Surviving without heat and power in a grid down event is more than enough to stress the hardiest of individuals; however, losing access to water taps our primordial fears, and there’s nothing much more serious to shake us from our illusions of safety and security. You may never know when you will wake up one morning to find absolutely no water coming from the faucets in your home and no water to flush toilets, bathe, drink, cook with, or wash dishes. Unless you’re already living off the grid and have your own well with water available by hand pump, you face the prospect on any given day of going dry.
This is what happened to me several days ago during the chilling winter Polar Vortex, when temperatures dropped to nearly 0 degrees Fahrenheit. After blinking my eyes several times and getting over the shock of finding dry faucets, I launched into Pioneer Woman mode. I hope not to ever have to do this again.
The average person is not prepared for a waterless event. Fortunately I was and still am, but it was not fun. Here are some tips on how to get prepared and stay that way, so in the event your pipes freeze or other more sinister event occurs, you’ll still be able to cope until the weather warms.
Winter Prepping for No Water
· Check weather reports in your area at least daily to note when the temperatures are going to drop below freezing. Or, in times of drought, check for high temperatures and whether there are water restrictions that may limit your use.
· In anticipation of a hard freeze, turn on your faucets at night to allow them to gently drip or run slowly to keep moving water running through your pipes. This helps keep the pipes from bursting and prevents the line from freezing between the meter and your house.
· During a drought, only run the water on the days and times allowed by your municipality to allow for enough water to go around.
· Collect rainwater from your roof if your municipality allows it and store in barrels for use in gardening and also for flushing toilets. This water is not potable, but can be boiled and filtered to make it safe to drink.
· Store water preserved with liquid oxygen or household bleach in 55 gallon drums. Clean the drums well before filling and only use drums that are new or have previously held food-grade materials. Be sure to have a bung wrench to open the drum and a hand or battery-operated pump to remove water for household use into smaller containers before it freezes. Keep smaller containers indoors.
· Use 5 gallon containers with lids that seal or other food-grade plastic or glass containers to store as much water in your house in a room that won’t freeze. Preserve the water with liquid oxygen or household bleach. I used hard plastic cat litter boxes that hold 5 gallons of water and have an attached lid and handle. I cleaned them well and soaked them with baking soda in water to remove any odors before storing water and bleach.
· To preserve water with bleach, add 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. Gently stir and cover. Recycle your water every 6 to 12 months to make sure it remains fresh and drinkable. For added safety, boil for 15 minutes before use. Also consider purchasing a gravity filter and pouring the water through it after boiling to remove unwanted minerals, toxins that may survive boiling and fluoride. British Berkefeld makes excellent gravity filters that remove fluoride from water. Store in containers that are easy to handle and place several in each bathroom, the kitchen, laundry, etc.
· Make sure you have at least 2 large Dutch ovens, soup pots, canning pots with lids, etc. Also, a kitchen timer is nice so you don’t have to watch the clock as you boil pot after pot of water.
· Lots of glass or plastic containers and bottles for use around the house.
· Additionally, it’s nice to have a large ladle and something else like a 2 or 4 cup glass measuring cup for transferring water from larger buckets into the stove pots.
· If you are elderly or have weaker hands, keep a pair of rubber gloves handy to help you grip and lift containers.
· Purchase a cart on wheels or other type of wheeled dolly to move water buckets around your house. This is an invaluable tool you can use any time for a number of chores.
· Additionally, purchase several Rubbermaid-style sink containers to place in your kitchen sink so you can fill them and do dishes with very little water. Make sure to store dish soap that works in cold water.
· Invest in an electric kettle for heating water and easy pouring. In the event the power grid is down, store a small camp stove and fuel or a propane stove for heating water and cooking.
· Large plastic buckets, one in each bathroom that will each hold about 2 gallons of water for flushing the toilet.
How Much Water Do You Need?
I’ve always heard I should store 1 to 2 gallons per person per day and to remember my pets. Don’t believe it! That may be true in a total survival situation where you don’t bathe, wash dishes, or do anything other than drink that water. My water was out for 19 hours. I have a house full of cats and myself. I flushed the toilet twice, washed the dishes once, ate, fed the animals and drank. I went through between 10 to 12 gallons! Make sure you allow enough water for each person and your pets. Store someplace easy to access where it won‘t freeze…it’s heavy. Even if you have a hand pump and a well, store water inside. Remember, if Niagara Falls froze, so might your well water.