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Water: Resupply

Steven Vanasse and Dr. Tom Perez check a local water source for contamination.

Steven Vanasse and Dr. Tom Perez check a local water source for contamination. (View larger version)

Photograph by National Geographic Channel

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Even if you fill your basement withtanks of water, that supply isn’t going to last forever. In a protracted crisis, you’re going to need a source of water to replenish your reserve—or, ideally, multiple sources, ranging from nearby bodies of water or wells to systems for catching and collecting rain from your roof so that it can be purified. Here are some tips on how to ensure that you’ll have a continuous supply of H2O.

  • Know Where Your Water Supply Comes From. To most denizens of modern civilization,potable water is such a given that we don’t even think about how it gets into our pipes. But if you’re trying to find alternative water sources, or evaluating the security and dependability of your municipal water supply, it helps to know where your tap water actually comes from. From the Nature Conservancy, here’s a guide to the major water sources for many parts of the U.S.
  • When Evaluating Potential Resupply Sources, Be Realistic About Distance and Accessibility.  As Hunt points out, a body of water that’s several miles away is not a very practical source for resupply, because after a breakdown of social order, getting to it may mean running a gauntlet of violent predators. Additionally, since a gallon of water weighs eight pounds, you’d need a truck that can handle a 2,800-pound cargo in order to get two-week supply for a family of four—and the fuel to power the truck. Closer, obviously, is better.
  • Buy a Property With a Water Source.  As expert prepper and author James Wesley Rawles notes in his book, How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It, if you’re going to buy a piece of property out on the country as your disaster redoubt, look for one that has a water supply on the grounds. Gravity-fed spring water is the ideal water supply for preppers, because the water flows to the surface without need for an electric pump to bring it up. A well that taps into an aquifer is another great source, especially if your house is positioned so that the water can flow downhill to you without pumping equipment. But most of us won’t be that lucky, and remember that if your pump relies upon power from the utility company grid, you’re going to be in trouble if that goes out during an upheaval. Setting up a solar-powered pump to draw water from your well is an option. Be sure to equip your well with a float switch on the cistern, so that you can avoid needless wear and tear on your pump from working an empty well.
  • Rainfall as a Resource.  One good way to replenish your water supply is to outfit your house with a system for catching rainfall from the roof and funneling it into barrels, from which you can treat it and purify it for use. Tanks to collect rainwater from rooftop runoff  already are a major source of drinking water in some parts of Australia, where the government of New South Wales provides this detailed guide on how to collect rainwater. Water can be collected from most types of roofs. Some companies tout  standing seam metal roofs as providing the best water quality, but  University of Texas researchers have found that concrete tile also produces high quality water. The UT study also found that some increasingly popular “green roofs” contained high levels of dissolved organic carbon that can form carcinogenic byproducts when mixed with the chlorine that many use to disinfect water. You also should make sure that overflows or discharge pipes from air conditioners and water heaters don’t discharge and contaminate your rainwater collection tank. You’ll also need to maintain your gutters and continually keep them clear of leaves and other debris.


If you only do three things:

  • Know the average precipitation in your area. Hunt notes that if you live in a place where there only are a few inches of rainfall annually, relying on rain barrels as a water supply isn’t a good option.
  • Get your water source tested. A stream, spring or well may look perfectly crystal clear, but it may be contaminated with toxic waste buried by some long-forgotten polluter. So get it checked out in advance.  Accepta, a maker of chemicals for water treatment, provides this guide to hazards that may be lurking in your natural water supply.
  • If you’re going to haul water from a source, it may pay to travel light.  Instead of making yourself conspicuous in a truck, you might be better off hauling a few gallons at a time using a popular prepper means of self-propelled transportation-- a bug-out bike,  possibly equipped with a cargo carrier.


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