Imagine if a mayors’ office in any small town USA receives a phone call, and the caller on the other end proclaims, “I have poisoned your water supply”. Any mayor with any sense at all would immediately go with the assumption it is true.
Calls immediately go out to emergency managers, the CDC and possibly even the FBI. Bulletins are flashed on the local and national news channels. Water treatment managers and other experts will be huddling to evaluate the situation. Possibly a toxin in the local drinking supply is the headlines, boiling or filtration will not remove the poison. It could all be a hoax or not.
Just the possibility of a poisoned water supply is enough to send the people in the community into a panic. It could take hours or even days to appraise the situation and it may take days or even weeks longer to ensure the water supply is truly safe, but would you ever feel safe again.
Lack of clean water is one of the reasons Ebola is rampant in West Africa, not the entire reason of course but a reason. This should emphasize the need for clean water during a crisis, especially with the possibility of more infections in this country. If not Ebola, it will be something else, some other manmade or naturally occurring disease that can pass from human to human.
The average person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day in this country (USGS, 2014). This is a considerable amount that cannot be replaced during a crisis when there is a disruption, unless you have a substantial stockpile, or another source that you control. If you receive your water from a local municipality, you are at their mercy.
Survival manuals tend to focus on hydration, which of course is the first priority, but in a diseased ravaged area, you need water for sanitation as well, lots of water for sanitation purposes.
Water for personal sanitation, dishwashing and laundry has to be as safe as the water you consume for hydration. The 80 to 100 gallons a day is not a practical figure if you have to stockpile for any emergency, so you will have to do with less.
The consumption during normal times includes toilet flushes, showers, long soaking baths, dishwashing, hand washing and laundry. All things you will need during a crisis, but with a little common sense and conservation methods in place you can reduce the amount used and still be able to do all you need to do.
Private Wells are one option, but wells are not just holes in the ground that fill up with rain runoff. They have to be properly dug or drilled, capped, pumps installed and then in many cases, checked for contaminates on a regular basis and then possibly filtered and even purified to some extent before you can drink it. A well is still your best option however, one that you have control over during a crisis so there is no chance someone could take it over or contaminate it.
Rain containment is another option and should be incorporated at all times. It will take a number of barrels to gather a substantial amount, but keep in mind this could become a steady source of water during any crisis depending on the amount of rainfall you receive.
For every inch of rainfall on a 1,000 square foot roof (catchment area), you can collect up to 600 gallons of water.
Large bodies of water are an option in the short-term, but once the crisis extends on, other citizens, the government and even criminals will seek out and possibly take over lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
Any water from these sources would have to be hauled back to your home or shelter, and then filtered and purified before consumption. You would need a means of storing the water so you could gather enough in the early days to sustain you before others take over the supply.
Public Sources are another option, sources such as fountains, public pools and lakes and ponds scattered about parks and other recreation areas but if the water supply to your home were contaminated then the public sources would likely be as well.
You can of course stockpile water but unless you have the space, it is difficult to get any sizable stockpile. Water weighs 8.5 lbs per gallon (3.8kg) so the weight must be taken into consideration especially if you live in an apartment. One 50-gallon barrel of water will weigh in excess of 400 pounds, and this can cause problems if you have subfloors or live on the upper floors of an apartment building.
A garage would be an ideal place to store water barrels because of the concrete flooring and you can even get larger than 50-gallon storage vessels, a 1,000-gallon, or more, for example, and place in your garage. Fill using a water hose approved safe for drinking water. You can find a water hose rated safe for potable water in any RV store or RV section at a local retailer.
Yet another option is installing a swimming pool in your backyard. Pools for example at a retail store can be purchased for under $200 dollars in many cases that include a filtration system. A 10 foot round pool that is 30 inches deep will hold roughly 1,200 gallons of water.
A pool is an option and the size would be up to you, but if you knew you had several thousand gallons of water in your backyard, you may rest a little easier once the SHTF. Keep the pool chlorinated, and make sure the filter is working properly. There is work and certain maintenance requirements that do cost money, chemicals and filters and so on for example, but they are minimal with a small above ground pool.
Even if you keep the water treated properly, it would still be a good idea to filter the water and further treat with household bleach or boil before drinking. Use the testing kit included with most pools to check the chlorination levels. Having more than one kit on hand is always a good idea.
You can make your own water filters rather easily with materials easy to acquire. Hardwood charcoal is one filtering medium that you can make or purchase. Activated charcoal in large volumes would be costly. Making your own or buying real hardwood charcoal chunks is a considerably less expensive option. Make sure the charcoal you purchase does not have any additives, is not briquettes and specifically states pure hardwood.
Make your own by burning hardwoods until the wood has burned sufficiently, or has been carbonized in other words, and then smother with sand or ash to stop the process.
Activated charcoal is made more porous by a chemical process or by adding oxygen during the making. This requires high heat that cannot be achieved in a fire pit or grill at home, and typically requires specialized equipment and some skill level.
Hardwood charcoal you make yourself will give you the same results as activated charcoal but requires more charcoal by volume to achieve the same results. Crush finely and use as the last or close to the last layer before water comes out when laying the filtering mediums.
Make a large filter by using a rain containment barrel with a spigot on the bottom for the water to drain out, or you will have to put holes in the bottom of the filtering vessel to allow the water to drain out. This would require elevating most vessels to access the water as it filters out.
Layer charcoal, coffee filters, or sand in the bottom of any vessel that is clean and has never contained any chemicals or toxins, and then layer one or the others next. Build the layers by adding the finer materials first. Ideal materials would be charcoal, paper filters, cheesecloth, sand, gravel, and again layer from fine to coarse. Use all of the materials instead of just one in the same filtering device for best results.
This type filter will remove odor, pesticides, herbicides, fuel and waterborne cysts that could contain certain bacteria from the water. Filtering will not destroy bacteria, it can only remove certain types and typically, this type of filter will not remove viruses. Once filtered boil or treat chemically for purity.
Clean water, bleach and the ability to launder clothing properly will be essential during a pandemic.
USGS. (2014). Retrieved 2014, from http://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html