Monday, February 10, 2014


West Virginia state flag
I'm sure many of you saw the news out of West Virginia a few weeks ago.  The mess is HERE for those who haven't read about it.  Long story short, a chemical storage company had a failure of a toxic chemical storage tank which then leaked some horrendous chemical into the water supply of a large part of WV.  Residents all around the area were told to stop using water.  Not just 'don't drink it', but don't bathe in it, don't wash their hands with it, don't wash dishes, don't brush their teeth, don't even flush toilets.

Basically they were told not to touch it.

Hazardous to your health!?

It's something we all take for granted at times.  We turn on the faucet and water comes out, right?  But what happens when it doesn't?  Or if it makes you sick even if it did come out?  It got us to thinking about being prepared.

Now at the farm we are on a well, and it's fairly deep, so the water is relatively safe from above ground contamination.  Still, who knows what might happen, even down underground?  Though unlikely, it could become contaminated.  But certainly the water system in town is VERY susceptible to something like this.  Heck, during Hurricane Ike, parts of the city had to boil water for a few days.

So what if that did happen in water?
This is what would happen...

Water shortage, photo courtesy of WOWK
This is an actual Kroger store in a city in WV.  With more than 300,000 residents having no water, stores were inundated by people within a few hours.  In fact, in less than a day, authorities said there was no water to be had anywhere within a one hundred mile radius!

The farm is not only our future retirement place, it is also our "bug out location", our safe place to go if we can't stay in town for any reason.  No running water or not having drinking water would definitely be a good reason.  

So at the farm, we are keeping fresh water stored.  We have our water cooler which of course, holds 5 gallons at any one time.  Then we keep two back up, already filled, 5 gallon bottles in the mudroom.  This means we have 15 gallons of clean fresh water at any given moment.  That's not enough though to live on for any length of time.  The general rule of thumb for water storage is 1/2 - 1 gallon per person, per day.  If we were frugal, the two of us would have drinking water for 15 days.  If it was Summer and hot (which goes without saying here in this part of Texas), we might only have half that much time.  Add to that the fact that you would also need water for the other things that stopped in WV like washing, bathing, cleaning, and flushing.  Reading all of the stories in West Virginia reminded us that we need to up our own capacity:
  • We will add two more 5 gallon bottles of water for a total of 25 gallons.
  • We are getting gutters on the house this year and will finally begin the process of harvesting and storing rain water.
  • We'll need a purification means to treat that rainwater (or the well water).
  • We're looking into the waterBOB emergency storage system as a means to have a bit more water stored, of course when we have notice of a major event such as a Hurricane.
  • And lastly, we're going to talk to 2nd Family (whom we share the well with) about alternative means of pumping water, manually and/or with solar.

Water = life,  so make sure you have it and have thought about what other options you might have without it.  How is your storage going?
Any ideas or suggestions?


Katie C. said...

Time to purchase some rain barrels for those gutters.

Kirk Dale said...

1st Man,
How long can one keep the water in those coolers? Indefinitely? Would the water not go off or have things growing in it if you didn't use it up in a proscribed time period? I have no idea myself.
I think that living on land that had a natural spring on it would be the perfect way to go.

Tonya @ My Cozy Little Farmhouse said...

There are 3 types of water white (potable), grey and black. White water is potable and safe for drinking, cooking, bathing, brushing teeth, etc... Grey water has come in contact with soap, fats, greases, oils, human/pet, hair/ fur, skin/ dander and possibly cleaning supplies chemicals. Black water is pathogenic and has come in contact with fecal matter.

For potable water-- You can set-up and store jugs or buckets of water with a few precautions.A 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon water makes it safe for consumption. Rotate every 6 months to ensure fresh supply. Homeland security provides an excellent tutorial

Any water diverted from sinks and tubs is called grey water and can be used for watering the garden as long as you know what you are putting down your drain. You can get a grey water holding tank along with filtration to scrub out residues before use.

Any water from septic or toilet is called black water and CANNOT be diverted for use without considerable risk of contamination and health risk. You can invest in elaborate water reclamation for the treatment and purification blackwater. It takes planning and investment. It would be worth it for those seeking off grid self sufficiency.

Regardless of where one begins with the process, water, next to air are our most valuable resources. It is good to be prepared and know how to deal potential contamination and shortages. Good post FM!!

Moonwaves said...

There are some useful articles on water storage and treatment on You could also think about putting in a composting toilet. Even if it was set a bit away from the house and not what you mainly used, it would be good to have something already set up and running in case of emergencies perhaps.

FionaG said...

