As we’ve noted before you can go about three days without water, but you’ll be feeling mighty crabby after just a few hours without it. We’ve got a number of water sources around the homestead, with a few more back-ups in the works.
First off it pays to have some plastic water jugs around – figure two liters a day per person minimum. There are stricter standards for tap water in this banana republic we call the USA than for bottled water so don’t go wasting any money on boxes of Evian. The Red Cross recommends changing out the water every six months. While there are health concerns about plastic bottles, this water is for emergency situations and the synthetic female hormones that plastic bottles leach out should be the least of your concerns if the shit comes down.
In addition to stored water, your house or apartment contains three other sources of water – the pipes, the water heater and the tank of the toilet (not the bowl). To use the water in the water heater turn off the gas or electricity that heats the water. Shut off the main water supply and open a hot water faucet somewhere in the house. You should be able to drain the water out of the heater using the heater’s drain faucet. You can also get some water out of the pipes by closing the incoming water valve and opening the highest faucet in the house while draining the water out of the lowest faucet.
To purify suspicious water we, once again, rely on the world of backpacking. Our grab and go bag contains a Katadyn micro-filter which will remove microorganisms such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium and bacteria. These microorganisms have the nasty habit of giving you very bad diarrhea which leads to . . . dehydration! The Katadyn filter has a tube which you stick in the suspicious water and a hand pump which directs the water through a filter and out through another tube which you stick in a bottle that you supply. You can also kill Giardia and Cryptosporidium by boiling water for at least one minute – perhaps with your handy Pepsi can stove. Instructions for purifying water with iodine or chlorine can be found on this page.
Filters, however, do not kill viruses which include hepatitis A., Norwalk virus, and rotavirus and are present when water becomes contaminated by the feces of affected individuals. In other words, bad dookie in the water. To kill viruses you need to use either iodine, bleach or expensive filters which also use iodine or electrostatic charges. Boiling water for at least five minutes will kill all viruses. Right now viruses in water are more of a concern in the “developing” world, but the Republicans are busy taking our municipal water supplies back to the Middle Ages.
Remember that none of these methods will purify water that is contaminated with chemicals such as arsenic and other bad things lurking in our sad, concrete-channelized Los Angeles River. In a worst case scenario you will need to head up to the hills to get water or invest in an expensive and heavy reverse-osmosis system like boats have to turn seawater into drinkable water.
Lastly we must put in a plug for the geniuses behind the artistic collective Simparch who are experimenting with solar stills to distill water as a method of purification. Distillation takes care of 99.9% of the bad stuff and the Simparch folks have created a solar still as a part of the border art shindig InSite. Solar stills can also be improvised.
One homestead project that is in the planning stages, pending our long wait for the corrupt Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to approve our foundation repairs, is the construction of a rainwater storage system. We plan to feed one of our roof downspouts to several fifty gallon plastic drums that will be linked together. We will use this water for irrigating plants in the front yard. While, admittedly, we don’t have room for much rainwater storage to make a big difference, we plan on filling these drums with municipal water after the rainwater runs out. That way we will always have a few days worth of water for our vegetable garden should there be a service interruption in the warm summer months. The barrels will be hooked up to a drip irritation system designed for low-pressure gravity feed systems.
While we would love to go off grid and have our own well here, we’d be more likely to strike oil than water and, no doubt, the drilling costs would be prohibitively expensive.