Water Collection during a Water Crisis in an Urban Environment
The average person can survive up to three weeks, possibly longer in certain cases, without food. However, that same average person cannot live longer than three days during an emergency water shortage. As people go about their daily lives, they may not pay attention to how they are hydrated. Coffee, teas, juices, and even certain foods contribute to the body’s daily hydration needs. Some may not even be aware that they need between 2.0 and 2.5 quarts/liters of liquid daily.
If you were to remove all of the juices, coffee, sports drinks and teas from a person’s daily life they would need for survival, a reliable and clean drinking water source that can provide them with up to 2.5 quarts of water daily just for hydration. You would need more water daily for hydration if the climate is hot and you are sweating heavily. You need for all practical purposes one gallon/four liters of water daily. This is every day, for the rest of your life.
What Happens If There’s a Water Crisis
Given the state of the world and the country these days, you can awaken one morning and find that when you turn on the faucets all you receive is a blast of air. Anything could have happened; hackers may have finally breeched the computer systems that operate your community’s water treatment plant. The power grid may have collapsed causing treatment plants to shut down or in some cases, your city or town has simply run out of funds and cannot maintain the treatment facility, the list of possibilities is endless.
You may have a stockpile of water for emergencies, but how much do you have and stockpiles do run out. If you live in an urban environment, you may be limited on space and cannot stockpile large volumes of water. To survive a water disruption you must have the skills and knowledge to find a water source, filter and then purify that source. Keep in mind 97 percent of the surface water on earth is seawater (saltwater) leaving only three percent that is considered fresh water.
Surface Water Sources in Urban Areas
You have to move quickly because people will become desperate and the obvious sources will soon be depleted. Many people will become sick from drinking contaminated water, if a natural or manmade disaster created the water shortage because you will be dealing with contamination from raw sewage and possibly chemical contamination. Have a plan before a water crisis.
Urban water sources that must go through purification before drinking include swimming pools, public fountains, hot tubs, public lakes, ponds and streams that can be found in many parks. Ideally, you will evacuate from the city after you have collected enough water for use during the evacuation. Once outside the city you can use reservoirs, lakes, streams and rivers for a drinking water source once filtered and purified. You can even dig wells if you establish a base camp away from the city.
Waterborne cysts harbor bacteria and even when the water is chemically treated or even boiled the bacteria may still be present. The cysts can be removed by filtration and in some cases; filtration can remove pesticides, fuels and herbicides along with sediment, insects and other debris. After filtration, water can be boiled or treated to destroy the remaining bacteria, pathogens and parasites that may be present.
Filtering mediums include activated charcoal, charcoal made from hardwoods, sand, gravel, cheesecloth, cotton cloth and coffee filters. These materials are readily available and you should attempt to use all of the mediums by layering to ensure as many contaminates as possible are filtered out prior to purification.
ßExample of a filtering device using a two-liter plastic soda bottle-homemade water filter
Boiling is always the preferred method but you may not have a vessel to boil water in or the means to create a fire. Acceptable alternatives include sodium hypochlorite (liquid chlorine), which is the active ingredient commonly found in household bleach. The bleach must be free of any additives and have a sodium hypochlorite content of between 5.25-6.0 percent. Additional methods include two percent liquid iodine and iodine/chlorine dioxide purification tablets. There are other chemicals and methods that can be used but these are reliable, easily performed, and the materials can be obtained virtually anywhere.
Chlorine dioxide tablets (Follow Label Directions)
Filter first as described
Boiling will reduce water volume by evaporation so you must be careful that you do not literally boil your pot dry because this can be problematic if you have a limited water source. Rapid boil for one minute if you know you are at sea level. Rapids means the water is rolling for the full 60 seconds. Water at sea level boils at 212ᵒF/100ᵒC and at higher elevations, because of the reduced air pressure, water boils at a lower temperature so if you know or suspect you are well above sea level boil for three minutes. It must rapid boil longer at the lower temperature to ensure all contaminates are destroyed.
The question is of course; why not boil water for three minutes regardless of elevation. You can do this if you have a large enough volume and are not in fear of running out. The steam rising from boiling water is evaporation and it will rapidly reduce water volume. To help conserve water place clean cotton cloths over the boiling water to absorb the steam and once cooled squeeze back into the vessel. Boiling longer than recommended does not make the water more pure, if you will, it simply causes you to lose water volume.
Using Chlorine Bleach
Filter first as described
For accurate measurement, you should use an eye dropper/medicine dropper. The number of drops of bleach needed for a quart/liter of water is two. If treating a gallon simply multiply by four for a total of eight drops per gallon. After adding, the drops shake well and wait 30 minutes. After 30 minutes smell the water and if you detect a slight chlorine smell you can drink the water if there is no chlorine smell double the drops and wait an additional 30 minutes. Chlorine will lose some potency after about six months especially if it was exposed to heat in excess of 95ᵒF/35ᵒC. Do not add more than four drops to a quart or more than 16 drops to a gallon.
Filter first as described
Add five drops of 2% liquid iodine (tincture of iodine) to a one quart or liter container of water or 20 drops to a gallon. Once added shake well and allow 30 minutes before drinking.
Note: Please check with your health care provider about iodine consumption if you are nursing, pregnant or have any thyroid gland issues. Do not consume iodine treated water for longer than 14 days at a time.
Drinking saltwater can be fatal in large enough doses. Seawater has three times more sodium than your body, which means you body simply cannot process this amount. Once large amounts of sodium are introduced into the body, the body will attempt to flush it from the system by using all available body fluids. This is a rapid process and can cause the kidneys to shut down, but the body will not stop extracting fluids from the cells and organs to remove the sodium. Rapid extraction of fluids from the cells to flush the sodium out of your system will cause your heart and other organs to fail. Salt-water essentially brings on rapid and fatal dehydration.
In emergencies, you can make saltwater safe to drink. One method is by boiling the water and placing clean cotton cloths over the vessel to collect the steam. Steam is purified/distilled water. Once the cloth is saturated and cooled, enough to handle squeeze it into a container. This method is not considered a reliable or renewable water source because of the limited volume of safe drinking water than can be collected. This method is for emergencies only. It should not be considered a substitute for equipment designed for this purpose.
You can also collect the steam on any surface that would allow the steam to condensate such as plastic or glass. Once condensed you can allow it to drip into a container or absorb using clean cotton cloths.