June 24, 2017

Potable Water Preparedness

Potable Water Preparedness

Having fresh drinking water is something I think most people take for granted. But if the faucets quit running, or the water coming out of them is unsafe, we would quickly find ourselves in trouble! The rule of threes tells us that the average human can go three days without water. But that doesn’t say how bad you’ll be feeling after just one day without water. It doesn’t say that if the temps are hotter you could very well have less than three days to live without water.

The rule of threes also doesn’t say how people will act when they realize they can’t depend on the tap to give them safe drinking water. Over the last few years I have read of multiple water main breaks, or accidental spills that polluted various cities’ water supplies. In many of these cases I have read of fist fights breaking out; people fighting over a case of water bottles. As I’ll point out below, when it comes to water, there is no silver bullet that will take care of all of your water needs.

Water Filters and Purifiers

I firmly believe everyone should own a water purifier as a part of their preps. However, this is not a silver bullet that will fix all of your water problems. You may remember hearing about the the chemical leak in West Virginia that left 300,000 people without drinkable water. A company had a tank containing a compound called 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol that leaked into a local river. As it turns out, this compound is too small to be filtered out by even the best water filters.

One other thing to keep in mind about purifying water is that many means of purifying only take care of bacteria and viruses. Boiling, for example, will kill all bacteria and viruses by the time the water begins to boil but will not remove any of the chemicals that were in that water. The same can be said for UV purifiers, Iodine and water purification tablets.

Water Storage

There is a rule of thumb about water storage that says to store one gallon of water per person per day for drinking. My problem with this rule is that I drink that much per day now, and I am not exerting myself like I might be when the stuff begins to fly. The temps where I live are also much cooler than they will be in a few months. I have also heard people say to store two gallons, using the second gallon for cooking and cleaning. I think this number is actually safer, but now you need to increase the amount of storage needed.

I have seen some water storage systems that use multiple 55 gallon food grade drums to store water. While this is a great idea, it requires a good amount of space to house the drums, not to mention the cost of the barrels.

I Own a Well

Owning a well takes care of some of the water problems, but not all of them. The pumps are electricity driven, so if the grid goes down, or your pump breaks down, you have water, but no way to get to it. You could switch to a solar powered pump and have a spare, but I have no idea if this is cost effective.

Water Procurement

What I mean by “water procurement” is the ability to find water nearby (within walking distance) that you could bring home to purify. I can think of five places nearby where I could get water, but I live in the land of 10,000 (actually closer to 20,000) lakes, not to mention rivers, streams, ponds and so on, so I realize I have it easier than some of you in this regard.

Here are a few places that are not natural bodies of water that I keep in mind for procuring water. Nearby swimming pools; yes they have chlorine but that will off-gas in a matter of days. Depending on where you live, hot water heaters also hold 30-40 gallons (some more). I had two rain barrels going last year. Within minutes of a moderate rainfall, they were both full. The water was filthy, so it would definitely need to be filtered.

Putting it All Together

We don’t know what might happen to threaten our supply of drinking water, so there is no single silver bullet solution. What is the answer to this problem? Redundancy! I think it is wise to consider all of the above and incorporate them into your preparations. Have some water stored to get you through small emergencies, but also know multiple locations near you where you can procure more water, be they natural or man-made. Have a means to purify that water!

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  1. do any of your readers know how to pull the inner pipe from a water well?

  2. Is there any available and reasonably cost effective way for an individual to have gotten that chemical out of the water in WV and made it potable? We live on a huge lake fed by a major river that we are counting on for our primary SHTF water supply. Should this become polluted, I have always felt secure in the idea that our Berkey could handle it. Now I am not so sure. We have a limited amount of water stored in case we physically couldn’t get to the water source for a week or so. We also have Lifestraws and Berkey Sport bottles, water purification tablets, bleach and pool shock. What am I missing?

    • Check out sawyer point one filters on the internet. I can’t remember the website but they were developed for kidney dialasys. They use them in third world countries to filter dirty disease infested water. We had a guy bring one to our church and it workswith 5 gallon bucket. He got water out of the ditch and gave us cups full of the water. It tasted good and I was purified. Great bye for 70 bucks. Easy to clean and reuse.

    • Yes, a water still. It converts the water to steam, kills pathogens, and the removes chemicals with a lower or higher boiling point. The chemical in Virginia had a higher boiling point and would have been left in the bottom of the still with pure water coming out. BTW, I’m out west and the Southern Rockies only have 12% snow pack so expecting shortages. Just installing a 850 gallon tank now.

      • A still is a good idea. I have a couple of ways to distill water.
        Hey Steve, what about where the MSDS says “At Elevated Temperatures, vapor may cause irritation of eye and respiratory tract.” Couldn’t that mean that the vapor could contain some of the chemical, or another it transformed into?
        Just curious.
        Brrr to the snow! 850 Gallons; sounds like a great addition to your preps.

