Thursday, February 22, 2018

Keeping It Bottled Up

I don't normally write about “bugging in” as much as “bugging out” due to the nature of where and how I live. In the mostly rural area that I call home, the low population density and ease of travel make bugging in less of a probability (there are fewer things that could prevent me from reaching safer areas) than if I lived or worked in a large city. I realize that the majority of people live in cities, so I've been giving some thought to how their circumstances differ from mine and where the similarities are. Let's start with water.

Water Sources
I grew up drinking water pulled from a deep well. A deep well is one that is drilled to a point below the first layer of impervious rock, which means that the water it produces has been trapped underground since before humanity started playing with chemistry. This helps ensure an uncontaminated source of water, as long as the top of the well (the “head”) and the piping is kept clean and secure. The water is clean, clear, and has a taste that varies with the local geology. Ours tends to contain a lot of iron and calcium (“hard” water), while a town well 15 miles away has more manganese than iron; slightly different taste, but still safe to drink. Water softeners are very common around here, because they make water heaters and washing machines last longer than a few years.

Some small towns, located away from rivers or large streams, pull their water from shallow wells that are susceptible to pollution from chemicals leaching through the soil. It doesn't matter if the chemicals are fertilizer, pesticides, fuel spills, or industrial residue; the water can have a distinct odor and taste that may affect how people use it.

Most cities and larger towns will source their water from rivers or other surface waters, which means they have to treat it before it is “potable” water. This treatment can require a lot of energy and manpower, and the distribution systems are complicated. The infrastructure is also deteriorating due to age and mismanagement, so we end up with places like Flint, MI having tap water that is no cleaner than a common mud puddle. Add in the fact that once potable water gets to a tall building, where it has to travel through hundreds of feet of pipe before it reaches a tap, most office and apartment buildings don't truly have “cold” water. This means that many buildings have a “modern” appliance that most of us wouldn't consider a prepper item.

The Water Cooler
Courtesy of
I work in a small shop with people from five different towns, so we are all used to slightly different water. We have a water cooler in the office to give us a neutral-tasting water that we can all drink, and since the tap water is hard it makes the coffee maker (a vital piece of equipment for us) turn out drinkable coffee. We have a company that drops off 5 gallon bottles of water, normally a half-dozen every other week, for a cost of about a dollar a gallon. Lifting a 40 pound jug of water may be a challenge for some, so the home-sized water coolers are designed to take 3 gallon (about 25 pounds) jugs as well.
If the delivery company won't come out to your house, every grocery store and Wal-Mart in the area has a machine that filters water and refills jugs for less than half the price of delivered water if you have your own containers (which they sell).

The filtration methods vary a bit, with reverse osmosis and ozone treatment being common, but they are going to give you water that is safe to drink and will store for a few months. Think of it as bottled water, but in larger bottles and at a fraction of the cost.

Prepping Applications
How does this fit into prepping?
  • It's ubiquitous. Nobody is going to pay much attention to a water cooler, let alone think you're some kind of nut for storing a few extra jugs of water.
  • It's cheap. A dispenser that can give you cold, hot, and room-temperature water can be found *forless than $100. The hot and cold options will require electricity, but they are handy as long as you have it. No need to boil a pot of water for a cup of tea or instant soup if you have near-boiling water on tap.
  • It doesn't require power. When the power goes out, you will still have a source of water. You may need to insulate it to keep it from freezing, but you'll have water.
  • It's safe. The water coming from a commercial vendor is going to be cleaner than what come out of a tap. Check the labels or give them a call to find out what system of filtration they use, and if they don't want to tell you, that's a sign you should be looking for another supplier. A primer on the various technologies can be found here.
  • It's easy. The standard of storing a gallon of water per person per day includes water for sanitation and food preparation, so a 5 gallon jug should be enough for one person for a week. The bottles store easily, and many places sell racks designed to hold them, or you can make your own. Since the jugs are clear plastic (the glass ones are long gone), checking your water supply takes just a glance.
  • It's for bugging in. You're not going to be lugging a full 5 gallon jug of water around on your back as you traipse through the woods. Traveling requires a personal filter system; this is for sheltering in place. FEMA recommends having 3 days worth of food and water on hand, so a family of four could get by with 2 full jugs and a partial on the dispenser.
As I said at the beginning, I don't think about bugging in very often but I know there are those of you who may not have any other option. I'll see if I can come up with some more ideas in the near future.

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