We have no town water, our only water is what we collect in the rainwater tanks or pull from our creek which flows only in torrential rain. A few years ago, when we were in serious drought, our water hole became a stagnant pool. We got through the crisis but saved real hard to purchase 2 more 25,000 litre tanks, this added to the 26,000 litre tanks we already had. So now we only use these. We don't treat the water at all. Every now and then we send a sample to be tested. No city pollution for us but smoke from bush fires and from our wood burning stove, possum and bird poo, leaf litter etc, it all gets washed into the gutters and sometimes the overflow and strainers don't prevent things from entering the tank. Despite all this, the water is always given the thumbs up. Just think about all the rain you've had over the past few months. Also, while we're on water conservation, it's really good that you're putting in a dripper system for your garden. That can be your biggest water consumption in summer, it certainly is in this household. Composting toilet also a good idea though watch out if you have a power cuts power to the fan and then all the stink comes up (a neighbour has one) or there's the dual flush toilet. No matter how you cut it, you're looking at $ but worth the investment.

Joani said...

My first thought was tanks like FionaG talked about. The well you share is probably run by electricity for the pump and the pump is probably submersible. Don't know if there is a way to also install a hand pump. My other thought was a windmill but one would have to have a well dug already. If you are allowed out houses, it might not be a bad idea. The only thing about those is that they can also harbor varmints i.e., snakes, spiders, ants, etc. This lady's blog talks about going off the grid per se and brings up a lot of things in becoming self sufficient. It might not hurt to take a look at what she has done. And, she still continues to do these things. We all should be thinking along these lines in case a terrorist would take out one of the electrical grids & we'd all be in the same boat. Have a great week.

Sandy said...

1st Man,

You can never have enough water for the family.
I'm giving away a water filter on my blog, come over and register :-)

Melissa said...

I have been thinking about this since the disaster and yet have not been out to refill our 5 five-gallon jugs after using them for various projects to rotate the water out. Thanks for the reminder and inspiration to get to the stinkin' store ;-)

Anonymous said...

I have multiple containers in the house that get rotated as I do canning. I do not use milk jugs but rather vinegar jugs, juice jugs, and the occasional 4 gallon water jug. And a Berkey filter. There is also a rain barrel in the back (and plans for more). And during summer we can use the pool water. The one thing we cannot use is the waterbob. There is only one bathroom in the house and I cannot block tub access in that manner.

rheather said...

I live up the way a bit(Austin-ish) from y'all and use rainwater collection for all my needs. (The drought year was just tough and horrible.)

I just run pvc from my gutters to the black water tanks you can get at Tractor supply. The largest one is 1500 gal and I have 3 500's for livestock watering. My 16 sq. ft. roof-metal-can keep me in plenty of water when there's any rain. And I don't filter/treat it anymore and just use a clear plastic hose to siphon out water as I need it. I'm just running at a very low tech level so there's less to break!

Oh, and there are the 300 or so gal containers that have a pipe cage around them that you can get off or Craigslist. Just search water containers and see what pops up.

1st Man said...

I've been looking. I kind of what to make our own, I am looking for some olive barrels, you'd think in Houston I could find some but I haven't yet. I watched a neighbor in town make one and so I know the plumbing part, just need to find the right barrel.

1st Man said...

Oh how I wish we had a natural spring! Not many of those in this neck of the woods but oh well. We'll make do with other plans. As for water storage, in those big 5 gallon cooler type bottles, I've heard different things. Anywhere from 2 years to 5 years to "in an emergency you might drink it even 20 years from now". Ha. Not sure I'd try that. Luckily, we use it so it doesn't have time to go 'off'. We'll see!!

1st Man said...

Wow thank you for your great comment!! It really did make us think. I watched on the news when that happened and people were going crazy to get to water. Really seemed like watching an end of the world movie, it was crazy.

You know, great point about the types of water. Luckily we have a septic tank so black water does go there and disappears. Grey water is a good choice for watering plants (we are very conscious at the farm especially) about what we put down the drain. We could easily disconnect under the house to divert grey water elsewhere. I'll have to remember that (knock on wood we won't ever have to use it for that).

1st Man said...

True and done!! Thanks for hosting the giveaway. Fingers crossed! :-)

1st Man said...

Thank you for that link. Great info. I've saved it too (in addition to the ones above). A composting toilet. Hmm, you know I never thought about that, but that's not a bad idea. Sort of a back up. Of course we do have septic so we don't have to worry too much but it's a good idea. I will have to think about that, thanks!!!

1st Man said...

Wow!! You do have to live consciously thinking about water conservation. Those are some large tanks you have. Yes, we've had rain and I do think about all of it running off into the ground. Of course, it filters down to the well water, but still, we need more above ground.

And yes, definitely doing a drip style irrigation system in the garden.

Isn't it amazing how we so often take water for granted? I bet you don't!!! :-)

1st Man said...

We're going to talk to 2nd Family about that soon. I THINK they have a hand pump but I'm not 100% sure. Thanks for the suggestion. Being so rural we can definitely have outhouses, and it's funny this is coming up, I had not given that much thought until recently, for some reason. Thanks for the link, I have saved her blog as a favorite. You know the power grid is the thing we worry about as far as something happening.

