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Storing water for emergencies.

As a federal disaster specialist, I am exposed to natural and manmade disasters on a daily basis. I find the majority of the general population is totally unprepared for even a small interruption in normal utility and food distribution services. In most disasters, the victims expect and sometimes demand that "someone" provide needed protection, water, shelter and food.

Water availability is always affected. There are many ways the water supply can be disrupted. The most common is a lack of electricity. With no electricity, there is no water from water purification plants or your well. The most common way is a water main rupture. Recently over 10,000 people in my area were out of water for over two weeks due to such a rupture. Wells can become contaminated due to flooding and the pumps can even become damaged due to flooding. Freezing weather also takes its toll on well water lines.

Not only is water needed for drinking: you need additional water for baths, cooking, flushing toilets, cleaning eating utensils, and washing clothes.

Water is a very high priority. To the surprise of many, the need for water is much higher than for food. Many people have lived for 30 plus days with no food but without water you are looking at three to four days before you are in trouble.

One answer to the water problem is storing extra water. For water storage, most authorities recommend a minimum of two to three gallons per day per person. I personally store non-drinking water (for dishwashing, toilets, washing clothes, etc.) in five gallon plastic drywall buckets. Drinking water is stored in old bleach bottles or plastic milk jugs. I add five drops of chlorine per gallon of water to protect it during storage. I would also suggest storing an extra jug of Clorox to purify any new water you may find that has questionable quality.

It is normally a good idea to date each jug with a magic marker. I am glad I did mark my first storage jugs because I now have some water that is eight years old. Water is used on a first-in first-out basis. Our water supplies have been used many times in the last eight years. Normally a power outage shuts down my well since I do not own a generator. But on several occasions, my well pump stopped operating and the water came in very handy while the pump was being repaired. Our main problem is being diligent in replacing the water we use.

As you can see, water storage and a little advance preparation can add a great deal of security in our current fragile and highly technological times.

Anita Boston, along with about 250,000 others, was looking for bottled water after flood waters poured into the Des Moines, Iowa, water treatment plant. As we go to press officials say the water supply might not be fully restored for a month ... and the flood waters are still rising.

A few gallons stashed with your emergency supplies might not help much in a situation like this, except to tide you over until, as in this case, supplies are trucked in. (The National Guard was hauling water from as far away as Omaha, Nebraska.)

But what we find interesting is the statement - made to a Chicago Tribune staff writer - that "I've never thought about this in my whole life - about not having water when I want it."

Not many people have.

Nor have they considered many other possible disasters ... of the type that seem to be occuring with ever-increasing drama and regularity.

Meterologists enjoy telling us mere laymen, in bored tones, that "The Flood of '93" is really nothing unusual.

Neither was Hurricane Andrew.

Nor were any of the several other death-dealing headline-making but more localized weather stories of the past year. (As of this writing, 45 people have died in the East Coast heat wave that is also in the national news currently.)

The meterologists are right, of course. All of this - and the drought and recent blizzards and earthquakes - are easily explained by the natural sciences.

And other disciplines have explanations for the World Trade Center bombing and the potentially much more destructive, but aborted, terrorist bombings in New York. Sure, the possibilities boggled the mind, but they were aborted, weren't they?

Still ... many Countrysiders have an uneasy feeling that it's not over yet. The unusual is becoming too usual for complacency. Anything is possible... even the unthinkable.

A few emergency supplies in your basement might do you little good, or in some cases none at all.

But thinking about such things - about not having water when you want it - might change the way you live.

It might even make you a homesteader.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Larson, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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