Saturday, October 10, 2015

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Water Emergency

The famous Big Berkey

A blog reader had written me to ask about water storage so I planned to write about it soon.  Seeing the news coverage of the South Carolina flooding and hearing that a major university and numerous hospitals were without water was a reminder.

So... and I hope you get the in-your-face irony here... as I sat down in the Study to make notes for this post, I heard running water.  Rushing, running water!  Under the floor.  So I ran to tell my husband something was definitely wrong in the crawl space and he ran out to take a look and sure enough a pipe had broken and there was water and more of it spewing out of the pipe!

So he turned the power to the well pump off and we have had no running water in the house since then.  (Including in the crawl space, fortunately)

Now, we are on a fixed income so calling any repairman is not the first item on our response list.  He removed the cover to the opening of the crawl space and put chicken wire over it to keep critters out.  This is to (hopefully) let some of the water evaporate.  Then he is going back down today to take a closer look and see if it is a simple fix he can do.

Have I mentioned there is probably not enough money in the world to get me in the crawl space?  I am so claustrophobic I'd just faint and die right there.  But I digress...

I must admit, being without water now for a few days certainly changed the way I'm sharing with you today.  This is just what I've learned from our latest emergency experience.  I have added a few links (you can do a more in depth research using "emergency water storage" in your favorite browser).  I've also added a couple podcasts from people I respect. 

What I have learned...

First, you use a lot more water than you think you do.  I had a couple large cases of individual water bottles and some gallon size water bottles.  We went through the gallon size water bottles within a day.

The individual water bottles have been more useful than I anticipated.  Each of us have a couple we use at a time, one for sipping water throughout the day and one we use to make coffee in the Keurig.  That was a lesson learned... when water is in short supply making one cup each in the Keurig was water smart!  One could do the same thing in a French Press.  If we didn't have some K-cups, we would use the VIA instant coffee.

The obvious problem with individual water bottles is that they would not work for most other water needs. 

I have learned through this the huge importance of greywater!  We are fortunate in this water emergency to have neighbors who still have water.  So my husband has been going to their houses (with permission!) and filling up a few large Rubbermaid style containers with water from their outside spout.  Taking the containers to their house and back in our wheelbarrow.  (Water is very heavy!)

Note:  I consider this greywater because our neighbors are on a different well than we are and must have no well filters because the water is rusty.

These three containers now reside in the middle of my living room.  I fill the red plastic dish pan with water from there to soak dishes in throughout the day.  (Another lesson... we need a lot more disposable plates, bowls, cups, wet wipes for quick cleanup, etc.)   I haven't done dishes, yet, letting them pile up until there is a sink full.  But the water they have been soaking in will be used to water some deck flowers, the others I've let die a natural death since we are near the first frost, anyway.

Later today I will take some water from the large Rubbermaid container and boil it in the stockpot.  Then pour that into the sink with a stopper and dish washing liquid to let the dishes soak until it is no longer too hot to work with.  They will be rinsed with a quick dip in the dishpan.  That dishpan will then become my soaking water and the sudsy water will be poured to flush the toilet.

Any cooking that requires a lot of water has been set aside.  As has been any cooking that uses a lot of dishes.  Tonight I'm using one of the shelf stable pizza crusts for dinner.  I had some precooked ground beef in the freezer and will use one skillet to saute green peppers and onions.

I am so glad we had crackers in the pantry, cheese in the frig, and a nice basket of good apples we had bought from the Farmer's Market last week.  There has been canned soup we could warm up in the microwave (to make for less dishes), granola bars, etc.  I had made a priority of no cook options in the pantry.  Thankfully!

I had just made a new batch of granola, caught up on laundry, and washed a big load of dishes when I heard the water.  Thanking God profusely for the timing (and that I was in the Study so soon after the pipe broke to hear the water).  It could only be heard in the Study since it sits over the crawl space.

Before this becomes a book, I will finish with what I have learned.  Our household is in chaos because of this but in a real water emergency, we couldn't run over to our next door neighbor!  In a real water emergency, we could not go to the kid's house or to a friend's house for a shower and drinking water.  This has been a quasi-emergency.  It is uncomfortable but not the end of the world.

Also, we had electricity and that has made it much easier.  Ummm... do you remember when our house was hit by lightening and parts of the house was without electricity for quite awhile?