      • How would one go about finding the boiling point of a chemical?

      • Steve, just wondering, are many people in ur area installing larger water b/c the snow pack is so light? & also CA state just announced that they were not releasing any water to city or county municipalities or to farmers this year, altho that may have just applied to the central valley.

        • The crisis hasn’t been announced in AZ yet. A significant part of the population gets water from canals fed by Colorado river. AZ will get its share cut before NV or CA do. Still, no announcements yet. I am talking to local prepper groups about increasing their storage.

    • I don’t believe there was any way to filter it out. I checked with the Berkey Guy and he said the Berkey could not remove it.

      I think you could still consider it your primary source, but don’t stop there. Put some redundancy in place, store some water, and find other sources nearby.

  3. Interesting Question Donna! I don’t think anyone knows for sure.
    The chemical spill consisted of Crude MCHM. The MSDS for that includes six other ingredients: 4-(methoxymethyl)cyclohexanemethanol, water, methyl 4-methylcyclohexanecarboxylate, dimethyl 1,4-cyclohexanedicarboxylate, methanol and 1,4-cyclohexanedimethanol. Just the first chemical, 4-(methoxymethyl)cyclohexanemethanol, has a half-life of two weeks, meaning after two weeks 50% of it turns into another chemical. Another issue was the collecting of the chemicals on the internal surface of the pipes. Who knows how to get rid of that except replacing ALL the pipes. Running this through the Berkey would certainly ruin the filters quickly I would think.
    Best idea is to have an alternate source for water.
    In a case like this in a SHTF situation there probably would not be any notification.
    What I would do if I suspected a tainted water supply like this and didn’t have an alternate. I would store as much water as I could, filtering it through cotton or paper filter (then destroy the filters), leave for as long as I could (date and rotate), leaving it open to air to get the “half-life” affect, like the two weeks. I would assemble a slow sand filter the best I could (look it up if you don’t know how, good for community project). Then I would boil it, let it cool, run it through the slow sand filter then run it through a Big Berkey.
    The only other alternative, IMO, change location.

  4. Good stuff Chris. So very important. I love the plan, Redundancy!
    Gotta have good water or move to where you do!

  5. I live in dry Arizona and have no money or resources to move . water is a big problem here especially with more new people moving in here from other states. Chris is right about faucets drying up in a moment notice. Our lakes are pretty dry and there is no running water in our creeks. any new ideas from any one are welcomed.

    • Sorry to say I don’t have any ideas, if anyone else who is familiar with drier climates has any, please let Pete know.

      • Lately, I have been thinking of the opposite. I also live in the land of 10,000 lakes and even though there is a river reasonably close by I have often thought about how I could gather water when everything is frozen 4 feet down (some lakes might be even deeper this year with how cold it has been). I know the rivers do not freeze like that, but how can one create a sustainable method of capturing water that is trapped beneath that much ice??

        • I have thought of this as well. While the ice is a bit thicker this year, we have a few feet of snow that we could thaw. One could chip ice and thaw it as well. Just place it in a bucket and pour the water in the filter as it thaws.

          • One of the challenges I see there is that in a grid down situation, you are going to be burning a lot of fuel (propane, wood or whatever it might be) to melt that snow and/or ice. It takes a stinking long time for large amounts of ice to melt at room temperature. Plus it takes a boatload of snow to create a measurable amount of water. On the other hand, when there is snow all over the place, it would make for easy collection versus chipping and hauling ice from a lake or river….

    • My brother lives in Arizona and he stores water outside in those big – huge – plastic storage containers meant for water. Every few months, he empties them out and puts in fresh water. That gives you a big amount that will last for a while. Other than that, they plan to raid swimming pools. Keep lots of filters for your Berkey stuff. Make a water catchment system so when you have your storms – especially monsoons – you can collect the water. You can do that will some sheets of plastic and something propped underneath the edges to hold the sides from collapsing. Then think about getting above ground swimming pools – as big as you can handle – and setting them up to hold water. Cover them in Arizona or they will evaporate right away in short order. These are just a few things you can do. Spend time planning now for survival later.

  6. I have mentioned it before and will mention it again. Save every single glass jar/bottle you can get your hands on and fill them with water NOW when you have the clean stuff. Store them anywhere/everywhere. If you don’t have room, make room. It is more important to have water than any other item in your house, so I would live with less room to live and more room to store water. Pack it up in cardboard boxes and use them for end tables or coffee tables or nightstands. Try the garage. Try the basement. Try the attic. Try under the beds, in drawers, in cupboards. If nothing else, rent a storage locker. That may seem extravagant now, but would it, if there were no clean water anywhere to drink? If for no other reason, it would be something to barter.

