Saturday, September 4, 2010

Balanced Prepping

You can have years of food stored up and die within a few days if you don't also have clean, drinkable water.  If you have access to good water, you will ultimately starve to death without food ...but it will take much longer.  So which is more important, food or water?  They both are.  One is just a band-aid without the other.

The initial obvious challenge to prepping is finding the financial resources to accumulate more than you actually need right now.  Definitely a challenge in this depressed economy.  The next obvious challenge is working out a storage and rotation system for your stored goods so you don't waste anything.  But possibly the biggest challenge is finding a balance in the things that you store.  Obviously, we need food to survive.  Most of us want/need firearms and ammunition both for hunting and self-defense and quite a few other tools such as mills, dehydrators and hand tools that would allow us to be self-sufficient in a shtf situation.  One thing many people recognize but neglect to store, however, is water.  Water is essential to all life ...plant or animal.  It doesn't take a shtf situation to drive that point home either.  A few days of  interrupted power and essential services will convince you pretty quickly of the value of good, clean water. 

In spite of personal challenges, we have made some serious headway in our food storage.  Our personal situation is improving so we will, hopefully, be able to do a lot more in that regard.  But now I want to give some serious thought to long-term water storage as well.

We are fortunate to live out in the country and have two stock tanks on our land.  The larger one is a catch pond, meaning it is not spring-fed but is situated so that it catches run-off when it rains.  Except during prolonged drought situations like last year, it always has some water in it.  The smaller pond ...really small ...maybe 30 x 40-foot surface area when it's full ...seems to be spring-fed as it has never gone completely dry.  Our neighbor whose family has lived here for generations says his dad had a shallow well for watering his garden just across the fence from that smaller pond.  It is possible that the water from that old well is feeding the pond.

We are members of a rural water company here that provides our household water.  It's cheap, usually less than $30/month, though it's always smart to have a backup water resource.  But it would take a lot to make either of our ponds a safe source of drinking water.  The water in those ponds would best be described as green slime-aid.  That quality must somehow enhance it's appeal to the horses because, although we keep a 100-gallon trough of clean water available for the horses 24/7, they seem to prefer drinking from the ponds.

I have started researching water storage and find it a little frustrating that the recommended amount per person per year varies so much.  Most sites claim that a person needs a minimum of one-half to one gallon of water per day just to stay hydrated.  Let's err on the side of abundance and say one gallon per person per day for drinking. More than that will be needed though because some water is required for cooking and cleaning up after we cook and, even in a shtf situation, we will want to take care of at least minimal personal hygiene needs.  So, for simplicity sake, I will use a goal of 1000 gallons per person per year ...just under three gallons per person per day.   Of course, in a shtf situation, water conservation will be taken to a whole new standard.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say an 'old standard' the water conservation practices of a few centuries ago would put even the most frugal among us to shame. 

The old saying 'don't throw out the baby with the bath water' has historical roots.  Centuries before indoor plumbing was the norm, the concept of bathing on a regular basis was slightly different than it is today.  Most of us think nothing of bathing daily and even more than once in a day if the need arises.  But in the olden days, baths were a luxury reserved for warmer weather and special occasions.  It is why weddings in June were so popular, because it was almost always warm enough by June for everyone to have a bath!  But even aside from less frequent bathing, bathwater was shared.  It had to be hauled from it's source ...river, well, pond, whatever the source was ...and in large enough quantities to fill a small tub.  Once indoors, it had to be heated and since it would cool down quickly, being the first one in the tub was a privilege usually reserved for the man of the house.  I think generally the mother followed her husband in the bath line and then the children with the oldest going first.  When the last member of the family had bathed, the baby being the youngest ...the tub of water had to be hauled outside and dumped.  By the time several had bathed in succession, the water was presumably a bit murky with soap and whatever had been washed off the previous bathers ...hence the saying 'don't throw out the baby with the bath water!'  All of this to make a point that if we are in a situation that requires us to live off of our stores, we would be wise to ration them very carefully. 

The way I look at it, water supply is a three-sided problem.  We need a source, preferably several sources and a way to safely store what we have and a yardstick with which to determine proper rationing.  The sources will vary for everyone, depending on their geographical and societal location.  But nearly everyone in this country these days has access to municipal water or a private well.  So start thinking about ways to store up for tomorrow what you have such ready access to today.  Depending on climate, all of us have access to a significant amount of rainwater as well.  Start looking at rainwater collection and purification methods.  They don't have to be fancy or be a high dollar investment to be functional.  Think outside of the box.  As far as guidelines for how much to store and how much to allot per person in a shtf situation, I think the Mormons are ahead of us.  They are generally very willing to share what they know, even offering workshops and seminars in some areas on this and similar subjects.  Sure, they would be happy to share their beliefs and convictions with you too.  But, in my experience, they don't push anything except the information you came to them to learn.  So look around your area and learn what you can from them. 

Back to my current premise that 1000 gallons per year per person is a reasonable assumption, how many month's supply is a reasonable amount to store?  Most of the websites I've researched so far recommend a three to six month supply.  How much you decide to store will depend on several factors, one of the most important of which is the probability of your being able to replenish what you use in a shtf situation.  If you live in a remote area of the desert, you might want/need to store more than if you live in a rural area with access to lakes, ponds or streams.  Evaluate your situation and plan accordingly.

