The day has come and the power grid is down. You were one of the smart ones and prepared yourself and your home to survive the next great disaster. You gather your supplies together and realize that the one thing that completely slipped your mind was a fresh supply of water! Such an oversight is unfortunate, but all too common. Before this hypothetical situation becomes a reality, you can make preparations to ensure that you have access to clean, drinkable water.
Many people in dire situations (such as a lack of available water), may resort to drinking water from local ponds. The main concern is that these sources of water are stagnant and full of bacteria and deadly organisms. Most people don’t realize that there are millions of gallons of fresh, clean, drinkable water right under their feet. If you have a dog, chances are your canine friend has probably already pointed out the solution many times.
That’s right—the neighborhood fire hydrant could save your life and the lives of your neighbors. The only tool you will need is a hydrant wrench, which can easily be ordered online (for now). You may also need a length of 1” galvanized pipe to help with leverage if your fire hydrant is rusted or overly tight.
The key is to identify the lowest elevation hydrants in your neighborhood or area. This can be done in most places by simply taking a walk and noting which hydrants are at the lowest points. For areas that are relatively flat, researching the topography of your neighborhood with the help of Google Earth could prove useful.
So how can hydrants possibly be the solution? Even when the power grid is down or the local water tower is empty, the water lines that feed your neighborhood hydrants are very likely still full of water. For illustration purposes, an eight-inch water line will hold about 2 gallons of water per linear foot, and twelve-inch lines will hold about 6 gallons of water per linear foot. If you happen to live near an industrial area, chances are that those water lines are even larger. The reason to identify the lowest elevation hydrant is to ensure that there is some downward pressure to help push the water out. The full force of a pressurized line is not necessary because all that is needed to push the water out can be as little as 3 pounds per square inch or about as much pressure from a simple water fountain.
When the need arises, slowly open the hydrant with your wrench and collect the water into five gallon buckets for transportation. When you get home, transfer the water into clean, one gallon milk jugs and close them tight. One word of warning here: do not attempt to collect water from any pipe system or hydrant that is painted purple; this water is not potable. You’ll probably want to fill your 5-gallon buckets far in advance in order to experiment with the best way to transport them from the hydrant to your home. You’ll be surprised how heavy those 5-gallon buckets are to carry, especially if it’s uphill!
With a little amount of preparation before disaster strikes, you could help not only yourself and your family, but your whole neighborhood with a much needed resource. If you are concerned about getting in trouble for tapping into the water line, the chances are that your local emergency response team will have much more important things to worry about. It won’t hurt to offer to pay for the water if anyone ever asks. Just make a note of the days you accessed it and approximately how much water you used.
Of course, this is only a short-term solution because eventually that water will run out as well, so stay tuned for future articles addressing fresh water off-the-grid.