Storing Water for When Disaster Happens
Water is essential for life and there are many situations where clean water is not available. If you’re lucky, you can last maybe 3 – 5 days without water. If you loose 10% of your bodily fluid you are at risk of death.
Some interesting facts about how much water we actually need, as these may be useful to know in a survival situation were water is limited:
You loose just over 2 pints of water per day through normal bodily functions and according to research by the Pacific Institute of Studies can loose up to 10 pints per day in very hot climates. The amount needed per person, per day, depends on:
- An individual’s weight
- The environment temperature
- The amount of activity
- If you’re pregnant you need more water
- There may also be a relationship between the amount needed based on a fat/muscle ratio
The report carried out by the Pacific Institute of Studies also looked at what the minimum requirements of water needed by an individual were – you can see this in the table below. However, other sources quote amounts around 3.5 pints per day. The table below is in liters, to convert 1 liter is around 1.75 pints.
But before I begin, some general advise:
- Use your stored water for drinking purposes only –thirsty trumps dirty and smelly, but do keep wounds clean
- Containers made of a plastic known as polyethylene terephthalate, or PET can leach chemicals including the heavy metal, antimony, into water, so try and avoid containers made of PET
- Use containers that are clean – any organic matter can contaminate water and bacteria and viruses can make the water toxic
- Use water purification tablets or powder to keep stored water clean
- Other chemicals like fertilizers present in a container can cause algae to grow in the water
- You’ll probably have heard about filling the bathtub up with water when the SHTF. This is fine to do, as long as you remember the water isn’t likely to stay clean and is for short term use only (see waterBOB below)
- How much water to store is up for debate and ultimately will be your decision, but plan for at least two weeks worth of need on a per person basis
- Bear in mind that if certain war events have taken place rain may be contaminated and unsuitable for drinking. This is also true for river and stream water.
Commercial Bottled Water
If you have time to think about it beforehand, you can stock up on bottled water. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that you store at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day, for 3 days. The International Bottled Water Association say about storing bottled water, that it should be stored at room temperature or cooler and away from direct sunlight and chemicals. This is because at warmer temperatures algae can form in the water and that the plastic of a water bottle is permeable and can allow chemicals to seep into the water. The FDA don’t require an expiration date for bottled water, but the state of New Jersey do set a 2 year limit on bottled water.
You can store water in rain barrels by filling them from the cold-water tap. You can buy 60 gallon barrels for the purpose and keep these ready to go. The barrels MUST be very clean before you use them. Also you really should use some sort of sterilizing chemical to prevent algae and bacteria from contaminating the stored water. You can buy purification tablets or powder, like Aquatabs online from Amazon.
And of course, you can use the barrels to collect and store rainwater too, assuming the rain is not contaminated.
Specialist Water Tanks
You can buy large, up to 15,000 gallon, water tanks to prepare for when the SHTF. As with the smaller rain barrels you will have to use purification chemicals to make sure the water stays clean and drinkable.
Water Balloon Storage: The waterBOB
There is a product called the waterBOB, which is an FDA approved plastic balloon, which can be filled direct from your faucet, aka your bathtub, and which keeps water clean for up to 16 weeks. It also can hold up to 100 gallons of water. If you place this in the tub and fill it up, it resolves the issue of keeping the water clean.
Alternative Water Systems
Of course you might not be able to fill up the waterBOB or have access to bottled water, so you’ll need to collect it.
Creeks and Fresh Water Rivers
You can drink water from a non-salt source like a fresh water river or a creek. However, you do have to be careful and sensible. I was taught to look up stream and if there was any evidence of a dead animal or any contamination, then don’t drink it.
You can of course sterilize the water. You can boil it, which gets rid of bacteria, protozoa (like cryptosporidium) and most viruses.
You can collect rainwater using a simple system, like the one in the photo above, where guttering on a small shed or similar is used to pass collected rainwater into a rain barrel. Use some sort of filter at the end of the pipe to stop debris entering the barrel – be sure to clean this out regularly as it gets filled with leaves.
There are commercial rainwater collection systems that you can use too. Companies like RainHarvest Systems provide home based collection systems that can harvest up to 15,000 gallons of rainwater.
Which ever way you collect the rainwater, you need to be wary of any potential contaminants in the rain, including radioactivity and acidity. Drinking something in is a great way to get toxins into your body. If it’s nuclear don’t drink it, period. If its acidic, you can treat it with an alkaline solution like sodium carbonate, but you need to test the acidity with an indicator of some kind to make sure you get the balance right.
It is also wise to sterilize the rainwater you collect.