July 16, 2013
Listening to the radio on the way into work this morning I learned that hundreds of thousands of people will be without water for “days.”
How many days? The official speaking on the radio would not say.
It would be difficult to come up with a worse time to deprive hundreds of thousands of people of life giving water. Today’s heat index is expected to hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit! Similar heat indices are expected throughout the remaining week.
According to the report the problem is found in a “Fifty four inch main that is without redundancy.” Monitors indicate that the main is going to blow. It is believed by the water provider that allowing the main to blow and then performing the repair would mean the end user would be without water even longer and that the repair would be more expensive.
How many of the people who will be affected by this water emergency will hear this warning? How many of those who do hear it will do so in time to act before the water is cut off and what little water is available in stores is gone?
How many of the people who hear this warning in time will act?
What should they do to prepare for a water emergency that will certainly last for days?
In heat like this each person needs two gallons of water a day. Having two gallons will provide at least a gallon for drinking and a little water for personal washing.
The official in the interview said that the water emergency would last for, “days.” He would not elaborate further. Does that mean two days, five days, or thirty days?
Let us suppose for the moment that the water emergency may go on for a as little as a week. Let us also suppose that we are planning for a family of four. Each person will need two gallons of water per day. Remember this only allows for drinking, cooking, and some personal washing. Never mind flushing the toilet, bathing, or washing clothes or dishes!
Based on the bare minimum of two gallons a day, a family of four will require at least eight gallons of water per day. Just to provide drinking water for a family of four for one week you must set aside fifty six gallons of water – or just a little more than one fifty five gallon drum full of water. That will get you through ONE WEEK!
Unless of course you have friends and family who are in need and come to you for help…
What will you do then?
If you are selfish you will turn them away. If you are a little more thoughtful you will prepare something extra for those who may come begging when they realize that you have resources that they do not.
If you are the thoughtful type you may well need to set aside twice what your family needs to offset the suffering of others!
Storing water takes up a great deal of space – especially if you are the kind of person who thinks that buying cases upon case of individual bottles in smart.
Consider storing water in food grade fifty five gallon drums. It will take up much less space! The up front cost of buying food grade drums can be expensive but it will be much less costly then purchasing cases of individual bottles. Another benefit that drives down the cost is that you can reuse the drums again and again. Two drums will store enough water to provide a family of four with drinking water for two weeks during a water emergency like the one about to occur in southern Prince George’s County. Four drums will provide that same family with drinking water for a month or will ensure you have a little something to share with the ill prepared during a shorter emergency.
Be mindful though – that much water is very heavy. Plan accordingly to prevent damage to your home. If possible keep it on the ground floor. It may also be a good idea to store barrels in separate areas to distribute weight.
If you choose to use fifty five gallon drums you have the added benefit of having a drum or two to convert to rain barrels should the need arise.
During an ongoing water emergency you will quickly find that life does not continue as we know it today. Due to a lack of water the washing machine will no longer clean your clothes. The dishwasher will no longer wash your dishes. Showers will no longer flow. Toilets will stop flushing!
Your drinking water is only for drinking, cooking, and personal washing. That precious two gallons a day will not provide water for dirty dishes, laundry, or toilets.
So what do you do?
The hard facts are these: During an ongoing water emergency you will have to make serious changes in the way you deal with sanitation.
Paper plates and plastic cups, and bowls purchased in bulk will help offset the need to wash dishes – at least in the short term.
Hand sanitizer provides a means to clean dirty hands and frees up more water for drinking.
You may find it necessary to wear your clothes longer between cleaning than you prefer. Hand wash under garments, using as little water and possible, will make life a bit more pleasant. Let the jeans and outer shirts go. During a water emergency (remember we are not talking about life as per usual here – this is and EMERGENCY and there is no water flowing from the tap) things will change – there simply won’t be enough water to live as we are accustomed.
Whatever you do – do NOT use your drinking water for anything other than drinking, cooking, and a bit of personal washing!
As for as bathroom habits go here are some tips:
You need heavy duty garbage bags. Empty your toilet bowl of water then line the emptied bowl with the heavy gauge plastic trash bag. Use the toilet this way. If you have kitty litter sprinkle a little over the contents of the bag after each use. Saw dust or even leaves are also good alternatives to kitty litter. Doing this helps keep the smell down. Replace the bag as needed. Do not wait until the bag is to heavy to manage or until it becomes so heavy it may burst! Place the bags of waste outside your home for trash pick up.
I suggest listening to the radio for public service announcements. Your local government may have different or additional instructions for you to follow. If they do provide direction in this regard you should pay attention. If they do not that is just fine – you know how to proceed.
Don’t forget hand sanitizer!
When the water is off cooking soups and stews (that are full of water) is a good idea!
Drinking alcohol and soda is a bad idea. Both of these dehydrate!
During a water emergency dehydration is a much greater problem than normal. Be sure that everyone in your home is drinking plenty of water! The onset of diarrhea can quickly become an emergency! Be prepared with anti-diarrhea meds. If they don’t work – seek medical attention!
Standing in line made up of angry, desperate people with jugs, pans, and buckets waiting for your turn at a spigot at the back of a tanker truck is a terrible way to spend your time. If you prepare in advance for your and your family’s needs, the likelihood of you having to brave those desperate lines will be much lower.
The math is simple: Two gallons of water for drinking, cooking, and a bit of personal washing – per person, per day is the absolute minimum you should plan for.
Paper and plastic dishes will give you something to eat off of without having to use vital water resources for washing. Keep in mind though that the is a short term solution.
Set aside more water for cleaning undergarments – do not use your drinking water for this! Let your outer garments go.
Heavy plastic bags (the strongest you can find) to line your toilet will allow the bathroom to continue to be used with only some inconvenience.
Don’t forget to store – and use, hand sanitizer!
We are all responsible for ourselves and for our families. This water emergency comes with a warning – most emergencies do not! Don’t count on the government, the community, or your neighbors to provide for you. Take action now so that your family need not fear a water emergency or any other emergency.
Barking Window (BW) where this article first appeared promotes a philosophy of self reliance. This is a place for those who believe in the wisdom of being prepared for hard times and recognize the value of doing it yourself.
All of our writers are able proponents of self reliance. We have different political views. We follow different spiritual paths. We do not write with an agenda beyond that of promoting self reliance and disaster preparedness. Rather the writers who are good enough to share their work on BW have a genuine desire to contribute to a pool of knowledge that may benefit the reader.