Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Household Water Planning

On one of my preparedness lists, we've been talking about storing water. Someone posted a link to this WaterBob, a 100-gallon collapsible plastic tank that fits in your bathtub to store water for an emergency, for $20. Sounds like a fabulous idea for people that live in places that get hurricane warnings and know they may not have clean water after a storm.

But in my city, we don't have many natural disasters. Maybe some summer storm flooding, or a snow/ice storm that takes out power. But I can't ever recall either us or my mother just losing our municipal water supply.

It's hard to imagine circumstances, at least in the near future, when our city water supply would suddenly become unavailable. It happens in places that flood, and people frequently lose water in the winter in more rural areas they rely on wells with electric pumps. The power goes out and the pump won't run. But in the city, I can only think of a water main break, which would affect a limited area.

There have definitely been times when we lose *drinkable* water with no warning, due to contamination. When the health department issues a boil-water order, or there is some other contamination issue, you can still bathe, launder, and flush, but not drink without boiling, if at all.

One neighborhood near us is contaminated with lead (from a battery manufacturer), another with some other chemical from an industry. One small town has had bottled water delivered by truck for FIVE years while the EPA forces the contaminating industry to provide a new permanent water supply.

A waterbob won't help in those circumstances. You wouldn't be able to fill it with anything drinkable. A broken water main or a pump station failure would hurt us, at the top of the hill. Earlier this summer, an old Victorian house burned because the fire hydrant pressure was insufficient at the top of the hill. But again, if that happened, we could not fill the waterbob.

I have issues with our tap water in general:
  • It is fluoridated, which aggravates thyroid problems (like mine).
  • Both our water and my mom's test positive for elevated levels of nitrates from agricultural run-off in our region.
  • Most municipal water supplies have pharmaceuticals in them, and are not required to tell us the results of testing.
  • And I simply don't trust the water quality reports.
For instance, look at this article about a 15-milllion gallon tank that is part of the water system about a mile from my house. Gross! The water in that tank has been stagnant for SEVENTY years, since it was built in 1936. They are finally renovating it, but I have been drinking the water that flows through that tank all this time. Did any "official" water test sample from a point near that tank? Yuck!

Would I know if the city started failing to get tests done? Or started failing the tests? Here is an article from this August, warning us not to drink the water, and I didn't know about until after it happened. Apparently, you need to read the paper every day to be sure you can drink the water.

I bought bottled water for a while, but it gets expensive, and I am really bothered by the empty bottles it generates, even if we do recycle them. Solutions in my pipeline (pun intended):
  • I am building a water barrel system at my Mom's house, and will try to slowly turn that into the house supply for everything, in the future. It will be easy to use it for gardening and laundry almost immediately.
  • I am campaigning DH to buy a Berkey or Berkfield filter for us to use regularly for drinking and cooking water.
  • I might get a waterbob to store wash water in an emergency. It seems like an inexpensive precaution for what would likely be a rare occurrence here.
  • But for now, I am storing tap water in milk jugs, at a rate of about 3-4 gallons per week. It's a short-term emergency supply, for water crisis that probably will not occur here in the near future.
  • I also have the 45 gallons in the hot water heater, as long as it is not contaminated.


MeadowLark said...

Don't ask if anyone was stupid enough to buy this. :(

Since we don't have national disasters at my house either.

Oh well... for $19.00 I'll use it as a blog giveaway I suppose!

It's just that I've been so frustrated with my lack of water storage that it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And why couldn't I post anonymously, so I could avoid the shame? ;)

Matriarchy said...

I think it probably works best for people who live in the hurricane and floodable areas. But, I am still thinking of getting one. Who am I to try to predict which disaster will befall me? For the price, I don't think it hurts to have one on hand.