A friend once told me about living through the California North Ridge earthquakes: they had nothing, were camping out on the streets. But one thing impressed her: They had access to a small supply of drinking water that they had stored in their back yard, because the state had impressed on residents the need to stockpile water.
The CDC has tips here on how to do this: notice they say one gallon per person per day for at least three days, and don’t forget the pets need it too.
Note: This doesn’t include the need for washing, but then usually you don’t have to worry about the cleanliness of water for washing: Just filter the dirt out and voila, instant sponge bath.
In dry states like California, the major problem is no water after an earthquake, so storing it in containers in a garage or the back yard would be fine.
The CDC site reminds you that you have water in your toilet tank (NOT bowl), the hot water heater, and in your pipes, not to mention the fluid in food/canned goods.
But what you are faced with depends on where you live.
But in Minnesota, losing power and heat after a storm would mean you had a lot of ice to melt; in Oklahoma it might mean that the water supply, plus your garage, would have blown away to Kansas.Boiling water will kill most germs and the cheapest way to purify creek water would be chlorox bleach. But that might not help if there is mining run off in the local creek (as we faced in rural Pennsylvania) or lots of nice chemicals and heavy metals which contaminate many water supplies in the US.
After the supertyphoon here in the Philippines, clean water was a priority: Because there was a lot of it around, but not fit to drink.
But in much of the third world, this is an everyday problem. Those photos of beautiful village women carrying pots on their heads looks romantic, but not if you are the one who hauls the water from the stream to the house.
And even where there is “city water”, you can’t always trust it’s clean.
Before we had our own deep water well and pump, we didn’t trust it our local water supply. So we used one of these (photo from wikipedia)
to purify the local water supply: A ceramic water filter.
We filled it in the morning, and took water from the bottom to drink or use in cooking.
Trendsupdate has an article on the Potpaz version, including has a diagram of how it works, and they sell cheap versions to use in Africa, where often the water supply is a local river, or a shallow well that might be contaminated with fecal material etc.
However, these filters don’t get all the germs (viruses get through) and of course, they might not stop heavy metals. But for a short term emergency, if there is a stream nearby, they are easy to make :eHow link tells you how.
and don’t forget that Chlorox type bleach is a good emergency disinfectant. Boiling for 15 minutes will do the job nicely, unless of course you don’t have access to fuel to boil water.
In a major disaster, the reason for no water might not only be broken pipes but lack of electricity to pump the water up to the water tower. Not only are power lines out, but in major flooding, your generator might not work.
During our last typhoon here in the Philippines, we faced this problem. (no, not the big supertyphoon in the news, but an ordinary one that hit our area two weeks earlier). Our major generator was at the farm to process the rice harvest, and since the roads were blocked by debris we couldn’t use it. So we used the small backup generator for our home/office complex. Alas, it is to small to run our water pump. so we used the slow, low power city water instead: which meant carrying buckets to wash, flush the toilet, do the laundry, etc. for two weeks until the electric lines were repaired.
Which brings me to another thing a lot of folks forget about: Pets.
We have a fountain/garden pond with koi.
About day two, I noticed gasping fish and a couple who were floating ominously on top of the water.
Uh oh: No, our emergency electricity didn’t run the fish pump either. So we had to quickly unplug some other appliances and try to stop a major fish die off. (We saved half of them, by the way, and salted and ate the newly dead fish for lunch. This IS the Philippines, and waste not want not).
We have koi, but even if you only have gold fish or guppies, this could be an unexpected surprise after a couple of days without power.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.