When disaster strikes, we all need water. We actually need water all the time. A person can easily consume between one and three gallons of water per day:

  • for washing
  • for cooking
  • for flushing the toilet
  • for drinking
  • for our pets

When disaster strikes, our water supply can be threatened. Supply lines could be broken, purification plants could be shut down. Contaminants could be introduced into the supply. To compensate, for this, many of us have been taught how to calculate our daily water needs and to stock up on bottled water to see us through temporary shortages. Authorities say to keep a minimum three day supply. 

Consider this: the water supply for our neighbors may also be threatened - potentially putting an additional strain on your water supply, even if you had the foresight to stock up on water for your own needs. Neighbors might not be (likely won't be) as prepared as you are. What would you say when a neighbor comes knocking in search of water for their children? 

Extreme water shortages may be pretty rare in the US, but they do happen. In extreme drought conditions, they are even more likely to happen. There's a trick or two that you can use to make sure you and your family have the best possible chance of survival. 

  • Some people buy an appropriate amount of potable (drinkable) water and store it in a cool dry place. This can be part of a good strategy. Just remember those expiration dates and keep it fresh. A good way to do this is to rotate from your emergency supply. Drink the contents and replace it on an ongoing basis. 
  • Some people fill their bathtub with water just before a major storm like a hurricane blows though. This has also proven useful to many people. Just remember to clean your bathtub with a good bleach solution before filling it, make sure it doesn't have a slow leak, and protect it from contamination from dust, debris and even mosquitoes. It won't last as long as pre-packaged drinking water, but it will help. 
  • Some people buy special filters. Individual filters, camping filters and large group filters can go a long way towards treating any water that may be in the area for water-brone parasites. Most don't claim to filter heavy metals, chemicals or taste, though, so we still need to be really careful with these. 

Consider what is possibly the largest clean drinking water source in any home: what about the tank to the hot water heater?! Hot water heaters can hold more than 100 gallons of water. 40 gallons would be enough to comfortably sustain a family of four for more than 3 days (at 3 gallons per person / per day)!! Conveniently, most hot water heaters have a little valve at the bottom that you could draw water from if you need to. 

It's important to protect this valuable source of water from contaminants that may be carried by the public utilities in the event of a disaster. Fortunately, this is easy to do. Turning off the water main to your house will stop the flow of water into that hot water tank. The water level will go down as you consume it, but the water in that tank is clean enough to drink. Why not take advantage of that in an emergency?!

If you really want to add a cushion of safety to your water supply, convince your neighbors to do the same when the time comes. If you and your neighbors all protect this valuable water source hidden right inside our homes, AND a few of us do the other things we highlight earlier in this article, your community should be able to comfortably hold out for at least a week or so. That's not taking into account how long good rationing can prolong your supply. 

Coming through a crisis in good form requires a little advanced preparation and a basic ability to adapt to our surroundings. By thinking about things in a slightly different light and making the most of what we've got, we can get along pretty well. It's what humans have been doing since the beginning or recorded history. 

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Comment by David Dejewski on March 26, 2013 at 1:33pm

It's also a good idea to drain a little water from the valve on your hot water tank every month. This helps to cut down on sediment that build up and reduce the efficiency of your hot water heater. 

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