I realize that water filters like the Big Berky are expensive but I would have loved one this past week.  Actually, I do have one but when we moved from Detroit, the filters were broken in the move.  Without the filters, it does not work... obviously.  We have never been able to replace it but if you do have the means to buy one, they are great because they can purify a lot of water.  We used ours daily when we lived in Detroit.  There are numerous other brands for smaller water purification needs.

I'm giving a few links but there is so much more to learn about water storage.  It can be simple in the short term and very complicated when storing water long term.  One thing I am going to do that I learned in my research is to store Ball jars of water in the deep freeze.  I remember reading on Mormon food storage websites that many women, after using their home canned food, would process water in the now clean Ball jars and store them in a box for safety.  Lots of good ideas for further research.

Holly Deyo's free preparedness links... here.  Scroll down on the left sidebar until you come to water.
Storing water PDF... here.
Survival Basics - Water... here.

The Survival Mom Radio Network... here.  (New to me but I look forward to perusing it!)  However, I've been reading her blog (and have recommended her book) for a long time.
Her website Home Page is... here.

Pioneering Today Podcast... here.  I have been reading Melissa Norris's blog for quite awhile.  Her podcasts are full of good information.  Her website Home Page is... here.


Anonymous said...

Another great water purification system is the Katadyn. The missionaries we know prefer it.
So sorry about your water but so thankful you have access to some. I saw lots of people at Costco buying cases of water bottles and wonder if they are sending it to the eastern side of our state where the flooding has been so dreadful.
Hopefully, your handy-man husband will be able to fix the problem soon.

Cheryl said...

I hope your water situation is fixed soon. Living without water is no fun. We've not had a broken pipe, but a power outage left us without water for several days once. Like you, we were blessed that our neighbors' well was powered from a different pole than ours, so we had enough for hygienic purposes. Praying for a quick, and cheap, fix for you!

Vee said...

Oh this does not sound like any fun at all, even if you do enjoy crackers and cheese. I hope that it is an easy fix for Mr. Coffee... Poor men get all the rough stuff. Hauling water is a lot of hard work! Maintaining a home is a lot of work without water, too. Praying for you both. It does make for a good post on water conservation. I need to pick up some paper plates...have needed them a few times in recent weeks.

Jane said...

Hope you're able to get the pipe situation repaired soon! It's definitely not fun to be without water! We have a well run by electric pump so have had times without electricity and water - hurricane season, for example. We do keep lots of glass bottles and milk jugs filled and stored, for flushing, etc. Try hard to keep bottled water on hand for drinking + non-perishable food that doesn't require cooking, paper plates, etc. It can be very dreary, so I'm happy that you still have your electricity and good neighbors as well as family members you can visit for showers, etc. Your post is very timely and filled with practical advice. Best wishes for the repair work! Jane

Terra said...

The Berkey Light water filter sounds excellent. I followed your link to Holly Deyo and learned about using chlorine bleach to purify water. Thanks for the tips and hope your water problem is fixed today.

Judy said...

I'm sorry this has happened to you, Brenda. It is a grace that instead of complaining, you use this experience to remind us of the importance of being prepared.
From day to day, we take the gift of running water so forgranted.
I do hope your husband will be able to fix the problem without too much difficulty or expense. (In my house anyone willing to climb into a crawl space that has the potential to flood would be classified a saint! My worst fear...)

janice15 said...

A very interested post... I have been saying incase of emergency we should have water on hand.. I do have a little nothing serious though make me think i need to refocus as well with can foods water etc for emergency.. And real emergency that are bigger thanks for the post happy weekend with love Janice

Anonymous said...

