Emergency Preparation: Water Strategy

A friend and reader recently posted a comment regarding our recent post, “it’s more than just flashlights and duct tape” asking how we handle securing/storing water. Here’s the comment:

“I’m assuming you have a well. Any advice on stockpiling for those of us who have city water? Water jugs?”

As we pondered our response, it seemed fitting to address this as a new blog posting since this is a practical issue that many people might find worth considering.

While it is nice in some ways to have a well, common domestic wells require pumps which in turn require power. Because of this, those who have wells are often more vulnerable to power-related emergencies than most people – at least in longer-term emergencies.

All that to say that a well is not necessarily the best source of water in an extended emergency – at least not the way North Americans use wells. Having a well does not necessarily aid in emergency preparation, especially if you have no way to produce electricity. In fact, it could actually be detrimental to have well water as a single source of water in an emergency.

In an extended emergency (ie. 14 days or more), a person or family is likely going to require more water than can be realistically stored by the average citizen. Stored water should only provide for your immediate water needs for the first days of an emergency until a plan for a sustainable water source can be implemented. A good preparedness plan should entail a sustainable means for acquiring potable water for as long as necessary (within reason).

At present, we have a multi-tiered water strategy consisting of several elements. Most of this is just common sense and should be tailored to meet the needs of your family. It’s based on a strategy we developed in general about preparation (which we’ll post later on) where we plan for emergencies from an immediate to long-term need. The triangle below represents how we apply this principal to our water strategy.

Progressive Water Strategy for Disaster Preparation

Progressive Water Strategy for Disaster Preparation

Water Storage
We start with storing enough water to maintain life (drinking and essential personal use, not stuff like laundry, coffee, etc) for several days for our entire family. We do that by keeping 7-Gallon containers ( these exact ones ) filled with water and stored in our home – one per person. This gives us at a minimum 1 gallon per person per day for 7 days. We have additional water stored in 55-gallon water drums, should we ever need them.

It’s important to note that clean water in an appropriate container does not go bad. That is, if you have water free of contaminants stored in containers that don’t leach anything into the water, it should not develop problems. It might end up tasting flat, but that is usually rectified by aerating the water.  Keep this in mind when choosing containers and the source to fill them from! Start with good, solid, and sealable containers and then fill them with the clean water. Never let water sit in open containers. This will invite disease and further devastation in an emergency.

Water collection and treatment
Some may have no hope of keeping enough potable water on hand for a long emergency or disaster, our strategy includes measures for treating non-potable water to make it potable. This means water found in streams, lakes, and other outdoor sources. The problem is, the majority of the surface water in the world, including North America, contains viruses, bacteria, organisms, etc. These can cause sickness and discomfort ranging from mild to severe/life-threatening. In an emergency, that last thing our family wants is the trots! We suggest handling this problem through expending effort and resources to do the following:

  1. Maintain the knowledge of where to look for and locate treatable water in the immediate area.
  2. Maintain supplies to boil water.
  3. Maintain supplies to chemically treat some water if necessary (not a good long-term solution – not sustainable).
  4. Maintain supplies to filter water and how to use them.
    In our case, we purchased a Katadyn Vario Microfilter and several replacement cartridges. We do not use this filter for leisure or recreational use but maintain a separate water filter for those sorts of uses (which also serves as a backup).  This too is also not a good long-term strategy since it’s not sustainable if/when the equipment fails. That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable!
  5. Maintain the knowledge of how to primitively filter water with natural, or readily available materials. Books like “When Technology Fails“ are an excellent resource for this sort of thing. Make sure you read and understand this stuff as much as possible before you need to know it!

Long Term Water Strategy
One needs a long-term strategy for the collect and storage water. For those in suitable climates, this could be from rain and snow (plentiful in the northeastern United States where we live).  We’ve pondered that next time our roof requires replacement, we’ll replace it with a suitable metal roof then build a cistern to collect this roof runoff, then an additional methodology to filter this water. If you have an occassion to erect an outbuilding, consider a metal roof for this added benefit.

Two books we intend to get are “Water Storage: Tanks, Cisterns, Aquifers, and Ponds for Domestic Supply, Fire and Emergency Use” and “The Home Water Supply: How to Find, Filter, Store, and Conserve It“. These books discuss how to use a variety of materials and methods to collect and store water.

Is it worth the investment?
Consider this… in the right emergency context, water would be worth more per ounce than gold! When without water, no other resource abundance matters. Water is fundamental to life, and yet despite this when we were considering these issues, there was plenty of hesitation to spend resources to help us store and secure water!

Much of what has been recommended here can be done for  $250 or less. That is for a water strategy (books, storage containers, filters, etc) which would provide a family with thousands of gallons of potable water.

We consider that a pretty good investment into the health and welfare of our family in the event of an emergency or disaster. This is one area you don’t want to skimp or depend on others!

It’s more than just flashlights and duct tape!

