Thursday, March 13, 2014

Water. How Much Is Enough To Store?

     Recommendations for storing emergency water are all over the internet, even on government sites that say that you should have at least one gallon of water per day per person.  That recommendation is repeated countless times by well-meaning individuals with You Tube Channels about "prepping" and how it should be done.  Life should go on as close to normal as possible, so there are some things that need to be considered.

     I found a suggested basic list online and modified it to suit my family's needs and preferences.  My list is prepared specifically for what I think we will need, and if in the case of a water non-availability event, it must be strictly adhered to and monitored for compliance.

     Here is my list of daily water requirements for the seven (7) people in my immediate family:

  • ·         Guard Dog - 40 oz. per day - I have a large 80 pound dog that is very protective and also very territorial.  That is a major asset for us.  I want to keep it watered, fed and happy so that it will continue to be an asset in maintaining our security.
  • ·         Cooking - 160 oz. per day - 4 cups to make breakfast, 8 cups to make lunch, 8 cups to make dinner.  I'm figuring water for one serving per person for instant oatmeal or grits, or their equivalent, but the catch is ONE serving.  Not two or three apiece.  I know that the real servings are rather small.  Lunch and dinner may consist of cooking vegetables, potatoes, rice or pasta to supplement the rest of the meal.
  • ·         Wash Body - 48 oz. per day - Taking a sponge bath is the Plan Of The Day until water is plentiful again.  Showering is not possible unless you take one outside when it is raining.  Just wear your bathing suit or set up a privacy fence.  A plan to divert rainwater ahead of time from a downspout to be used for bathing is an excellent idea. 
  • ·         Wash Hair - 48 oz. per day - At this rate, if you only wash your hair every other day with your allotted water reserve, you would be able to use 96 oz. per wash.  Again, planning ahead of time to divert rainwater would be extremely useful. 
  • ·         Wash Dishes - 64 oz. per day - Scrape off all the food you can from the dishes and use a damp dishcloth, not a sponge to wash them off.  Better still, disposable paper plates that you can burn for disposal would be a great idea.  In order to be able to do that, you need to make sure you have plenty of paper plates on hand.  If you buy a size with a smaller diameter than a dinner plate, you can get a larger quantity of paper plates for around the same price as the dinner plates. 
  • ·         Wash Clothes - 128 oz. per day - This is a calculated figure in that if you allot this amount per day, every few days you can effectively wash clothes, by hand only.  Remember, when the water supply is affected by an event, doing laundry every day will not be possible until water service is restored. 
  • ·         Brushing Teeth - 3 oz. per day - Using 3 oz. bathroom cups, dip the brush in the water in the cup, brush your teeth, spit out all you can, take a little sip and rinse your mouth, spit thoroughly, and drink the rest.  Don't just pour it down the sink.
  • ·         Water Garden - 32 oz. per day - I would accumulate this allotment for three days, then use a cup with a pour spout to distribute the water around the bases of the plants at sunset.  Before watering, be sure to "hill" the plants with a ring of soil around each plant so the water won't simply run off away from them. 
  • ·         Coffee/Tea - 16 oz. per day - Two cups of coffee or tea would be a much-appreciated creature comfort during stressful times.  Accumulate it over a couple of days if you choose to, and then make a container of Country Time lemonade or Kool-Aid for keeping the kids happy.
  • ·         Cleaning - 24 oz. per day - Sanitation of food preparation areas is critically important for not spreading germs and sickness.  A prepared chlorine bleach solution or Clorox Wipes would be excellent to have for this, but be sure to store several containers for this function as they will get used up quickly.
  • ·         Drinking - 64 oz. per day - That is just half a gallon of water and you might think that's not much, but drink that much every day for a week as a test before a crisis, and see if you don't get waterlogged.  Who knows? Maybe you'll want more than that.  That is exactly why you need to plan ahead to see what you really need.

     The calculations and considerations that I have employed to determine the amount of emergency water my family of seven (7) needs, brings me to a minimum requirement of three (3) gallons of water per day per person.  This was calculated over a multiple day period. That is how much water I plan to store for each person for each day, and for as many days as possible. 

     You can modify your daily habits like I did to compliment your water storage.  Something as simple as buying your orange juice (OJ) in a slightly larger container.  Instead of getting your OJ in smaller containers, go ahead and get the full gallon size and there's your water storage container!  You don't have to do it all at once.  A gradual accumulation of containers that are filled and sanitized right after they are emptied will end up providing a great source of safe drinking water before you realize it.  Be sure to sanitize the tops and threads too.

     When I made the change, I stopped buying the 59 ounce OJ containers, and switched to the full one gallon Minute Maid OJ containers.  I was impressed at how fast they accumulate!  I already have 18 of those one gallon containers filled with water for emergencies.  We also re-purpose the Welch's Grape Juice 96 ounce clear plastic containers to supplement our water storage.  I had begun saving the 96 ounce ones long before I started using the one gallon containers, and I have over 40 of those holding my emergency water supply.  I have over 60 gallons of water stored in re-purposed clear plastic juice containers!

     When it comes to storing these jugs, I don't just sit them on the floor. I buy Rubbermaid bus boxes (like the grey ones they use to clear tables in restaurants) from Sam's Club at two for $12 and change, to store my water containers in.  Each of the bus boxes holds eight of the 96 ounce containers, or six of the 1 gallon jugs, or twelve of the 59 ounce OJ containers that I previously bought my OJ in.  Now there is a dual purpose for this.  First, if a container leaks, my home doesn't get water damage, the repair of which would cost many times the amount for the bus box.  Second, if water was unavailable and the containers did leak, I wouldn't lose the water because it would still be in the bus box.  That makes the $6 (two for $12) cost of each bus box well worth it to me.

     You won't realize how bad you need/want it until you don't have it and can't get it.  I know personally because years ago a hurricane flooded our city's pump station and shorted out all the water distribution pumps, and the whole city was without running water for ten days.  It was just like in the movies with armed National Guard soldiers guarding the refrigerated trailer trucks positioned in the barricaded shopping center parking lot as the river of cars snaked through the maze.  Each car only received one case of water and one bag of ice, both shoved into your car through an open window, no matter how many people you had in your car.  You weren't allowed to stop and put it in your trunk because it would stop the traffic flow.  I was in that line and I don't ever want to have to do that again.

      In summary, I believe that the people that only store one gallon per person per day are going to be surprised to find that their emergency supply is insufficient to carry them through the crisis at a reasonable consumption rate.  It's better to not need all you have stored, rather than consume it all earlier than expected.  Right now it's easy to say, "It's only water."  Well then if it's only water, you have no reason to not store a sufficient quantity for your family. 

     Plan ahead so that unpleasant surprises are minimized.

Have a Great Prepping Day!
Bob Hotaling

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