You can go without food for several weeks. In fact, there is some evidence that for many of us, a lengthy fast may do more good than harm.
You can go without water for only a few days before you become very ill, and only a few days past that point before you die of dehydration. And if you end up having to get your water from open puddles like the one shown at the top of this post, that might be even worse than no water at all.
In a WROL or TEOTWAWKI scenario, safe & clean drinking water will be one of the first vital resources to disappear. Because most municipalities use quite a bit of energy to purify it, and then pump it into elevated storage tanks, water will stop flowing from your taps within a few hours after the power grid goes down.
In the event that you need to make use of puddles or other open water in a municipal area, you should rough-filter it through several layers of cloth, and then pasteurize it by raising the temperature to at least 150 F for 10-15 minutes (you don’t need to boil it). You can also use a small amount of bleach or “pool shock.” Another alternative is the LifeStraw, shown in use in the image to the right, available for about $20 each, which is a fine-enough filter to remove nearly all bacteria. Just be aware that filtering and/or heating water will not get rid of all industrial toxins or excess salt. A LifeStraw will process about 1000 liters (or a bit more than 250 gallons), and is light and portable, so you would do well to have one or more for each member of your family. Plus, in an extended water crisis, the LifeStraw will be worth more than its weight in gold for bartering.
If your prepper plans involve staying anywhere in the vicinity of a major metropolitan area, long-term water storage is going to be your most important consideration, followed immediately by protecting that storage from thirsty people from whom the very thin veneer of civilization is wiped away shortly after they get hungry or thirsty.
Storing, transporting, and using water is hard, because water is bulky & heavy (8 lbs/gallon), and the minimum required for survival is about 2 gallons per week per person. If the weather is hot, and you have to perform any heavy labor or even just stay outdoors all day, you will need much more than 2 gallons/week. And this does not cover other needs for water, like washing dishes.
One inexpensive emergency solution for a short-term water supply is a flexible plastic bathtub reservoir, which you can get from Amazon for less than $20. On the plus side, assuming that you act quickly enough, you can have a safe supply of chlorinated water that will stay useable for a couple of months. On the minus side, you will be able to store at most about 100 gallons in a bathtub container, and probably as little as 50 gallons in a small bathtub. In addition to the bathtub container, you would do well to have several 2.5 gallon or 5.0 gallon food-grade plastic containers with lids. The more, the better.
I recently got an email from a reader about recommendations for a company in or near DFW that could provide and install a 250 or 500 gallon water tank, and I was not able to provide a good answer, primarily because my prepper plans do not involve staying in the DFW area, and I really hadn’t given much consideration to that sort of water storage.
I did a bit of thinking, and a couple of alternatives did occur to me. One is that the expense of installing a 250-gallon water tank is probably 5 or 6 times the expense of building (or buying) a set of really sturdy shelves, and buying 250 one-gallon jugs of filtered or distilled water (as I write this, a gallon of drinking water at Walmart is less than a dollar). I have a similar setup, but on a much smaller scale, and I store exclusively distilled water. In the case of grid-down, I would be grabbing at most a dozen jugs to put in my GTHOOD vehicle.
You could also store 5-gallon containers, which might even be cheaper in the long run, but it is a bit less convenient to handle 40 lbs of water at a time than 8 lbs.
Given my personal experience, I would also get a cheap plastic bucket for each jug. I use 2-gallon plastic pails, which are just large enough to hold the jugs. I got them at a Dollar Store, but if you wanted 250 of them, you could probably find a cheaper supply, or even just use cheap plastic bags & twist-ties. Either will enable a quick visual inspection, which will let you quickly and easily clean up the occasional leak before it becomes a mildewy mess. The quality-control of the company that supplies water in plastic jugs to Walmart leaves quite a bit to be desired.
The resulting storage will require roughly 200-250 linear feet (8 inches deep) of shelf, or a dozen or so 20-ft shelves (which don’t have to all be in the same area). That’s just a rule of thumb; you’ll need at least 10%-15% more if you are using plastic pails (which I use). Just be sure that each eight square feet of shelf can support at least 125 lbs, preferably more. If you are using wall-mounted shelving, then the strength of the wall is important, too, since 250 gallons is 2000 lbs.
Then, be sure to rotate your storage, refilling each container as you empty it, using a Pur or Brita, or some other relatively inexpensive filter that is rated for tap water. You should be able to re-use the containers several times, replacing the ones that leak. To make rotation easier, don’t store your jugs more than one layer deep, and mark each container with the last refill date.
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