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Where is Your Water?

As we have previously discovered, going without water for three to four days is generally long enough to be fatal. Most of the normal functions of our body require water to work properly. So, a reliable water supply is critical to long-term well-being.

An adult at rest will use from two to two and a half quarts of water in a day. Working and high temperatures can increase that use dramatically. Hard work in high temperatures can result in as much as one gallon loss in sweat. Losing water increases heart rate which adds further physical stress. Hopefully, you recognize that dehydration is a serious issue.

Losing just 2% of body weight in water compromises overall judgement and limits physical endurance. This means you don’t think as well or work as well with just a 2% weight loss of water. Two percent for a 150 lb. person is just three pounds, or less than two quarts.

Most people think that thirst is a good indicator of hydration. Being thirsty is an indicator that you have lost two to three pints of water. The margin between being thirsty and functional loss may be as little as one to two pints of water.

Unfortunately, when we feel thirsty, we drink a glass of water and assume that our hydration is fixed. Recognizing that a glass of water is less than a pint, a typical adult would still need to drink a lot of water to get back to acceptable hydration.

The need for water continues regardless of the external conditions we face. If our normal water supply is interrupted, we have a very limited time to fix the problem before serious and potentially irreversible changes occur. Going thirsty will eventually catch up to us. So, we need to know where our water comes from and have several alternate sources for emergency situations. We will talk about water safety in a future posting; for now, let’s try to identify the primary sources.

Emergency planners recommend a minimum storage of one gallon per person per day. If you are working or stressed, that minimum will potentially double or triple. Let’s assume that you want to have a supply of two gallons per person per day. For my household, that is only four gallons per day. I have 90 gallons of water stored, a 3 week supply for my house3hold. But what happens after 3 weeks?

How much water do you have stored and how long will it last for your family? You need to know these two numbers. The last number is the time you have to establish an alternative water supply. If there is a local, regional, or national catastrophe, the public water systems may not be reliable or functional. Watching recent community emergencies it is clear that potable water does go away in any widespread emergency. In an emergency, you should fill every container you can at the outset. Waiting may result in not having water. Bathtubs, water heaters, pans, and buckets are all useful in this scenario.

Single use water bottles are not very effective for long-term storage. They are not physically strong and there is debate about the safety of the containers for long-term use. Food grade, plastic drums are a good resource for water storage. Here are a few sources you can investigate:

Barrel Superstore

Ohio Barrel

If you purchase barrels, spend some time thinking about the weight of water. Food-grade barrels come in 15-gallon, 30-gallon, and 55-gallon sizes. There are also water tanks that will go in the garage that store up to 300 gallons. Remember water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon. A 15-gallon barrel will weigh about 120 pounds. Plan ahead. Consider whether you will have to move the drum and if so, how will you do it.

Surface water may be a good source, but remember that the surface water you may be trying to use may also be the primary target of everyone else that lives around you. The river that flows near my home, has a minimum average flow of about 2 ,000 gallons per second in the lowest flow month. That is about 1.4 million gallons during the daylight hours; that is a lot of water. This river flows directly through cities with well over 350,000 people; that could easily represent 100,000 use sites (households, etc.). Doing the math yields about 14 gallons per use site. But it is likely that 1/3 of the water would not be accessible because of the nature of a river channel. It is also likely that through carelessness, 25% of the collected water would be lost. With these assumptions, the total calculated availability of 14 gallons per use site now becomes seven gallons. Based on the 3.5 person per site average the river becomes a source of 2 gallons per day. You can see that a river doesn’t contain that much water when you do the math. Because most of those people live upstream from me, it is not unreasonable to expect to find no water in the river on any given day. We have an extensive network of canals for irrigation that take water from the river. Those canals distribute the water to a wide area but they use the same water supply so they will definitely not flow a normal level in an emergency. Surface water may be a good supply for you but challenge your assumptions before you bet your life on it.

Rainwater is a particularly interesting water source. In a location with a 12-inch annual rainfall, an 800 square foot roof will capture almost 6,000 gallons of water. Such a system will make you water-independent in an emergency, but you have to store it. Rain has a nasty habit of not happening just because you need water. This doesn’t mean you need to be able to store your annual usage, but you should look at average monthly rainfall numbers and allow some margin in your collection capacity. If you get two inches in one month and then nothing for three months, you need to capture the rain you need to get through the dry months. The link below is to a supplier of rainwater harvesting systems.

Blue Barrel Rainwater Systems

You can build your own rainwater harvesting system, but you need to acquire the parts you need before you need the water. If you have to harvest rainwater, when an emergency happens it will be too late to get the parts.

To calculate your capacity to capture rainwater:

  • Measure the roof area; the square feet of roof supplying water to a downspout

  • Lookup the average rainfall in inches in your area by month

  • Calculate your captured water per month; (roof area) X ((month average rainfall) / 12) X 7.5 X 0.9

For example, assume you have 800 square feet of roof draining to one downspout and a month rainfall of .75 inches. 800 X 0.75 / 12 X 7.5 X 0.9 = 337 gallons that month. A family of four has a water requirement of between 200 and 300 gallons per month so you have a little excess that month. Perform this calculation for each month to see what your monthly supply and monthly usage are. Then you can see how much storage you need to get through the dry months.

You may be fortunate enough to have a water well. If so, you may want to consider installing a hand pump so you can get the water out of the well in an emergency. I like the Simple Pump (, but there are several suppliers of hand pumps. Just Google “hand water pump”.

You cannot survive without water. Do your homework now to identify how much water you need and to determine how you will supply that need. This is the time to prepare your water plan.

Your ToDo’s from this blog.

  • Immediately store 30 days of water for your household; (number of people in your household X 60)

  • Identify the new water source you will use when your stored water is gone.

  • If your new water source is shared with the community, identify a second source.

  • Develop a plan that will allow you to access and use the new water source.

  • Acquire whatever items you need to execute the water source plan.

As in all things in the S RC, do not go into debt to execute any of these plans. Manage your finances and do your best without debt.

If you have questions or comments on this post, become a member and add your comments using the comment area at the bottom of the blog post.

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