For us, I think a three month supply ...approximately 500 gallons is both feasible and reasonable.  We are blessed to have a secure cool storage area in the form of a concrete slab, well-insulated, air-conditioned shed.  This is the same shed we are revamping for our food storage.  It just makes practical sense to store the water in the same area.  Another recent development in our favor is that Yeoldfurt's new employer is a commercial bakery that literally discards 55-gallon drums on a regular basis.  These drums are food-grade plastic with two-inch fill drains in one end and they are free for the asking to the employees.  What a perk!  To store 500 gallons, we would need ten drums.  The plan at this point is to set the drums on their sides on a low workbench in the shop.  Setting them up on the bench makes them easier to access to draw from or fill.  I have an idea for 'plumbing' them together in sequence too so that we would fill from the drum on one end and draw from the drum at the other end.  Not having measured anything yet, I'm estimating the bench will hold at least six drums and we would have four additional drums stacked upright along the wall for additional storage.  These ten drums, for as long as we could keep them full, would be our sole source for drinking and cooking water and a supplemental source for wash water. 

Rainwater will hopefully supply our pets and gardening needs and, hopefully, our washing needs as well.  This area has been in some stage of drought for the past five years at least, last year being the worst of the five.  But in a 'normal' rainfall year, a good collection system should be sufficient to take care of the vegetable garden and the pets.  We have one dog which, especially in a shtf situation, will be pretty important to our preps and security so we need to plan for her needs.  There are two outside cats that do a decent job of keeping the small vermin in check so we will keep them watered if we can too.  Rainwater should be sufficient for all that.   If we are able to accumulate and store enough rainwater, it will be our primary source for wash water ...selves and laundry.  The horses though are a whole 'nother problem.

Our six horses are confined to a small paddock about 12 hours out of the day with free access to hay and water.  In the winter, they only drink about 25 gallons from the trough in a 12-hour period.  In the hotter months, they drink 50-75 gallons in the same time period.  In a shtf situation, we may have to amend our routine so they are confined to the paddock with the small pond overnight ...all the green slime-aid they can drink but filling a 100-gallon trough on a daily basis would be a practical impossibility and downright foolhardy if we were filling it from our stores.

What's your water situation?   


  1. Water districts and Cities base water storage off the state's average of 100 gallons of water per person per day. The state requires them to have that amount of water on hand in elevated storage at all times. Now that is city folks using that much water, not country folks.
    We are in the process of setting up our rain water harvesting system just for the gardens and it would be used for the house in an emergency. We have two 1500 gallon water tanks to store the water in with a first flush system to keep out any contaminates. If need be, it could be filtered or boiled for human consumption. The barn is already set up with the water system for the animals. I do not think we have the capacity to hold out for several months without rain but if we had to I bet we could.

  2. I guess my water situation should city water not be available during a 'shft' is not good at all since I'm in an upstairs apartment. I doubt seriously management would allow me to 'collect' rain water, and even if they did, I would have a difficult time hauling it up and down the stairs. But what I'm REALLY concerned about is wth is shtf???? And if its as bad as it sounds, could I come stay with you and YOF if it comes our way?

  3. @Redneck ...two 1500-gallon tanks, wow! I'm am trying to picture in my head how big a 1500-gallon tank would be. Ultimately, we want a well on a windmill too, but we're making do with what we already have and what we can scavenge for free at this point. Someday ...

    Of course, silly!

    : )

  4. Sometimes I remind me of Mom...I just figured out what 'shtf' means.


  5. Mikki, isn't that the truth, I am constantly looking at accromnyms and not being able to figure tham out, although I did know SHTF :o)

    Water was the first area we prepared for, we have 4-55 gallon food grade drums in our rootcellar, I keep vinegar( plastic gallon) jugs, rinsing and filling with water, stored in the downstairs pantry. Water can go flat, so you need to shake it up to add the air back in. We also have a well( tested good for drinking water) and an old fashioned hand pump( in case electricity is out) and an electric pump for yard and garden watering. As a last resort and for animals, we live on a river, so could haul water from their, we also have a Big Berkey water filter and hav outfitted it with the black filters( with extras in storage in case one breaks)
    We also have a well in our back pasture and we're working toward getting a tower and windmill built to pump water if there is no electric, and have a pump and pressure tank to use for anti- freeze hydrants, for the animals.

    Our food storage is rotated because we eat what we store, with exception for storing extra rice, beans and wheat berries, which are slowly rotated as we use them.
    The freezers are my concern, they mostly only hold meat, but if electric went out we'd be busy canning and dehydrating meat like mad! I'd can meat but Dh doesn't like it much.*sigh*

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  6. @mikki ..we both have a little 'mom' in us. LOL

    @kelle're way ahead of us. But in a shtf situation, your husband will hopefully learn to like canned meat. Mine wants to stock up on beans and rice, neither of which HE likes. I keep reminding him we should store what we EAT ...but you know beans and rice are a staple so he thinks we need to store them. I'M fine with that because I do like them. LOL

  7. old sweetwater has a well and a creek running through it.

  8. Wish we had a well, Janean ...that's great. We have a creek but it's dry except right after a big rain.

  9. Hi, I'm a lurker on here and very new to prepping (though I wish I had learned of this earlier) and finally thought I'd share my $.02. Thankfully we are on a well, with a 5,000gal water tank, it's actually a requirement out where I live due the the high risk of wildfires. We keep the tank full and have the well pump set to refil as we use the water. The only drawback from that atm is that the pump is electric and we have no secondary source of power to run it should the shtf. We do however have a spigot that runs directly into the well and will provde fresh clean water, so long as we are willing to haul buckets.

  10. Glad you left a comment, Karla, so I know you were here. Lurkers always welcome. I read some of your posts about canning and such on your blog, I don't think you're as new to this as you think you are. You're off to a great start!

    We all have pros and cons with our individual situations and resources and skills. The key (I think) is in being objective about them, and improving where you can. I hope you come back and visit often.

    : )