10 Places to Look for Water After a Disaster
You’ve done everything right. You set up a food storage system. You stored enough drinking water to last your household for a month. But what if something unexpected happens? What if your drinking water is contaminated? Or spilled? Or stolen?
What if the breakdown you’re facing is bigger than you anticipated? What if your water stores were running low, but there was no sign of the municipal water system coming back on line?
You and your family can’t live without safe, clean water.What would you do in an emergency? Where would you look?
Locating Water After a Disaster
In a disaster situation, you can’t rely exclusively on your stored water. Right away, as soon as it is safe, start looking for ways to supplement your food and water.
If you wait to do this until your supplies run out, you’ll be facing a do-or-die situation.
Remember, in a disaster, finding food and water may be hit and miss. If you start looking for alternative supplies right away, you can use your stores for those times when you’re having difficulty finding what you need.
In any disaster, water is a top priority. You can go three weeks without food. Uncomfortable, but possible. But you can only survive three days without water.
Fortunately, you have multiple options for locating fresh water that is safe to drink.
Hot Water Heater: You have up to 60 gallons of clean, safe drinking water hiding right under your nose. When full, your hot water heater contains that much water. And it comes from the same source that feeds your tap, so it is safe for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. But you have to act fast. Otherwise it will become contaminated. At the first sign of a problem, here’s what to do:
- Shut off electricity to the water heater
- Close the tank’s supply valve, so it does not pull in any water from contaminated sources
- Locate the drain valve at the base of the heater. Flush it briefly to clear out any dirt or debris that collected there
- To get a good flow of water from the heater, turn on a hot water tap in the house. This allows air into the system and water will flow freely from your water heater through the drain valve
There may be some sediment in the water from your heater. The water will still be considered safe to drink, but it’s a good idea to let the sediment settle first.
Toilet Tanks: As long as you don’t add chemical treatments to your toilet tanks, you’ll find multiple gallons of clean, safe water there. Use the tank water. Not water that is already in the bowl. Turn the water valve off at the base of the toilet to prevent any water from being lost.
Bathtubs: If a flood or storm is coming or if you have another reason to believe the general water supply may become compromised, fill your bathtubs immediately. Bathtubs vary in size. You can add anywhere from 30 to 120 gallons to your water stores … per tub!
Canned Foods: During the aftermath of a disaster, be careful not to waste any of the liquids in canned foods. Those liquids are a good source of water and nutrients, and using them can help extend the life of both your food and water stores. (In the early days or a power outage or major disruption, use up your fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, milk, and even meats. They will add precious water to your daily diet.)
Ice Trays: Don’t forget to use the ice in your freezer as a source of water. Bags of ice. Trays of ice. It’s all water once it melts. And it’s good for drinking.
Outside sources: If a disaster is disruptive enough, you may need to seek sources of water outside your home. Set up a barrel for rain collection. In cold climates, snowmelt is a safe option for water collection. Learn your local area. Are there rivers, streams, or ponds where you can collect water? What about local fresh water springs? Take the time now to locate these valuable sources of water, so you’re ready to use them. (Bonus Tip: Buy a wagon and some extra water jugs to make transport between local water sources and your home easier.)
Depending on where you live, you may be able to dig for water. This is a labor-intensive option, but if all else fails, it’s worth the effort. Learn about your local water table ahead of time, so you know what to expect if you do need to dig.
When gathering water from outdoor sources like a local spring or stream, you need to take extra steps to make sure the water is safe to drink. That means purifying it. You can purify water using the boil method or with chlorine bleach. You can also use iodine tablets, colloidal silver, and UV treatment. You can find full instructions on making your water safe to drink here.
One more note. After a disaster like a hurricane, earthquake, flood, or anything else that compromises local water treatment facilities, do not rely on a home filtering system to treat your water. These systems are built to treat water that is already relatively clean. The extra particulates in the contaminated water supply could clog your filtering system and compromise its performance.
If your goal is to be ready-for-anything, access to clean, safe water should be one of your top priorities. Print out this guide and tape it to one of your water storage containers. Then you’ll know immediately where to look if your own water supplies start to run out.
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