If most people take an honest assessment of their water supplies and their capability to stay self-sufficient in the event of a major catastrophe or prolonged off-the-grid situation, they will become suddenly aware of their planning shortcomings and the room for improvement. A key case in point is water. Water is an essential component to life; it is not a fringe need. As humans, we consume so much of it, yet plan so little for it in the future because of its perceived abundance.
Recently, many Americans have become aware of the shortages of fresh water and the need to prepare for a time when freshwater may be very difficult to obtain, yet many of them still haven’t put that plan into effect. How much will you need? How will you store it? Should you plan on using chemical or mechanical treatments to keep water drinkable and safe? What are the drawbacks of the different methods? This article is about the preparation for your future sustainability with regards to one of the most essential elements to the human body.
New food-grade plastic or glass containers will work well when storing water for the long term, but even better is a long shelf life, pre-filled, sealed water bottle (think Arrowhead or Crystal Geyser, etc.). The temptation to re-use milk or soda bottles should be avoided in most cases, as they can transmit bacteria and tastes to the water. If you need them, you can use them as a short-term water solution or for water that will be used often and will be specifically purposed as short-term drinking water. You can also use these used jugs to hold water for pets, plants, and other uses, where public water access would not be acceptable in a major event, but keep in mind the storage space concerns that come into play.
Metal (stainless steel or high-quality food-grade aluminum) containers may also be used, but cannot generally store water that has been or will be treated with chemical treatments while in contact with the container. Container sizing will be an important factor, as well as stackability, structural integrity of the container, and footprint size. These factors will determine the realistic amount that you can store in the space you have. Remember that water is equally important to food and medical emergency supplies, but much more is needed; adjust storage space to reflect this.
Sizing ranges from one-pint bottles to fifty-five-gallon drums, and it’s important for you to look at your needs, space, and type of treatment. You must also take into account water sources, medical needs, and your ability to sustain water need in a variety of situations.
Looking for appropriate containers and other treatment and storage products will seem both easy and vast, but the truth is, it’s more than simply looking for a bottle and turning the tap on. There are many reasons why you should take seriously the proper storage, maintenance, and usage of your water supply, not the least of which is that it will be your lifeline in any scenario. An average human can only be without water for a few days under normal circumstances.
Pick the largest-sized container you are comfortable with moving or accessing water from, as that will be your most efficient storage method usually. Don’t hesitate to throw in some small bottles though, to help with rationing, should the situation dictate that. While many organizations say not to ration water, rationing is simply controlling access and usage of water, when there is no other means of derivation of new water.
Although it will be more expensive, a good basic method for building a water storehouse is to simply buy prepackaged water and then supplement it with larger self-filled containers later. The shelf life and taste of factory-sealed water will almost always be better than non-factory-sealed. Huge storage containers can be pricey, but it is very efficient for your space. Remember one gallon of water is eight pounds, making a fifty-five-gallon plastic drum will be immovable by one person, so you must plan accordingly.
One thing you MUST remember is that even with quality procedures in bottling your own water, it may still get contaminated in some way and may require filtering and removal of tastes and odors.
Charcoal pre-filters and gravity-fed mechanical filters like those made by Katydyn, Pur, and Platypus are excellent choices. The next article in this series will cover filtration and purification of water along with emergency techniques for obtaining water, in case you are subjected to a more extreme scenario.
*Water for thought: You might even want to freeze a couple of bottles of water. This can assist in keeping food spoilage to a minimum in case of power outage. Rule of thumb when placing water bottles in the freezer is to leave at least two to three inches of space as water expands when it freezes.
The shelf-life expectancy of water is indefinite if properly stored. It is highly practical, however, to use water and replace it as needed every six to twelve months. Water rotation is a great way to experiment and check the amount of water stored against the amount of water your household requires. This can also be a system used to check if any viruses or bacteria have invaded your water as a result of not sanitizing one hundred percent.
Water containers can be sanitized after washing by adding a tablespoon of chlorine bleach to a gallon of water and letting the water sit for a couple minutes, then emptying and air drying.
Again, don’t utilize pre-used containers for long-term storage, including anything that has had food, chemicals, or perishable liquids in it, as it increases the risk of dangerous bacterial growth.
Plan to have AT MINIMUM: one gallon of fresh water per day for each person in your group. You SHOULD plan for more like one and a half gallons per person, while also paying a lot of attention to alternate methods of water acquisition and working towards creating a much more substantial store of water than you expect to reasonably use.
Use a rotation system if you are a heavy water drinker, as it will keep the longest dates in your storage and bring water that needs to be replaced into daily usage, so you have relatively no loss present in your water storage plan. Theoretically, water has a use-by date, but it’s rare that sanitized and well-sealed water containers will cause a bacterial problem, or even a taste and odor problem.
Occasionally some plastics will begin to fume when they age, giving an off-putting odor or even a mild flavor to the stored water, but this is usually not an issue if the plastic is food grade. Rest assured that in a survival-type situation, it is safe enough to drink water with a flavor or odor as long as you can ensure that there aren’t harmful bacteria or viral microorganisms in the water. The odor and taste can be reduced by using specific types charcoal to filter them out.
The second part of this two-part article on water will examine in depth the various ways you can access fresh drinking water in a variety of conditions and situations.
Tips for keeping your water supply stable:
- In the event that a major event happens (and you don’t have toddlers which could drown easily), fill the tubs and sinks with water to extract the maximum amount of water before negative impact on the supply occurs. Also fill up jugs and buckets if you have them to have fresh water available to buoy your total supplies.
- Check your water heater for extra water (it’s in there) if it gets to that point. Make sure you have shut off the fuel and ignition source for your water heater and that you exercise caution in retrieving the water inside it.
- Make sure you have water sourced from different places so you don’t end up getting all your water from a source that could be contaminated. Water can sometimes be holding bacteria or chemicals in it, which can react with storage containers and cause illness. If you make a “portfolio” of water and diversify it, so not too much of it comes from any one specific source, it will guard against things like this.
If some parts of this article seem redundant, that’s the point. Water is incredibly important—life sustaining, in fact. If you are not taking your water storage seriously, you are not doing yourself any favors. Be on the lookout for part two to this article to get some excellent tips and reviews on water purification and obtaining water in survival situations. It’s relatively cheap compared to other parts of your preparations for off-the-grid living, and it’s essential to work on your planning and get started as soon as possible.
©2011 Off the Grid News