How Much Do You Use
Given the recent chemical spill that may have contaminated the tap water of roughly 300,000 residents of a number of counties in West Virginia, drinking water is on people’s minds. Ice storms, blizzards and unusually cold weather have also disrupted the water supply to thousands if not tens of thousands of people across the country recently.
How much water you actually need every day is different from how much is used or in some cases wasted.
According to the USGS (United States Geological Society), the average shower uses two gallons per minute while a bath in an average tub uses up to 36 gallons. Some tubs are larger of course and this assumes they are relatively full.
You can use between 4 and 10 gallons washing dishes in an automatic dishwasher but the amount depends on how efficient the appliance is. Hand washing dishes throughout the day can use up to 20 gallons of water.
Oral hygiene consumes one gallon of water per person each time they brush if they leave the water running. Newer automatic washing machines can use 25 gallons per load. One toilet flush is three gallons, hands and face washing one gallon daily and watering outdoor plants can use 5 to 10 gallons per minute.
This breaks down to the average person using between 80 and 100 gallons of water daily (USGS, 2013).
How Much Water Do You Need
To sustain life the average adult needs two quarts/liters of water/liquid daily. In hot weather where you are sweating profusely, you may need in excess of a gallon of water daily just to replace the lost fluids. You need constant hydration to prevent dehydration regardless of the outside temperature.
People generally do not think about dehydration during the normal course of the day because they receive fluids in many forms. Coffee, teas, fruit drinks, soda to some extent, energy drinks and those drinks designed to replace lost fluids all add to your fluid intake. Once there is a shortage of water however, people will need to concentrate on their fluid intake to avoid dehydration in any weather.
For short disruptions in the water supply you probably only need to worry about water for hydration, oral care and personal hygiene (sponge baths). After three or four days, however you will need water for laundry and for cooking meals that are more substantial. Most canned foods do not need water for cooking but dried beans, rice and dehydrated/freeze dried foods, for example, will need water in the cooking process.
When properly stored water has an indefinite shelf life, but the containers do not. For example, bottled water purchased from a retailer must have an expiration date by law. It is not the water that deteriorates it is the container. The plastic used will become brittle and breakdown overtime. The typical expiration date is between one and two years from date of purchase. Sunlight and artificial light will hasten the breakdown.
You can store water in food grade plastic containers designed specifically for water and they come in various sizes from five gallon thru 50 gallons and larger. Plastic milk jugs are not ideal for storing water for any length of time because the plastic is designed for short period of liquid storage. Milk is a perishable and the containers do not need to sustain the liquid for long periods.
Water in blue food grade plastic water barrels if filled with clean tap water can last indefinitely if the water does not become contaminated for any reason. Water will become “stale” from lack of aeration, and this will affect the taste however. You can aerate water by creating bubbles in the water by moving the barrel with the cap removed or by stirring with a sanitized stirring device. Stirring or otherwise disturbing the water causes bubbles to rise to the surface. The bubbles collect dissolved oxygen when they rise to the surface and burst, this process then distributes it in the water to freshen it.
Never store water in any container that is not approved for food storage. Never store water in any container that had chemicals or toxins in it no matter how much you think you have cleaned it.
Filtration and purification by boiling or chemical means will not remove deadly toxins or poisons, such as what may be in the tap water in West Virginia. You should never immerse any parts of your body in any water you suspect is contaminated with any type of toxin or chemicals. If your clothing becomes saturated from contaminated water, remove immediately to prevent absorption of the chemicals through your skin.
Certain chemicals can have a lower flash point than the temperature needed to boil water so never attempt to heat or otherwise attempt to purify any water source you suspect is contaminated with chemicals.
USGS. (2013, January). Retrieved 2014, from http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html