Emergency Water Supply and Safety

emergency water

Do you have some emergency water? Do you have any water saved up in case your current water supply becomes contaminated or unavailable? Water is one of the most important, if not THE MOST important thing to your survival.

I grew up in the mountains where we relied on well water and occasionally, natural spring water. But, we didn’t always have a good amount, despite having a larger than average storage tank. Low gallons/minute pump rates, frozen pipes and droughts all affected the water we had available to us. To combat this, my grandma always taught us to store gallon jugs of water -recycled milk jugs for flushing toilets and other cleaning necessities, and gallons of bottled drinking water.

For the first eight years of our marriage, my husband and I lived in the city. As you can imagine, it was pretty tough for a mountain girl, but we made the most of it. We relied on municipal “city” water but we had no real way to store water for emergencies. We still had some gallons of water stored in the garage just like my grandmother taught me, but in the scorching summer heat, those gallons deteriorated rapidly.

It was also during this time, that I started to go into super “prep” mode. We’d gotten our 72 hour kits together, we had our food storage, but we just didn’t have a good solution to emergency water. After reading a few very interesting books, I began to realize all the catastrophic things that could happen to our water supply and I knew that I needed to do something about it so that our family was cared for and  we could help a few of our neighbors out too.

Enter the FOOD GRADE 55 GALLON water storage barrels.

After scouring the internet for deals on these durable, long lasting storage barrels, we ended up finding a good deal on Craigslist. We found a very legitimate guy who all he did was purchase these storage containers in bulk, and deliver them to his customers up and down California. This guy was wonderful and his main concern was helping people be prepared with emergency water. We purchased three storage containers through him, set them up in our garage, then filled them with water. We instantly felt better and became the only family on our street to have an emergency supply of water. It wasn’t nearly enough to help all our neighbors, but it was a good start for our family.

Our job wasn’t done though.

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Next we learned about water purification.

Our emergency store of water was still going to need to be boiled, treated, or filtered to be safe to drink.

We bought a Safety Siphon to make drawing water out of the barrels easy. Next we stocked up on propane gas for our camping stove (even though we had a gas stove for our house), and we already had a really awesome MSR filter from backpacking.  We felt confident that if we had to use it, we could use our emergency water safely.

But then something happened a few summers ago . . .

As I’ve previously mentioned, my husband and I are backpackers. What’s something that essential to a backpacker’s safety? Water!

As part of our preparation for a hike, we always inspect our gear before leaving to make sure everything is in proper working order. Everything was working great and we set set off. After a very long hike in the dark with headlights (THAT was a fun adventure), we found our destination, set up camp, re-hydrated and then tucked in for the night. The next morning, after discovering we were camped too close to the water, my husband went to work moving our camp and I headed to the lake with our trusty water filter and nalgene bottles.  I found a comfortable spot to sit, hooked up the filter to the water bottle and pumped away.

Nothing happened.

A feeling of dread went through me. I tried everything in my knowledge to get this water filter to pump, but it just wouldn’t work. Something had broke.

We were in trouble.

We only had one and a half bottles left. It was just enough water that we could hike back to our car, ending our trip. Ultimately, we decided that I would stay in camp with half the water, while my husband used the other half to hike back to the car (about 5 miles over grueling terrain). From there he would drive to the nearest civilization 30 minutes away where he would try to find a water pump to buy, barrow or drive another two hours into the city. Then, once getting the new filter, he would drive and hike all the way back to me.

This made for a long and grueling day for my husband and gave me lots of alone time to worry and think about what could have happened if this had been a longer hike. It made me realize that things sometimes break at the absolute wrong time and you need to be prepared for it.

When we got home, we figured out what went wrong with our water filter.

We had had it for over ten years and had never done any maintenance on it. (Palm to the face!) We felt pretty foolish. My husband immediately bought a maintenance kit, fixed the filter and now keeps the kit with the pump at all times. I also insisted that we purchase these lightweight water purification tablets, not only to carry with us backpacking, but also to keep with our 72 hour kits. We weren’t going to let an equipment failure put us in danger again -because we really were in danger. By the time my husband got back with a new water filter, I was pretty dehydrated and instead of spending the day exploring and hiking, we concentrated on getting fluids back into our bodies.

To end, it’s important to have an emergency supply of water.

There are different ways to do it, 55 gallon barrels being one of them. Just as important as having your emergency water, is having a way to make it safe to drink. If you are truly in an emergency situation, you can’t afford to get sick by drinking contaminated water or water filled with parasites. You will be of no help to yourself or those around you if you get sick, or worse, die because of drinking unsafe water. DON’T RISK IT!

How much emergency water should you have?

One standard amount is to have one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. This of course is going to vary depending on your needs. I would actually say this is the bare minimum. The Ready Store has a neat Water Storage Calculator, but I don’t have personal experience with the rest of their website.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) also has a useful site about creating and storing emergency water if you would like to read more. Their “Make Water Safe” and “Drink Safe Water” are helpful visuals and a good resource to share with others.

Now it’s your turn. What have you done about emergency water? Or, what will you do now that you’ve read this post? I’d love to know!

P.S. My next emergency preparedness post will be about making 72 hour kits. I’ve taught classes on this and have found all kinds of practical ways to create a 72 hour kit that works for YOU. When I have the post up, I will return here and add a link.

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