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Friday, November 27, 2009

Week Three - Water


Obtain 1, 2, or 3 liter plastic soda bottles from your friends and/or family. Rinse well inside and out with tap water, make sure you rinse the bottle cap too. Then fill with tap water. Put the cap back on the bottle then store in a dark place, like a closet or basement. You need six 2-liter bottles, for one person, for a three day supply.

Blog Post:

O.K., you did your homework and made a threat analysis. Now look at the list; you will notice most of the situations/problems will require the same basic supplies to survive.

The most important is breathing. I will be covering this subject in a couple of weeks, so I will be writing about the next most important, water.

Humans are made up of about 75% water. Start losing water and you begin to feel thirsty. If you lose more water, you feel lousy, run-down, irritable, etc. Lose enough and you die.

Depending on the weather, how hard you are working, and other conditions, you have about 3 to 5 days before you die from lack of water.

One way to prevent this untimely death is to store potable water. Potable water is just a fancy term for water that you can drink and put in a pot to cook with.

One way to store water is to throw money at the situation/problem. The way to do that is go to the local store and buy a few cases of bottled water.

Another way is go to a discount retailer or sporting goods store and buy water containers.

You will need at least one gallon of water for each person; each day you are planning to have supplies for an emergency. An example: One person preparing for a 3 day emergency needs at least 3 gallons of water.

Remember me writing about opinions. FEMA says you should have supplies for at least three days. Some people advocate having enough supplies for at least two-weeks. Me, I say to have 30 to 60 days of water for each person, but this amount depends on how much space and how much money/effort you are willing to spend.

A second method of storing water is to save your money and use recycled containers. The preferred containers are 1, 2, and/or 3 liter soda bottles. These bottles work great, easy to carry by almost everybody, rugged, and easy to obtain. Avoid using plastic milk jugs.

Don't believe me.

Take a water-filled milk jug and a filled 2-liter bottle, hold at head height, and drop. Make sure you do this outside on the concrete and backup real quick.

Another recycled container you can use is used 5-gallon buckets. Many different items come in these buckets like cake icing, berries, pickles, sauces, and other food items. You can get these buckets from school cafeterias, bakeries, or grocery stores.

Do Not, Don't, Never use buckets that have contained non-food items like asphalt, paint, and chemicals. The same goes for buckets that you don't know what has been in the container.

Another used container for water is the 55-gallon barrel. They come in a variety of colors. I try to stay with the blue, white or natural plastic colors.

No matter which type of container, new or used, you use; you will need to clean the container and treat the water.

To clean the bottle, bucket, or barrel just rinse with tap water using a garden hose and spray nozzle or your kitchen faucet. Insure all solids and residue are removed from the inside and outside of the container, don't forget to clean the lids.

Some people say to use a power washer for cleaning your containers.

I disagree!

Unless it is your brand new, never used, power washer, unknown chemicals such as soaps, waxes, or other cleaners have been used in the power washer.

Some used 55-gallon barrels have had soda drink syrup in them. Try as hard as I can; I can't initially remove the taste. I have found rinsing then filling the barrel with water and letting sit for a few weeks then emptying then rinsing and filling again helps.

Make sure you store your water supplies in a dark place or covered with a tarp, this prevents algae growth in the water.

To pretreat the water, I use unscented chlorine bleach. Clorox brand bleach with at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite has been the standard for years, but Clorox changed the formula. I now use a different brand, but it still has at least 5.25% hypochlorite with no scents or soaps. You will have to read the label to find this information.


Using bleach, that is newly purchased, with at least 5.25% hypochlorite, to treat your water.

4 drops per liter/quart
An example: one 2-liter bottle gets 8 drops of bleach

1 teaspoon/5 mL per 5 gallons
An example: one 5 gallon bucket gets 1 teaspoon of bleach

1/4 of a cup/50 mL per 55 gallon barrel
An example: A 25 gallon barrel gets 1/8 of a cup of bleach

The above recommendations are used to pretreat the water for storage. Some people will tell you it is unnecessary to pretreat tap water. Remember the opinions.

Storage water should be rotated at least once a year. Rotating insures that you have a reasonably fresh supply of water. I like to do this in the summer. It is warm outside and there is extra chlorine in our municipal water supply (tap water).