1st Man said...

Hi Melissa!!! Glad I could help remind. You've reminded me of so many things, I'm glad I could return the favor, ha.

1st Man said...

I've heard about those Berkey filters. They seem really nice. Great idea about the vinegar jugs we use a lot of vinegar and always have extras. You know I didn't think about that with the tub. At the farm we just have one tub as well. Hmm...might have to think about options. Perhaps an outdoor shower, ha. Actually, the waterbob would be close to the window, and it's up high (from the outside) so we could use waterbob water to create a shower if necessary, ha.

1st Man said...

WOW! First of all hi and thanks 'fellow Texan'. Oh my gosh, that drought was horrible that year. I have seen some setups with the square containers and the cage around it. You sound like me, I'm kind of low tech to make it easy and less complicated. So you just run the water right into the tanks? That sounds easy enough. I thought it was hard to get water out unless things were elevated, to use gravity feed, etc. I'll do some research, you've inspired me to make it easy. And there IS a tractor supply just down the road from the farm, ha.

rheather said...

I do run the water through a drainable downspout to catch the first water off the roof. And siphoning is easy until it starts getting to the 700 gal mark. I have made a water pump from Mother Earth News that uses pvc pipe and a check valve. It's not high volume but it gets the low water out.

And for some really pretty tanks-check out Art Ludwig's book Water Storage.

Now I need to start going through the links here to get more ideas. :)

The Stay @ Home-Gardener said...

I'm pondering purchasing a potable water safe rubber pond liner, large enough to lay down over a spot in the yard where the land slopes down from the street and back up towards the mountain. Add sand, then gravel over it. Have a few 1500 gallon cisterns buried under it. Where the water can collected and flow to the tanks, filtered by sand. Use for agriculture and potable if need be. Such as a Berkey Filter or Equiv. This way it blends in with the surroundings.

1st Man said...

That's a very interesting idea. I like the idea of it being filtered by sand. Our soil is so bad, so much clay, digging down deep enough to a large tank would be difficult. But I am intrigued by this. It's not something we'd do right away, but if you end up doing it, I'll be watching closely. Very smart thinking!

The Awesome's said...

The crazy part about the WV water crisis, is that it is FAR from over. :-(
Well over a month now, and the water has still not been labeled "safe" to drink. The officials will only tell residents to use their own judgement.
We stayed in Charleston (where the spill actually happened), not even 2 weeks ago. I brought our own bottled water for our dog, and for the kids to drink if they got super thirsty. (We were only there basically to sleep for 1 night before travelling on the next morning.) Throughout the whole hotel, there wasn't a single sign 'warning' guests of the water situation. It was very eery.
I can't upload a pic in the comments, but I took one that my friends used on their online newspaper, it's at the bottom of the page...
What you can't see in the picture, was a sticky 'film' or something that was leftover when I poured the water out.
Now, how are the local residents supposed to function? Even with continued daily water drops, this is still a major problem. This has affected nearly 1/2 of WV residents (mainly because Charleston, being the capital, has a larger population), mostly metropolitanites. (I think I made that word up) They depend on the city water supply. As you get out of the city and into the rural areas, most people do have water wells. But, how are we to know about the future risks? What if the contaminated ground water does end up getting into our wells?
Like you, we're keeping plenty of bottled water in stock, using gallon jugs. We have a running creek that provides us with 'flushing' water for the toilets. We also have to use that every time the wind blows and the power goes out... no power, no water pump. Love the reader comments & ideas, too. We'll need to get started on more basic prepping, after we get out of this stinking never-ending winter of snow hell.
I'm SO glad I stumbled on your blog tonight! Love it!
(confession: I've gone back through and read *entirely too many* of your posts & I'm pretty sure we should be BFFs now :-D )

1st Man said...

For some reason, I just noticed that my reply to you was just listed as a regular post, not a reply. I wasn't sure if you got notification of replies so I wanted to make sure you saw my original reply.

1st Man said...

WOW! First of all, thanks for the wonderful comment. I was curious if it was still a problem there. As with so much of our 'instant gratification/sound bite' media, once the big story is replaced by something else, we don't get the rest of it or the outcome. Wow, how scary is it that the hotel doesn't warn guests? I mean, not everyone watches the news. There is no way I would chance drinking that water. I saw your pic you posted, holy cow, that is scary.

It really did make us think about making sure we always have water on hand, just in case. You never know what could happen right? Wish we had a creek, but we'll make do with what we can.

Thank you again for your very kind words and we'll be glad to call you BFF's, welcome! :-)

Oh, and stay warm! I blame it all squarely on the stupid groundhog, ha.

The Awesome's said...
Appears that only 'local' media is still on the story.

Listen, after another 6" of snow this week, I'm ready to strangle the groundhog & have a little roast...and I'm a vegetarian.