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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Prepping on a Budget, part 4 – Water

Water, it IS necessary for life. For drinking, cooking and cleaning, it’s more than handy to have around, it’s a matter of life and death. In my previous water article, I discussed how my hubby and I deal with water in our off grid life. Chances are if you are reading this, you live in a more traditional setting with city water on tap, all you have to do is turn on the faucet and clean water comes out. Hopefully that situation never changes for you, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the eventuality that it might not flow out as readily as it always has, and if it does, perhaps it will not be clean and sanitary as you would want it or need it to be. This article will address that situation.

If everything stopped, water, food and such and you weren’t allowed to leave your home, I’d be willing to bet that you would run out of water long before you ran out of food, hopefully you have read my other articles on how to prep foodwise (see links at the bottom of this article) and have already started putting up food for lean times. Now, if you haven’t already done it, it’s time to start storing water. You might ask why someone who lives in a traditional home with city water would want to do this… well at any time your water supply could be cut off, or contaminated to the point where you couldn’t use it for much. Floods, pipes bursting, even the city working on the water systems can interrupt or contaminate the water that flows into your home. Chances are most interruptions would be temporary, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that you have a backup supply right at your fingertips?

So how much water should you store for emergency use? The minimum recommended is 1 gallon per person, per day, that doesn’t count washing and such, so the more you can store, the better off you will be. The average person uses 80-100 gallons of water each day. That is an amazing number to me, since we have to haul our own water, our water use is so much less, I can make a 150 gallons of water last over a week, that’s for 2 people and that’s not being as careful as I could be, I’ve lived on as little as 3 gallons per day for 2 people, it’s not pleasant but it can be done.

So think about how much water you are using now and consider what would happen if that supply suddenly stopped or became contaminated. Of course there are ways to minimize your water usage in emergency situations, you can stock up on baby wipes or wet wipes to clean your hands and small cleanup jobs, don’t forget about using hand sanitizers too, that will save your water for more necessary use. And remember to reuse your water when possible, you can use water you have cleaned with to flush a toilet, don’t waste it if you are suddenly limited on how much you can use in an emergency.

Getting water is simple, the easiest way would be to buy up bottled water, either in gallon containers or individual bottles, a combination of the two would be ideal. If that would hit your pocketbook too hard, then you have to get creative, you can reuse juice bottles, soda bottles and such, just make sure they are food grade and heavy duty enough to stand up to the rigors of storing water for the long term, it’s not recommended to reuse milk jugs, they tend to break down after a while. Glass is easy to keep clean, but it’s heavy by itself and can break if treated roughly, so I don’t recommend glass either.

You will want to thoroughly clean your bottles, be sure to use something to sanitize the bottles too, a cap full of plain chlorine bleach in your rinse water will work, you don’t need much. You will also need that bleach for your water you will be storing, you don’t want to find out the hard way that your water is growing stuff when you need it the most. I have heard differing stories on this, I’ve read that city water that is chlorinated shouldn’t need any extra chlorine added to it to be safe. I have read that to purify water, add 8 drops of chlorine per gallon of water, stir and wait a few minutes, you should have a slight bleach odor, if not, then add more. I would tell you to do your own research, if you are reading this, then you have access to the same information I do and can determine what is best for you and your family. If it were me, I would add 3-4 drops of bleach per gallon and leave it at that. You don’t have to worry too much about having a little too much bleach, you can always leave the water container open to the air for a while, the chlorine will out gas to the atmosphere, ie it will turn into a gas and leave the water behind. Be sure you use PLAIN chlorine bleach, not the scented ones, not the concentrated ones, not the color safe ones, just plain chlorine, for this I would even recommend using the name brand Clorox.

If you really want to be safe, you can buy food grade hydrogen peroxide and add that to your water, make sure it is FOOD GRADE, not the stuff you get from the drug store or grocery store, and NOT the stuff that comes from the beauty supply, it should say FOOD GRADE. I have found it in health food stores, already diluted, but if it is not diluted, wear rubber gloves, eye protection and use caution as well as common sensed, it is caustic and will burn your skin, not horrible burns but you will notice it and probably feel it if you accidentally get some on your skin. Again, research this and educate yourself before messing with these chemicals.

You could always use what I use, and my other family members who live in the city and have good water, we use the Berkey Light water purifier, it’s simple, easy, lasts a long time and requires no water pressure or power to work. Then you wouldn’t have to worry at all about the condition of the water you will be drinking and cooking with.

Now if you have limited space inside your home, you will need to get creative as to where to store this water, of course there are closets, there is always some space in a closet that can be used to store water, what about behind your couch? Who says your couch or other furniture has to be pushed right up against the wall? Read my article about storing food to get more ideas on how and where to store your water.

Now lets move outside. If you have a yard and the room, you can collect rain water, I know there are many places in the USA where it’s illegal to collect rainwater, I am so thankful I don’t live in a state or town that does that, I would just have to be a criminal, I can’t imagine how any government agency can tell people what they can do on their own land in that respect, I guarantee I would be fighting it tooth and nail, but I digress. You can collect rainwater and store it for future use, whether you use it on your garden, or use it to flush the toilet, it’s a pretty important thing to have. You can purchase water collection containers that are made for backyard use, they are easy to set up and you can almost set it and forget it.

If you are a handy person then you can cobble together your own water collection/storage systems, you can use 55 gallon plastic drums, you might even be able to get them used at bottling companies. Just make sure if you get used plastic containers that it held food products, not toxic chemicals, it’s just not worth the chance of getting sick or worse.

I saw an interesting water collection/storage system just today, it uses 3-55 gallon plastic drums stacked up on their sides, it fills from the top (from your roof runoff) and flows down to the next 2 below it. You can find the directions here:

Now if you are using larger containers to store water, 55 gallon drums or something else that it too big to carry around and pour, you will need a good way to get this water where you want it. The simplest way is using gravity, have the water container elevated above the point of use. If that is not possible, then you will have to pump it, either by hand, or using a powered pump. You can easily find hand pumps at places like Harbor Freight, Home Depot, local hardware store, feed store and such. You can also invest in a small 12 volt water pump, the kind that comes in RVs and travel trailers, a bit of wire and a 12 volt battery. You could keep the battery charged on a 12 volt float charger or use a 12 volt solar trickle charger, then if you need the water and you have no electricity or it is too far from a power outlet, you can use the pump and the battery to pump the water where ever you need it.

Here are the links to the entire Prepping on a budget series
Prepping on a budget – part 1 – food

Prepping on a budget – part 2 – book review
Prepping on a budget – part 3 – food storage & security
Prepping on a budget – part 4 – water
Prepping on a budget – part 5 – first aid kit

Prepping on a budget – part 6 – sanitation

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