The next step is to decide on what type of storage containers you are going to use. The #1 plastic, the recycle code found on the bottom of plastic containers, soda bottles are lightweight and anyone can carry one, even small children. 5-gallon jugs or buckets weight about 40 pounds/20 kilograms, and a 55-gallon barrel weights over 400 pounds/200 kilograms when full.

I have found placing 2-liter bottles in cardboard boxes is a great way of storing water. The boxes allow me to easily stack the bottles and protects the water from light.

Some of the 5-gallon water jugs you buy at the sporting goods store have little stacking ridges on the top and bottom of the jug to allow them to be stacked one on top of the other.

The 55-gallon barrels allow me to store a lot of water, but once you decide where they will be stored and are filled, you have to empty the barrel before you can move it again.

If you decide to store water in a 55-gallon barrel, you will need a way to remove the water, remember 400 ponds of water! If you decide to buy a pump for the barrel, there are a variety of them.

One pump, least expensive, is the siphon pump which is a piece of plastic hose with a small colored finger pump on top to start the siphon. There is a faucet pump; it looks like a faucet with a push down handle. This pump screws into one of the opening on top of the barrel. The last one I know about is the pitcher pump. The type you see next to the sink in older rural homes.

If you don't get a pump, you can siphon from the barrel using a length of garden hose. Cut a piece about 6-8 feet long. Place one end of the hose in the barrel and suck on the other end. When the water starts to flow, quickly move the end you were sucking on to the container on the floor. Make sure you put the running water in another clean container like a bucket. If you plan to do this, make sure you practice, and you have a dedicated piece of water hose for using to siphon water.

All of your storage water should be placed on pallets. Pallets allow air to circulate around you storage items. For water, the pallets also allow you to see if a container is leaking. I put a piece of cardboard with a layer of aluminum foil over the cardboard on the pallet before placing my bottles/barrels of water on the pallet. Just because.

Before I start writing about collecting water, I want to tell you about water bladders. Bladders are flexible containers that hold anywhere from 30 ounces to thousands of gallons. Some people know about water bladders because they use Camelbacks or Platypus bags. I have used bladders that held about 500 gallons.

Yes, just like barrels, you set the bladder in place and don't move it until the bladder is empty. I tell you this because you could put a bladder under your bed; additionally, there is a bladder that will fit into a bathtub. It is to be filled during the early stages of an emergency.

Another way to prevent dying from lack of water is to collect it. There are many ways to collect water, solar stills, plastic sheets catching rain, dedicated rain catchment systems, etc. I will write about a few of them. If you do a key-word search on the internet, You can find other unique ways of collecting water.

One method of collecting water is to collect water from sources within your home. These sources are your hot water heater, toilet tank, not the bowel, and the water pipes.

To collect water from your hot water heater, turn off the heating element (electric or gas) and your water at the main shut-off. Let the water cool; it can be hotter than 120F. Open the spigot and catch the water in a clean container.

To drain the water from your pipes, turn off the main water shut-off valve, then open a faucet at the highest point in the house. Find the lowest water spigot in the house and open, allowing the water to run into a clean bucket or other clean container.

If you have a water bed, to bad, the plastics used make the water non-potable. You will have to treat the water, but there is only one way I know of to treat this water. You will have to construct a water condenser/distiller.

The water bed's water is removed and the water is heated. The water evaporates leaving behind the chemicals as water vapor is produced. The water vapor condenses on a piece of glass, smooth metal, or plastic sheeting. The water runs down the collector and is collected in a clean bucket or other container. The set up is similar to a solar still.

Solar stills are a classic way of collecting water. You have probably seen it in most survival manuals. You dig a hole. Put a container to collect water in the bottom of the hole, then form a piece of plastic sheeting into an inverted cone that covers the hole. The sun shines and evaporated water collects on the plastic. The water very slowly runs down the plastic and drips into the cup.

The survival manual usually forgets to tell you to put a small stone in the bottom of the plastic to hold the plastic in a cone shape over the cup and a length of clean tubing, rated for potable water. The tubing sits in the cup and runs out of the solar still. This set up allows you to drink the collected water without disturbing the solar still.

Solar stills work, but you have to remember; you are looking to produce one gallon of water a day, just for you. I have heard it takes about 20 of these for one person.

