Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Water Storage - Testimonial

This was forwarded from a family who lives up in
Washington. Here are three important points, derived from the article:
1) quantity of water
2) quality of water
3) usage tips (pressure rinse spraying the dishes)

I thought I'd share some experiences we had from
this previous storm cycle. As some of you know, we live in an old
house with nuthin' but crawlspace betwixt us and the ground. All our
plumbing is hanging out there in the breeze. We've insulated it of
course, but if the temps go much below 20F for more than a few hours,
that usually penetrates the insulation and we get blockages. Well,
during this last storm cycle, our pipes were frozen for a full 7 days.
We knew that a blockage was likely, and we've had them before, so we
had what we thought was plenty of water saved up in advance. We have
close to 400 liters of water in our pantry, stored in 200 2-liter soft
drink containers that we've used and saved over the years. Very handy
storage method by the way. For our livestock, we have a 300 gallon
stock tank, two 100 gallon tanks, a 20 gallon tank, two 15 gallon
tanks, and four 55 gallon poly drums as backup. All of those were
filled prior to the freeze.

And then we started using it all.

For fresh drinking water, meal prep, sponge baths and dish washing
(ie, anything in direct contact with food or our bodies), we would use
the 2 liter bottles. We went through about 7 of those a day for a
total of 14 liters per day, or 7 liters per person. Sorta blows that
"1 gallon/person/day" estimate right out of the water, no pun
intended. Keep in mind that did NOT include water for flushing the
toilet, and it most certainly (sadly) did not include showers. Also
keep in mind that we've done this before, so our no-tap water usage is
well practiced and very efficient. I did dishes once/day, using a
single basin for all the sudsing, then a pressure-sprayer for the
rinsing, which is WAY more efficient than simply pouring the 2 liter
bottle contents over everything. Also keep in mind that we drank a
lot of non-water drinks, like milk, and non-dehydrated pantry items
like canned soups, which cut consumption too. So there is very little
room for reducing that number without dramatically impacting quality
of life (or health). Our household consumption rate became an
irritation, and made us reconsider how long our 2 liter supply would
last, but it never became an emergency. We only ended up using about
1/3 of our stores in that regard.

As sobering as that was, our livestock water came within a few hours
of reaching critical. Normal consumption rates for animals are
roughly: 15 gallons/non-lactating cow/day, 7 gallons/horse/day, 1
gallon/2 non-lactating goats/day, 1 gallon/20 chickens/day, 1 gallon/4
non-lactating rabbits/day, and 1 gallon/2 non-lactating pigs/day.
With those approximations, we go through between 50-70 gallons/day for
the farm, so our 750 gallons of water should have been plenty. We
busted through the ice as much as we could the first few days for the
animals' usual water sources. But the buildup of ice consumed as much
water as the animals themselves, which had the effect of boosting the
average daily consumption. In other words, the cold "consumed" water
at the same rate as the animals. We used the 300 gallon stock tank
for all the animals that didn't have individual stock tanks. That 300
gallon tank remained almost ice-free for the first 3 days, but then we
lost more and more water to the ice as the volume of water decreased.
The water in the individual tanks in each yard filled with ice too,
and if we chipped away the ice such that it went out on the ground,
that was water we'd never get back. And finally, because the water
tanks started to freeze up, they began to suspend foreign matter in
the ice like dead leaves, dirt, or whatever blew into the tanks during
the several windy days we had. So that ice was rendered unfit for
consumption too. We were also drawing water from the 300 gallon stock
tank to flush our toilet once/day, which drew it down further.

When the 300 gallon tank reached bottom, we probably still had 50
gallons worth of ice that we couldn't use, and by then the individual
tanks were also nicely contaminated. So we turned to the standby
barrels, but alas we lost fully 1/3 of our volume there to ice too.
To cut to the chase, we "burned" through our entire 750 gallons
reserved for livestock use in that 7 day period. And that number
would have been a lot higher if the animals didn't have the option to
eat snow, which we saw them doing (even the chickens did that). Had
the water pipes not un-frozen that last afternoon, we were looking at
pulling water out of two unreliable sources - our old well and a pond
near the house. We already know those water sources are not fit for
human consumption and I really didn't want to have the animals
drinking it either.
So, I go through all this record keeping for one reason - sometimes
even our best forward-looking plans are thwarted by conditions that
only become apparent when it's too late to do anything about it. In
this context, we thought we had plenty of water for the one storm, but
those storms kept coming and our supply was almost exhausted before
the storm cycle eased off. We're going to drastically bump up our
estimates for what water reserves we need and ways to ensure we have
it in the future. I hope all of you take a good hard look at what
water stores you have, and how those stores might not stretch quite as
far as you'd like to think they will. Look at it now and pad your
supplies a little more before you find yourself running dry like we
almost did.