Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Running on Limited Water

In the past week, the southeastern part of the US has been hit by a major snowstorm. Where I live, the snow that they got wouldn't have meant more than getting up a couple minutes early for work. But in places like North Carolina, they get these funny things called ice storms, which are way worse than most snow storms.

Last year, friend of the blog and host of the GunBlog Varietycast Sean Sorrentino talked about the problems he had with his water supply during Hurricane Matthew. In short, he's on a communal well, and when the power goes out, the pump for the well shuts down, leaving his neighborhood with only the water they have pumped into their service tank -- which isn't much.

Knowing that a major storm was coming, and under the influence of 125 episodes of Erin's evangelism, he planned ahead this time and had some water jugs filled this time. This is a smart move, putting him far ahead of the average Joe.

There's only so much water that he can reasonably store, though. When your supply is minimal, you need to maximize what you get from it. There are several ways to do this.

Don't scrimp here! Water is key to life and health. Fortunately, cases of bottled water can be bought cheaply and stocked for drinking use. Not only does this remove any worries about contaminated water, it also make it easy to keep track of your consumption to ensure you're keeping hydrated.

You have to eat, and many of the most popular "survival" foods are dehydrated, requiring quite a bit of water to reconstitute. While I love my dried soups, rice, and other easy-storage foods, they are not an efficient use of resources when water is limited.

Also, do not try to eat snow or ice to get water. You'll expend a large amount of body heat and energy thawing it, while getting little water in return. Instead, melt snow or ice over a heat source to yield drinking water. Keep this in mind for winter storms that otherwise restrict your water supply.

In emergencies of short duration, you'll mainly be concerned with washing yourself and cooking utensils. To minimize water waste when washing yourself, use a camping technique sometimes called a "spit shower": wet a washcloth, wipe yourself down with it, and dry off with a towel. It's not great, and it only works short term, but it will get most of the dirt and funk and uses very little water.

For cleaning your cooking and eating implements, use as little water as you can, and don't send it down the drain when you're done. Instead, do your dishes in plastic tubs instead of the sink, and leave the water in the tubs when you're done. This works better if the tubs are between 2 and 5 gallons, for reasons we'll discuss below.

Yes, I mean the toilet. Modern toilets use between 1.2 and 1.6 gallons per flush (older toilets can use up to 2.5, but those are getting very rare). That adds up very quickly, and will consume water that can be better used elsewhere. There are a few things that can be done to reduce the waste dedicated to your waste.
  • While the more civilized readers may balk at the notion of "if it's yellow, let it mellow," flushing only urine expends water that doesn't need to be used. 
  • However, feces should still be flushed immediately. When flushing the toilet, don't use the lever. Instead, use the dish water that you saved earlier. Pour it directly into the toilet bowl. Water pressure will cause the toilet to flush as if everything was normal, typically using less than a gallon of water.

Water shortages are rough. Planning ahead and keeping to that plan will make these rough times far more bearable.


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