The solar still can be supercharged by urinating into the hole, avoid peeing into the drinking cup, adding green plant material in the bottom of the hole, or putting non-potable (can't put in a pot to cook with or drink it, the opposite of potable) water in the hole before covering with the plastic.

If you supercharge the solar still insure the non-potable water or plants never touch the plastic. If it does, the water collected will be contaminated.

I can't urge you enough. Don't contaminate your clean equipment and potable water. One drop of non-potable/dirty water can cause severe medical problems.

A modified method is skipping the hole and just putting green plant material in a plastic bag. Set the bags in the sun and water will form on the plastic. If you use this method, make sure you use food-grade bags and avoid poisonous or harmful plants like Poison Ivy.

Another method of collecting water is from rain. The simplest method is putting out plastic sheeting just before a rain shower. The rain collects in the plastic and you put the collected rain in a container. If everything is clean, before you start, you don't have to treat the water, Maybe. Remember about opinions. I have used this method. I didn't get sick, but maybe you will.

So you should treat the water you drink. "Emergency Water Purification" in the links below has the accepted methods of treating collected water.

Lastly, you can purchase a water filter. Below are pages of evaluations on portable water filters. The best portable filter, in my opinion, is the Katadyn Pocket. It has problems, but it filters almost everything, for a price.

The best, once again in my opinion, base camp type filter is the Katadyn Drip Ceradyn. The Swiss designed it, manufactured it, and tested it. They planned to use the filter to help survive a nuclear war. Need I say more.

Second up is the British Berkefeld filter. It works on the same principle, but doesn't filter as well as the Katadyn filter, according to test results.

If you don't want to spend the money to buy a Ceradyn or a Berkefeld, you can jerry-rig a work around.

Buy two to four Katadyn Ceradyn filters, the British Berkefeld filters also work. Take three food grade buckets and three lids.
Cut out a hole in one lid so a bucket will fit a litle less than half way in the lid. Put the bucket through the hole then caulk, using food-grade silicon caulk, around the seam of where the bucket goes through the lid. Let dry. Label this set up, on the bucket, Untreated/Dirty water.

Next put the lid and bucket combination on a bucket. Label the bottom bucket Potable Water, Treated Water, or Clean Water.
Now here comes the hard part. Take the untreated/dirty water bucket and drill two to three hole in the bottom of the bucket. (Depending on how many filters you are going to use) The holes should be the same size as the treads on the filters.

Put a tight gasket, from a hardware store, on the treads of the filter then screw the filters into the holes of the bucket. Put another gasket on the treads sticking through the bottom of the bucket then a washer to compress the gasket and then add a nut to tighten everything up.

Test for leaks using potable water! If it leaks redo the washers and gaskets.

Label the third bucket Non-Potable/Dirty Water. The third bucket and lid are used to settle and/or transport collected water to the filter. The extra lid is used to cover the clean water bucket when filled with treated water.

To use, fill the third bucket (Non-Potable/Dirty Water bucket) with dirty water and let the water settle. Pour the settled water into the top bucket, don't let the junk in the bottom of the third bucket get out.

When you are pouring the water into the top bucket, make sure you don't overfill the top bucket, it may spill over contaminating the clean water bucket; additionally, fill the top bucket one-quarter to halfway full. This prevents the filtered water from touching the bottom of the top bucket.

Once the non-potable/dirty water goes throught the filters, the water is ready to drink. Some people say to put a few drops of bleach in the filtered water, just in case.

When the bottom bucket is full, remove the top bucket with the caulked lid and cover the bottom bucket with the lid for that bucket. Use a dipper or ladle to take water out of the potable water bucket.

When pouring water into a drinking container, such as a glass or canteen, don't let the water fall back into the water bucket because the water might get contaminated from a used glass or cup.

Make sure you read and download the rain water catchment manuals. After you do that, I'll ...

See you next week!



Fact Sheet: Water Storage Before Disaster Strikes:

New Information from the American Red Cross:

An Example of Some Water Bladders:

A Source for Water Tanks:

A Source for Buckets, Barrels, and Other Plastic Items:

Hawaii's Rain Catchment Manual:

Texas' Rainwater Harvesting Manual

Emergency Water Purification

Portable Water Filter Reviews

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