Look to the Past to Prepare for the Future, (Part 3)

If we’re lucky, the next big disaster to hit in the area where we live will not require us to bug out. In that case, we will try to survive by hunkering down. It’s important to make sure in advance that we have a living space that will allow us to do that without a great deal of difficulty.

Still, it’s very possible that clean water will be an issue. If the electrical grid goes down, it could negatively affect both the quality of water that’s available to us and the route it takes to get to our homes.

Our best chance might be to look back to a time when the meeting of people’s needs did not require modern-day conveniences. Even after the trouble starts, we won’t know how long the situation will last. Lifestyle changes may be necessary for survival.

Recently we discussed how to do this in connection with food storage, power generation and lighting. Now we’re going to look at pioneer retro ways to maintain a steady supply of clean water for drinking, cleaning and bathing.

Before the Tap Runs Dry

Given a gallon to 1½ gallons a day per person as a rule of thumb, water storage isn’t a long-term solution considering the weight and volume of this crucial, life-sustaining fluid. Clearly, the long-term solution is to invest in water purification gear and a stockpile of filters.

Storing Water 

An initial supply can be stored ahead of time in food-grade containers intended for water. Containers must be thoroughly washed, sanitized and rinsed. Only store clean, ready-to-drink water that has already been treated.

Plastic soft drink containers can be used, but should first be cleaned and sanitized. Do not use milk or juice containers. Even in thoroughly cleaned containers, lingering sugars and proteins provide perfect places for bacteria to grow.

Water Harvesting

Those who cannot access their own water supply run the risk of being at the mercy of a municipal supply. Knowing how to harvest and treat captured rainwater is a step toward self- reliance.

Low-cost options include:

* Collapsible water containers

* Five-gallon buckets

* Rain harvesting containers or barrels

* Rainwater downspouts routed to barrels or water tanks.

If investing in a tank:

* Tank should be opaque or darker to inhibit algae growth.

* For potable systems, storage tanks must never have been used to store toxic materials.

* Tanks must be covered and vents screened to discourage mosquito breeding.

* Tanks used for potable systems must be accessible for cleaning.

* Install screening devices prior to water reaching the tanks to keep it as fresh and clean as possible.

* Keep tops of tanks clear to deter animals from reaching the top of the tank.

* Buried tanks should be located in a well-drained location.

* Water weighs about eight pounds per gallon, so choose the tank location carefully.

* Pipe storage tank overflow away from the tank to prevent pad erosion and to keep animals away.

Treating water

Boiling is the easiest and safest method of treating water. Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute, then let the water cool before drinking. Improve the taste by putting oxygen back into the water by pouring it back and forth between two clean containers. This technique also improves the taste of stored water.

Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting only the vapor that condenses. The vapor should be free of salt and most impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right side up when the lid is upside down. Don’t let the cup touch the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.

Chlorination uses household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.

Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.

Purification tablets such as chlorine or iodine can assist in removing viruses, bacteria, cryptosporidium and giardia in the water. Iodine tablets must be stored in a dark container since sunlight can affect the iodine’s potency. Be aware of individuals with iodine allergies. Persons with thyroid problems, those on lithium, women over 50 and pregnant women should check with their doctor before using iodine for water treatment.

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