In drought too less water is needed. One of our military bases here is having to use paper plates and utensils cause they don't want to use the water to wash them! The bottles of water are good when you have to hand them out to workers or a large family. Mark their name on them. My sister found out to get the small little water bottles. In the long run they were actually less expensive for some uses. Also she could carry a case of them. The workers she had, left most of the larger regular ones half used and standing around and grabbed another new one. The smaller ones they finished. I keep at least 3 or 4 in the freezer sitting up. Full of water kept the top 3 inches or so for expansion and use them when going in the car on hot days. Or to keep food cold from the g grocery store on the way home. They stay cold for a long time. Also they are there for in case. Many people keep several gallon size bottles like this in their freezer for the same uses. I saw and liked the idea of using any extra space when canning jars to can water too. Why not? When our water pipe broke i thankfully was in the hall next to the bathroom where it broke. I caught it just as the water was creeping out of the bathroom floor onto the hall rug. Again God let me know in time. Second time we had water leak it was from a water filter under the sink. The insurance man said they have so many claims on filters under sinks. They break over time. Our house was flooded. The water filter people actually reimbursed the insurance company for all the work that had to be done to our house. We did Not put another filter under the sink faucet!! It took months to redo the house.
I hope your husband has found he can fix the pipe under the house. You wouldn't catch me under their either! Too small a space!!! Having a Mr. Fixit for a husband is sure a welcome thing isn't it!!
Remember Clorox is not shelf stable for long. They say it only keeps good for about 3 months. People say to use the pool chlorine but you have to make sure there is nothing else in the mix of it...and find out how tiny an amount to use in a gallon. It keeps much better...but hard to find the pure stuff I am told. Safety first. Thank you for all the information. Sarah

tealady said...

Going with out water is a HUGE issue for me, I had a Kidney transplant 8 years ago and to keep it healthy I have to drink 6-8 bottled waters daily and yes it is expensive. I would store tap water for drinking but I live very close to Lake Michigan 10 blocks and we have had a few issues years ago about company's dumping chemicals into it.Also I really don't like the taste. Living in a city we don't have wells any more.
You make me think about so many things that I or we all should be better prepared for. I just love your blogs.

mdoe37 said...

I had a water emergency a couple of years ago when the well went kaput. Its really funny. You turn on the water one day and ....nothing. So what do you do? Try it again and then try another faucet. We had to put down a new well....cha-ching!$!$!

I was able to get water from the neighbors as you did. I also rigged a temporary shower from a garden sprayer....and then eventually found a battery operated camping shower pump that goes into a 5 gal really don't have to heat much water to mix with cold to get a wonderful shower.

I also keep some bottled water and some gallons (not milk jug type, but some brands have a heavier plastic). But after all I have water and it seemed silly to buy water. Because I don't have a filter (yet), I was not comfortable storing well water without bleaching first (Ew).

I was listening to The Survival Podcast the other day, Episode 1654, and Jack mentioned a quicker method of pasteurizing water by boiling. The water has to stay above a certain temp for a certain doesn't actually have to be boiled the whole time. I had a brilliant moment and will be pasteurizing it BEFORE I put it into a couple of clean 35 gallon barrels. :) He mentions soda bottles or iced tea bottles as well if you have a free source for them.

(never crossed my mind before!)

Deanna Rabe said...

I'm sorry you are having to deal with this water problem. Hope your hubby was able to fix it inexpensively. My guy is so invaluable on these issues. Right now he is looking online at microwaves. Ours bit the dust. We only use it to defrost and reheat so we don't need a super powerful one, but it's not something we wanted to purchase at this time!

Thank you for all the valuable insight. We do have a well, so we would have access to water even if we had to haul it. The last time we were without power it was winter. We used our wood stove for heat and melted snow on top to use for flushing toilets etc...


Nanna Chel said...

Brenda, we also had a burst pipe last week and are also on a pension so hubby wanted to fix it himself which he did but we were without water for 24 hours. We were able to get drinking water from our neighbour. However, that was long enough for me to notice some steps we need to take to be able to access all our water tanks in future as not all them have taps on them and the water is just pumped into the smaller tanks from the big one. Like you I was amazed at how much water we needed just in 24 hours and that didn't include having a shower ;-)

Annabel Smith said...

Dear Brenda, This is something we all need to think about. I have noticed a lot of water contamination stories too in the last year or so.
Each week I add some water to our storage. But I know it is nothing like the water we would really need in an emergency.
Thank you also for the links.
I hope things are fixed for you and you can go back to normal. I wouldnt be crawling under the house either!
With love,

Melissa K Norris said...

Thanks so much for including me in your post!

Kim Liptak said...

Brenda, Thank You so much for the great information! As the reader from Texas who inquired about water storage, I especially appreciate your research. I'm so sorry you had to have a real life illustration along with it! Yes, there is nothing like being without a necessity to make you realize that you never want to be without it again. I'm praying your water issue is repaired quickly. Have a blessed week!