Out of Water!

There’s nothing like a utility outage to make one ponder the various Mad Max type scenarios that might play out when the power goes out for good and legions of zombified TiVo addicts stumble out onto the streets in search of the last remaining supplies of Doritos. Of all the utility outages we’ve experienced in our shabby 1920s bungalow, this weekend’s water outage was the most annoying. Other than the intenets, a couple of lights and our kitchen mixer, electricity is not something we’re big users of and, thanks to the many camping stoves we have, we’re prepared to go without natural gas for a while. But water is a different matter.

Late last Thursday night our water pressure began to drop. By Sunday night nothing more than a trickle of water would come out of any of our faucets. We checked the little spinning red triangle indicator on the water meter to see if water was flowing (and perhaps leaking somewhere) but the triangle was motionless. We checked the shutoff valve at the street, turning it off and on, also to no avail. One of the few sensible things the previous owners did was replace the galvanized pipe with copper so we knew that corrosion was not the problem. We asked our neighbors if they had a problem and they said no. Finally, we called the Department of Water and Power on Friday and it was Monday morning before anyone showed up. By that time, mysteriously, the water began flowing again. The DWP worker checked the pressure, said it was fine, and shrugged when we asked what the problem might have been. We welcome comments from readers who want to speculate on the cause of this outage as we like to know how things work or fail around here.

While we have a few gallons of water around in case of an earthquake this episode was a wake up call that we may need to keep more water than the couple of plastic tubs we have in the garage. We also don’t want to count on the water in the water heater and the back of the toilet. And when it takes three days to get service we can only imagine how long it would take in a large-scale disaster.

The whole notion of depending on our dysfunctional local government for anything in an emergency is foolish. Our friends at IlluminateLA helped run the emergency shelter at a local high school after the Griffith Park fire earlier this year. While it turned out that the emergency shelter was not needed, the Illuminaters discovered that the food supplies have to be trucked in from the San Fernando Valley, a not too promising scenario when you consider how bad the roads are here on an ordinary day not to mention when a couple of bridges come down in an earthquake.

This leaves us pondering keeping water in steel drums, which we first learned about in Aton Edward’s book Preparedness Now!, the first book in Process Media’s Self-Reliance series (our book the Urban Homesteader, due out in May, is the third in this series). It’s one of the more expensive options in water storage, with new drums costing several hundred dollars, but avoids the problem of an off taste that plastic can impart. But while there’s something to be said for avoiding all sources of potential crankiness when the shit cometh down, stainless steel drums are above our meager budget at this point. For now we’ll probably have to go with a new 55 gallon plastic drum, though if enough of you buy our book we’ll spring for the steel. Homegrown Revolution readers can hole up in the garage with us and share our water when those snack-crazed zombie hoards come stumbling down the street. Consider it a promise.

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  1. I think that a more versatile and cheaper solution would be to have an array of good water purifying systems. These are also useful for camping. As far as having a supply of water to purify, a large (100+ gallon)rainwater collection system is relatively cheap and beneficial to the garden. Of course, rain barrels breed microbes, and asphalt shingles leach chemicals and fungicides.

    I don’t know how hard it is to find a good puddle or creek in your climate- most of our disasters on the east coast involve too much water.

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