I wanted to share with you a learning situation my family and I had the weekend of Thanksgiving. We have been working on our disaster preparedness over the last few years, but this situation helped to show us some kinks in our armor.
We live out on 5 acres with a well for our water supply. One day I walked out into our garage to find water gushing out of the pressure release valve on our water storage tank. The hose that should have been connected to direct the water outside had been removed because it was in the way.
After rushing around to find any hose, we attempted to connect the hose. If you have ever tried to attach a hose to a water source on full blast you can imagine that we were thoroughly soaked before we could get it attached.
Shortly after successfully connecting the hose we found the end had a spray gun restricting the flow. With two tool boxes in the garage, we could not find a pair of vise grips with which to help us remove the spray gun. We were forced to sever the hose with a pocket knife. My husband then walked down the very steep and long hill to the bottom of our property to shut off the pump still trying to flood our garage.
Little did we realize at the time, that we could have turned off the signal to the pump house by pulling the power cord to the electronic eye that is plugged in right next to the water tank.
We spent about four days without water. Since it was a holiday weekend there was no one who could help us. Everyone was closed or out of town. Our tank had punctured its bladder and needed to be replaced and there was nothing my husband and I could do while we waited. We still had to go to work and continue our normal lives. Since I had been storing water, I decided this was a test of our preparedness and refused to buy water unless absolutely necessary. I also chose not to drive to my mother’s for a shower.
We started practicing the old adage “If its yellow let it mellow”; of course, I had just started my period, so frequently I HAD to flush. I quickly discovered that our toilet takes no less than 4 gallons of water to flush. Since all the water I had stored was purchased drinking water, it cost me almost $4 a flush!
LESSON #1: Store any kind of water; just label it as “Do Not Drink”.
Now I fill used bleach bottles, vinegar bottles, etc. I was very lucky in the fact I could fit a gallon bottle of water into my microwave to heat for bathing. I quickly discovered it takes less than 1 gallon of water to wash my body and long hair. I would collect the runoff and pour it in the toilet tank.
LESSON #2: We waste a lot of water during our daily habits.
If we experienced a financial crisis, we could save propane by heating less water for bathing. Our water tank holds 82-gallons and we routinely drain that for a shower. What a waste in a time of crisis!
I was not prepared when it came to the laundry situation. Since I still had to go to work, I had to hand wash my work uniform. I work around food and my uniforms do not lend well toward wearing twice before washing. Hand washing everything but pants is easy. Pants take at least a gallon of water or more to wash because they soak up so much.
LESSON #3: Don’t let your laundry or dishes get behind! You never know when your power or water will go out.
LESSON#4: Keep tool boxes stocked with basic tools, and when you use a tool, PUT IT BACK afterward.
So after our mini-water crisis, my family and I discussed how we could have improved our situation in the event of a very long term water crisis. One of the first things I started doing was collecting water that wasn’t just for drinking.
Second, I decided that we needed a non-water based waste collection solution. I told my husband and son that next time we would use a bag in a bucket and kitty-litter for our toilet needs. Both of them turned their noses up and said they would rather go outside, as my 10-year old son put it, “Mom, I’m a boy, I can do that!” Funny, I don’t find the kitty-litter idea so bad.
Third, I really need to invest in some water barrels outside and water filters so we can drink it in the time of need.
I hope that my experience is helpful to others.
For more water conservation tips, ranging from mundane to radical, click here.