    • mariowen thanks for those ideas , I could start with jars about any size . my brother owns his home near mountains and his well dried up , so now he has to haul water into his property in one of those huge water containers on trailer. I have no idea if that big plastic container ( about 300- 500 gals} is bpa free. I would need to inquire within the seller and get further information. I know wally world sells 7 gal bpa free containers for about $7 and recently bought one. I guess I will continue to buy the 7 gal container as per pay check is growing smaller by the week with the cost of food going up . I also know there are persons that haul water for a fee in a personal water tank truck and make a living doing so. I however will continue to pray and seek new ideas for the water need is very great here.

    • We’ve been freezing water in 2 liter bottles when we empty them.

  7. Carl Rooker says:

    Some toxins can be filtered out using “activated charcoal”, but the still is probaby the best way to purify poluted water.

    During certain times of the year you can get surprizing amounts of water from Maple Trees, Birch Trees, and grape vines. Tap into the trees, or cut the vines. During other times, a clear plastic bag placed over a bunch of the leaves (still on the tree or vine) and the sun will distill considerable amounts of water too (takes quite a few to get a lot of water). Or you can take non poiseness vegetation and place in a plastic bag and leave in the sun. Won’t give as much water as the above methods, but will give some.

    • Carl thanks for your comments . every little bit of wisdom goes a long way. Here in Arizona I know that some cacti have some percentage of water in it and we have those in plenty out in the countryside. the only thing is to watch out for rattlers and other venomous reptiles that hang around some of those desert plants. again thanks !

      • Carl Rooker says:

        cactus should work well in a water still. You can even get water out of the snakes and other reptiles (as well as meat)..

        The simple ground still of survival lore is useful, but you can improve on that by using a container with a lid whose outlet is connected to a tube that can be cooled. You can then heat this container with a small fire, or with the sun. Such a system can use polluted water, salt water, or the more solid sources metioed above. Just make sure to stop the process before the vegetation or meats burn.

        You can spend a lot of money buying such a device, or simply make your own.

  8. I was prepping for about 8-10 months b/4 I read enough to realize that WATER needs to be a prepper’s FIRST PRIORITY. & while I’ve made a lot of progress, I still need to get our 55 gal rain barrels set up to be filled outside.

    Also have a ceramic berkley-type filter w/ a # of clean, food grade buckets & lids, as well as many gal’s in bottles.

    I have Katalyn filter stored. Does anyone know how long the unit & filters would last if I do not use them until post-disaster? Do they have an expiration date of any kind?

    • I don’t think they’ll expire by sitting on the shelf. I know the Berkey has a gallon filtered expiration, I bet they all have something similar.

  9. Great info, thanks :-)

  10. Hi, a question I keep running into regarding water storage is how to do it without running into problems with mold, or other bacteria etc developing in the stored water barrels? Are we supposed to treat the water throughout, or this is a waste? How does one determine this? How often should this be rotated or changed? I read on another blog about this, I apologize I cannot remember which one (I have been researching this all over the internet) but they mentioned this concern too. Also what about those of us that can’t physically move the heavier containers? thanks

    • Chris Ray says:

      If mold is a concern, you certainly can treat the water with a bit of bleach when you store it.

      Cycle the water every six months or so.

      Water in big containers is going to be very heavy, so make sure the containers are where you want them for long term storage before you fill them. I bought a special hose just for this purpose.

  11. Jim Moore says:

    Hey jcgl, good questions. Chris has an awesome reference here; http://preparedchristian.net/the-storage-filtration-and-purification-of-water

    Other good info is out there, here is one from the CDC; http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/safe_water/personal.html

    One thing to keep in mind in long term storage of bleach is that the plastic bottles it most often comes in will break down. I use gallon size glass wine bottles and keep it in a dark place.

    Light, as in sunlight, is one thing that most often stimulates mold or algae in water. So storing in a dark place and/or in dark containers is a good idea. Even the powdered versions of what we know as chlorine kept in plastic could be a problem.

    Personally, I have long term and short term water storage as there are different needs for waters every day use. The drinking water is rotated short term and the other use more long term. I would use bleach probably to purify the long term storage water if I intended to convert it to drinkable water. Then I would pump it out of the tank and run it through my Berkey to be sure. When all the bleach is gone I would probably boil it first, let it cool then run it through the Berkey. When the Berkey filters are used up I’ll make a Slow Sand Filter and keep attending it for drinkable water. Here is a link to an easy slow sand filter; http://www.susana.org/docs_ccbk/susana_download/2-394-hesperian-appropriate-tech-sandfilter.pdf
    I highly recommend Hesperian Guides (http://hesperian.org) and I think the Slow Sand Filter and other water purification techniques can be found in Community Guide to Environmental Health.

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