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Home What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 2 – Water)
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What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 2 – Water)

user profile picture Chris Martenson Jul 29, 2010
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Note:  This is part of a series on personal preparation to help you answer the question, "What should I do?"  Awhile back, we polled our most frequent visitors to the site and asked what improvements would be most helpful to our readers.  The strongest response was that we should make it easier for people to start preparing.

So we've decided to do exactly that.  This series on how to build personal resilience into your life is designed for people who are just beginning the process.  Those who have already taken these basic steps (and more) are invited to help us improve what is offered here by contributing comments, as this content is meant to be dynamic and improve over time.  Our goal is to provide a safe, rational, relatively comfortable experience for those who are just coming to the realization that it would be prudent to take precautionary steps against an uncertain future.

It’s important to remember that the steps discussed here are first steps.  But for the unprepared, taking that initial action (Step Zero) is essential on the journey to developing resiliency.  These actions are “necessary but insufficient” parts of an ongoing process.

Full disclosure:  In this and future articles, we will recommend specific products that we have found to be especially suitable and relevant.  If you click on a link to purchase one of the products recommended below, PeakProsperity.com will receive a small commission.  This will not impact the price you pay for those items — you can locate and buy these products elsewhere if you wish — but with the funds we receive as the result of these transactions, we can continue to expand our other community offerings, produce the next wave of videos, and bolster our outreach and educational efforts.  You win by saving time and having easy access to our well-researched product recommendations, and we win by receiving your support and encouragement to continue doing what we do.

We’d also love to hear any feedback based on your firsthand experience with the products and vendors that we recommend.  Our goal is to ensure that we’re doing our utmost to offer the best guidance for utility, value, and service.

And so, we begin this series with water…

Water

The highest priority resource to get under your local control is water.  Humans can live for roughly three weeks without food, but will perish after three days without water.  Just as importantly, many diseases are water-borne, so sufficient access to water must ensure quality as well as quantity.  Ample, clean water is a necessity of life.

For most Americans, water for drinking and washing comes either from a municipal (town/city) water supply or from a private well, so for the purposes of this article, we'll focus on water solutions around those options.

To begin with, storing water is generally inconvenient.  Stored water takes up a great deal of space, it's heavy, and it needs to be replaced every couple of years because it goes stale over time.  But for people living in very dry areas or in cities, especially in areas prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, storing water is the prudent thing to do.

I personally maintain about 40 gallons of water storage capacity, even though I have access to ample well and surface water.  Our family prefers drinking water that comes from a roadside spring, and so we fill up our jugs whenever we happen to drive by.  This means we have a lot of direct experience toting five-gallon containers around and learning what features are most desirable in water storage jugs.

For any water jug, my basic requirements are reasonable price, solid construction (won't wear out after a few uses or split when bumped) and that it be free of BPA, a toxin present in some plastics.  "Guilty until proven innocent" is my motto when it comes to industrial chemicals with hormone-mimetic potential, and because of this, BPA should be avoided unless research proves it to be safe. 

For storage, we recommend:

Stackable 5-Gallon Water Containers

  • HDPE “food grade” containers (BPA-free)
  • 5-gallon size is relatively easy to transport; it’s hard for most individuals to carry more than this.
  • Stackable shape helps with efficient storage.
  • Opaque color helps to limit algae growth if trace nutrients and light are present.
  • If you plan to use this container to drink from around the house, be sure to get the optional spigot attachment.

If you’re going to be storing and using your containers inside your house where direct sunlight is less of a factor, you may want to consider a clear container instead – it’s a lot easier to see how much water you’re using up as you go.  Also, having a spigot makes it substantially more convenient for everyday needs like filling a glass, so for a few dollars more, I would personally consider this option: 

Bel-Art Clear 5-Gallon Water Container with Spigot 

  • High-density polyethylene jug holds up to 5 gallons (20 liters).
  • Long (4 1/2"), easy-access spigot allows dispensing directly from table or shelf and is self-storing; gasketed spigot screws on to a 30mm (1-1/4") I.D. bung and securely stores inside the large cap during transportation.
  • 2 3/4" screw-top opening makes filling easy and allows venting.
  • Sturdy handle and bottom grip enable easy carrying.
  • Dimensions:  25cm (9-7/8") sq. x 38cm (15") high.  Cube shape maximizes storage space

For any plastic jugs or storage containers, I prefer to "treat" them before use by filling them with water and leaving them in the sun for two days.  This gets rid of the 'new plastic' smell and helps to bake out any residues that might be left on the interior surface.  Dump the first batch of water, rinse lightly, and they're ready to use.

