instrument. I'm glad I did mark my first water storage jugs because I now have water that is 8 years old. Water is used on a first- in first-out basis. My water supplies have been used many times in the last 8 years. Since I do own a generator, a power outage will shut down my well. No electricity, no electric well pump. On several other occasions, my well pump had maintenance problems and the stored water came in very handy while the pump was being repaired. Don't store plastic containers near fuels, pesticides or similar materials. The vapors from these can penetrate the plastic and contaminate the water. Also, store water in the dark to protect the plastic from sunlight. One problem commonly encountered in water storage is inventory control. You must be diligent in replacing the water you use and rotate your inventory at least every several years. Use the oldest inventory first. Any questionable water you have in storage can be used for non-drinking purposes. The local county extension service will test your water for purity. This is a good idea when you have water supplies that have not been rotated for several years. If you have enough advance notice of a coming water emergency or possible emergency, fill up extra empty mill cartons, jars, bathtubs, sinks, wading pools, trash cans and or any other available container. Obviously water in garbage cans would be used for non-drinking purposes unless filtered and purified. OTHER WATER SOURCES -- You can use the water for the toilet tank (not the bowl) and it will offer several gallons. You may want to look in your tank right now to see if it needs a good cleaning. Trapped water in house plumbing lines offers several gallons of clean water. As soon as the water pressure goes off, be careful to shut off your house lines from the street. This action will insure you do not draw in contaminated water or allow your trapped water to flow back into the connecting municipal system. Next, turn off the heat sources to your water heater. To gain access to trapped water in the house line, crack the faucet at the lowest level and drain the lines. I have installed a faucet in my basement to insure I can collect the water from the lines that run under my house. The basement is where I plan to be during a weather alert. Your water heater tank holds 30 - 40 gallons. Check your water heater tank because it may have a foot or more of sediment in the tank bottom. Sediment removal is a good reason to drain the tank every year. In addition, the removal of sediment will improve the water heater's efficiency. The hot water tank can be drained by opening the faucet at the bottom of the tank. You may need to open the hot water faucet elsewhere in the house to allow the release of the vacuum to allow a free flow of water. The water inlet valve (faucet) should be turned off if you doubt the quality of the inlet water. If the inlet valve is turned off, you may need to vent the water tank by opening the "pop off" valve lever that is used to allow over heated tanks to vent excessive pressure. The faucet at the bottom is threaded to receive a regular garden hose. The water in a water bed can also be used. Only use this water for non-drinking purposes because of the possibility of algaecide chemicals in the water and plastic chemicals being leached into the water. A swimming pool offers a large volume of stored water for non- drinking use. In one case a swimming pool provided a whole neighborhood with water after a hurricane. The neighbors set up a temporary shower in the backyard next to the pool. Others who lived nearby carried the water back home in any containers they could find. If it rains, place buckets or barrels under rain gutter down spouts. You may have to cut or disconnect them so the water can flow into the container. If your container is not clean, you can line it with plastic such as a clean garbage bag. Plastic sheets can be placed on a hillside or be strung between trees to funnel water into your containers. PURIFYING WATER -- Pollution can affect ice, snow, water in streams and in shallow wells causing these water sources to be unsafe. Even clear streams can have parasites in them. Unpolluted water must be boiled to assure complete destruction of any dangerous organisms. Properly stored water is the safest in an emergency. If you have to use water from an unknown source or of unknown quality, be aware that the following methods of purifying water do not guarantee the safety of the water but will reduce the risks involved. Boiling water is one of the safest methods of water purification. It should be boiled for at least 20 minutes to insure that bacteria are killed. Boiling does not remove pollution. The boiling process will make the water taste flat since some air has been driven out. To add back the oxygen and to improve the taste, pour the water several times from one container to another. Another method is to pour the water into a closed container and vigorously shake it. A small piece of wood or a pinch of salt can be added to the boiling water to improve the taste. Learn how to start an outdoor fire to be used in boiling water. Do not depend on electricity or gas for your heat source. Only use chemical purification for questionable water if boiling is not possible. Understand that organic matter in the water increased the amount of chemical needed. The colder the water, the more time needed for the chemical to work. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water for clear water and double that amount for cloudy or sediment-filled water. Mix well and wait for 30 minutes before using. You should be able to smell the bleach after 30 minutes. If not, repeat the process until you smell the bleach, otherwise do not use the water. If you leave the container uncovered for several hours, the chlorine taste will be reduced and the water will be more palatable. Always use fresh liquid bleach because it will lose its strength over time. Double the recommended amounts if the bleach is over one year old and do not use it if over two hears old. Water purification tablets can be used to purify water. They are readily available from sporting goods stores and military surplus outlets. Use fresh tablets. Normal shelf life for iodine tablets is 3 to 5 years if unopened. iodine tablets work better than bleach or halazone tablets for certain intestinal parasites.In addition, halazone tablets have a shelf life of only 2 year. Commercial filters combine a filter substance and active ingredients to filter and treat the water at the same time. Some brands are not as effective as they claim. Clear water should be used whenever possible when purification is needed. If sediment is present, it will settle out in time and the clear water can be poured off or the water can be poured through a cloth or coffee filter to speed up the process. A novel method to clear up water is to use a cloth siphon arrangement. Place the full cloudy water container higher than the empty clean water container. Roll up a clean dry piece of cloth and put one end in the upper container and the other end in the lower clean container. If the cloth in the lower container is several inches below the cloudy water's water line, then a siphon effect will begin and the water will be filtered. This is a very, very slow process, but is good to know about. In the distilling process, questionable water is boiled and allowed to condense into safe water. One method is to allow the water vapor escaping out of a tea kettle to enter an inverted milk jug. The water vapor will condense in the milk jug and run out into a pan set nearby to collect it. Another method is to run the water vapor through copper tubing (same as used in your house) to condense the vapor into pure water. For quantity production, try to visualize a moonshiners still. Use a larger closed container heated over a fire with copper tubing coiled several times to make such a still. CONSERVATION -- The more you conserve your water in an emergency, the less you will use or need from storage. For example, toilets use 3-4 gallons per each flush. Add several bricks in the tank to reduce usage (be careful not to have too much waste for each flush). And toilets need not always be flushed after each use. You might also want to build an outdoor toilet trench such as is described in "The Boy Scout Handbook" or other publications. Stretch out the periods between your baths or showers, or use a Navy type shower procedure, where you turn on the water to wet down, turn off water, soap up and then turn on the water to rinse off. If water is very limited, take a sponge bath when ever practical. Do not waste water washing clothing other than under clothing. Before you wash, leave clothes outside over night and they will pick up additional moister reducing the amount of wash water needed. A heavy dew will make a wash towel moist enough to use for a sponge bath. It is even better to roll the clothes in the dew to make them very wet before beginning the wash. Never throw water away without figuring out other uses for it. For example, use the tub water for flushing a toilet. Save the water when you wash your hands and use it for the initial clothes washing water. Do not dispose of dirty water just because it has sediment in it. You will be surprised how much sediment in dirty water will settle out over night or in several days if left undisturbed. The clearer surface water can be used again for non-drinking purposes. Finally , it is very important to wash hands when preparing food. Intestinal problems can rapidly dehydrate the body and cause severe health problems. As you can see, water storage is very simple to accomplish. A little advance preparation can add a great deal of security in our current water-sensitive and highly technological times as well as in any emergency situation.