For the non-militia member too!
We have some hesitation about writing the topic of emergency preparedness because of some long-held stereotypes people have. As followers of Yeshua, homeschoolers, Pennsylvanians, etc. some people would just naturally expect us to also be of a survivalist or militia mindset. We can assure you, we don’t belong to the NRA (not that we have objections to them), we don’t have a backyard bunker, heck – we don’t even own gas masks! Nevertheless, we do see some value in being prepared for uncommon or exceptional events.

Are you really prepared?
Plenty of people would call themselves “prepared” for an emergency ranging from a few hours to a few days. Several months ago, we began to be challenged to consider whether or not we were prepared for “the long emergency” – that is, longer-term disruptions to food, medicine, public services and utilities, etc. Perhaps to some, this sounds apocalyptic? Maybe, but there are plenty of non-apocalyptic reasons to be considering these sorts of scenarios.

Prepared for what?
We live in an age of increasing natural, political, and ecological turmoil. Is it really beyond reason that an event such as a large hurricane, solar flares, political unrest, or God forbid, a larger terrorist attack could substantially disrupt life as we know it for weeks or months? Ask those victims of Hurricane Katrina their experiences and you’ll see how desperately ill-prepared most people were.

What’s needed?
To weather these sorts of long emergencies requires more than flashlights and duct tape – it requires advanced planning and preparation of both your mind and your resources. It requires having the resources in advance that will permit your family to survive and thrive during these times, should they come. Your family will never find harm in having 1-3 months of food stocks on hand, or from owning a generator, knowing how to garden, hunt or forage, etc. Emergency preparedness offers only benefits since the skills and resources required will benefit any family.

Preparedness builds community
We’re not personally interested in a “survival of the fittest” way of surviving an emergency. Rather, we’d prefer to be in a place of blessing others with the knowledge and resources we’ve gathered to prepare for such a time. When prepared, families are in a position to help others rather than fearing for their own survival. Should the situation never arise, there’s still benefits to your family and community. Working together with your friends and neighbors to acquire resources and plan for these possibilities deepens relationships and strengthens your community.

Where to find information?
There are thousands of resources online that outline good strategies for preparing for such an emergency. We’ll leave that info to those who excel at such. One such resource that we have found to be extremely helpful to our family is a book called “When Technology Fails“. Every family should own this book! This book covers a wide range of topics covering all the basics of food, water, shelter, medicine and then some. It’s also a primer on alternative energy sources, gardening, foraging, food storage, etc. It’s not a survival manual like you’d expect to find in an Army-Navy store, but more like a manual for the average joe to hold up for a while in an extended emergency. We cannot recommend this book enough. If you can only afford one book on the topic of preparedness, this would be it.

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency

Hopefully, you and your family and community will give this topic some serious consideration. It could mean the difference between life and death for you, your family, or anyone else whom you’re able to help. Remember – prepared families make for good and strong families and communities! Please give this topic your careful and prayerful consideration.

Sharing is Key

Corporations have collectively convinced us all that we need so many things to have an enjoyable, prosperous life. To top it all off, they’ve spent nearly a century convincing us that we each need our OWN [insert widget, product, gadget, etc here] in order to live. After all, if you’re a corporation selling widgets, you need to sell them to as many people as possible, right?

It’s in a corporation’s best interst that we don’t share with one another, otherwise the market for the item is smaller. Sharing then is the enemy of corporate greed and capitalism (I am not saying that the two are one in the same).

We’re convinced that a simpler life is highly unlikely without earnest sharing of resources among friends, family, neighbors, and community.

Think about it for a second. Say you need a shovel. A shovel might cost $20 for a good one. Your neighbor might need one too, and perhaps a close friend. What are the chances that you will all need your shovels at the same exact time? Why not collaborate (work together) with your friends and neighbors, and pitch in to purchase one shovel among you? Yeah, you might need to be a little more patient and flexible to do this – but what is the harm in that? Now you have use of a shovel that cost you 1/3 of what it would have cost, and each person’s expenses are lowered.

Now apply this same idea to bigger items (lawn mowers, cars, bicycles, computers, freezers, food, homes, gardens) and you can see that there’s lots of room for lowering our expenses and living a richer life by simply sharing with one another. If we all did that, would we need the incomes that we have? Could we live on less?

We know that there are times when this is not practical or feasible, or perhaps cannot be done for some other reasons. We also acknowledge that this takes a lot of cooperation to pull off. Personally, we’re convinced that this cannot be done without following two commands of Jesus Christ – love God will all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself! Just think how the world would be, heck – even your neighborhood – if everyone just did those two things!

The beautiful thing about sharing is that it’s something we can all do at least a little bit. We need to learn to share, we need to learn to give, and learn to love our neighbors. In doing so, we’ll learn to live a simpler, sustainable, and more prosperous life.

Welcome to the journey to simple

Like many, we’re concerned about where our country is headed. At the same time, we’re excited about the resulting transformations in our own minds that have resulted in a desire for a simpler, sustainable life. We hope that this blog will be a place where we can share our considerations, decisions, successes and failures as we journey towards a simple life.