Clean, Clear, Potable Water

I have never yet had to worry about water availability because each place I've lived has had potable surface water nearby.  Our current house has a deep well, but I plan to invest in an additional shallow well by drilling down 80 to 90 feet to a water-holding gravel layer that sits under our land.  To this shallow well, we'll attach both a windmill (for relatively continuous pumping for gardening purposes) and a hand pump capable of drawing from that depth.  We will also be installing rainwater catchment systems to our gutters.

Clean and abundant water is critical for sustaining life, no matter what your standard of living.  Some lucky folks have natural springs, streams, or other bodies of water on their property, which can greatly ease the issue of water access in times of emergency.  But the emphasis here for everyone, even if you've got water right out your front door, is on cleanliness.  

So perhaps now you have stored water or have access to a natural source of water.  But how can you be certain that this water is safe to drink?  Fortunately, that's easy.

Our family uses a ceramic filter based on proven technology that can render even the most foul pond water into clean, pure drinking water.  It has no moving parts – you just pour water in and let gravity do the rest.  There's an upper reservoir with filters in it connected to a lower tank.

We happen to use the Doulton filter (more popularly known as the Big Berkey), which also is the filter that appears to be most preferred by members of the PeakProsperity.com community:

Doulton Filter with Two 7-inch Ceramic Candles

  • Ceramic filters are extremely efficient at removing particulates and bacteria, and are very long-lasting.
  • Water filters through at approximately two quarts per hour.
  • Each 7" ceramic candle will filter 535 gallons each (replace candles yearly if using on a continual basis).

This filter removes all bacteria, all other little critters, and even a host of noxious chemicals.  We even use it to treat our otherwise perfectly safe well water right now, because it removes even slight impurities and improves the flavor.  But having this process be part of our daily life also gives us familiarity and practice in using this system of water filtration.

Knowing that our family will always have clean drinking water, no matter what economic or weather emergency may arise, adds to our resilience.  It also gives us a peace of mind that is invaluable.

We like the Doulton in the stainless steel model because it sits in our kitchen exposed to light.  If it were transparent, algae and other photosynthetic critters would eventually grow in the tank and shorten filter life by gumming them up.  Metal doesn't let the light through and thus keeps the water cleaner.

But the stainless model is a bit pricey (beginning at $178 + S&H), and some folks prefer to buy and stash a cheaper model to be pulled out only under emergency conditions.  If this is your plan, long-term algae growth is not a concern.

For infrequent emergency use, we recommend the Doulton Plastic Water Filter with Two 7-inch Ceramic Candles, which is currently priced at $138 + S&H.

  • Uses the exact same ceramic candle filters as the Doulton model.
  • Water filters through at approximately two quarts per hour – throughput can be materially increased by adding more ceramic candles (up to five).
  • Clear surface makes it easier to see how much water you’re using up as you go.

For more travel-sized/compact filters and purifiers, we recommend the MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter and the SteriPEN Emergency Water Purifier.  For even more options, click here.

These first steps are only a start toward increasing personal resilience through water security.  Much more can be learned about treating, storing, irrigating, and conserving water in our community forums, including a specific thread that has been developing for over a year on this topic (click here for the Definitive Water Thread).  There is an incredible wealth of guidance amassed here by many PeakProsperity.com members who are passionate and experienced about developing personal and community resilience – and many are happy to help answer questions posted on the forums.  So please consider joining the forum discussion if you have questions.  And if you’re one of those experienced forum mavens, thank you for all that you’re doing to help new members start on building resiliency into their lives.  


 

If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series on resilience, you can find them here:

 

 

 

 

 

 


What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 8 – Community)

     

     

     


    What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 9 – Your Next Steps)

    Full disclosure: In this and future articles, we will recommend specific products and services that we have found to be especially suitable and relevant. If you click on a link to purchase one of the recommended products or services, PeakProsperity.com may receive a small commission. This will not impact the price you pay for those items — you can locate and buy these products elsewhere if you wish — but with the funds we receive as the result of these transactions, we can continue to expand our other community offerings, produce the next wave of videos, and bolster our outreach and educational efforts. You win by saving time and having easy access to our well-researched product recommendations, and we win by receiving your support and encouragement to continue doing what we do.

    We’d also love to hear any feedback based on your firsthand experience with the products and vendors that we recommend. Our goal is to ensure that we’re doing our utmost to offer the best guidance for utility, value, and service.


     

    Part of the copy in this series is excerpted (and slightly modified) from a book chapter I wrote for The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch, eds.)

    This content is being reproduced here with permission.  For other book excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing information, please visit http://www.postcarbonreader.com.