In its purest form, it’s odorless, nearly colorless and tasteless. It’s in your body, the food you eat and the beverages you drink. You use it to clean yourself, your clothes, your dishes, your car and everything else around you. You can travel on it or jump in it to cool off on hot summer days. Many of the products that you use every day contain it or were manufactured using it. All forms of life need it, and if they don’t get enough of it, they die. Political disputes have centered around it. In some places, it’s treasured and incredibly difficult to get. In others, it’s incredibly easy to get and then squandered. What substance tops the list of necessities for our existence? Water.
Our bodies are about 60 percent water [source: Mayo Clinic]. Water regulates our body temperature, moves nutrients through our cells, keeps our mucous membranes moist and flushes waste from our bodies. Our lungs are 90 percent water, our brains are 70 percent water and our blood is more than 80 percent water. Simply put, we can’t function without it.
When you don’t get enough water, or lose too much water, you become dehydrated. Signs of mild dehydration include confusion, dry mouth, excessive thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness and weakness. If people don’t get fluids at this point, they can experience severe dehydration, which can cause convulsions, rapid breathing, a weak pulse, loose skin and sunken eyes. Ultimately, dehydration can lead to heart failure and death. 
In the United States, water is regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act and distributed by local water treatment companies. They often deliver water and take away sanitary waste through an underground water/sewer system to homes in a community or city. Homes outside the delivery area need to provide their own water source from a well or spring and dispose of waste water into a septic tank. These systems generally rely on electricity to pump and move the water. In the event of an emergency disrupting the electricity, available water will be limited to what you have on hand.
Commercially bottled water for drinking (stored in PETE – food grade plastic containers) can be purchased as long as supplies last. To avoid the panic, storing water in larger containers will allow you to have some available for uses other than just drinking.
Empty Bottles from water, soda, juice, etc., can be used to store extra water. Be sure to wash them carefully with dish soap, sanitize with a bleach solution (one tsp bleach mixed with 1 qt. of water), rinse well and fill with tap water. If you are using municipal water, no bleach is required because it is already chlorinated. Well water should have 2 drops of standard unscented household bleach added per quart. Rotate the water once each year.
Aqua-tainers holding 5-7 gallons are available in camping supply stores. These are made out of blue food grade plastic and come with a spigot for easy access. 7 gallons of water weighs about 56 pounds. The jugs are stackable, so you can store several in a small area.
Larger storage containers for people with extremely limited storage space include the waterBOB. This plastic container fits into your bathtub and holds 100 gallons of water. Using this will give you water storage without having to wonder when was the last time you cleaned the tub.
Water Barrels hold 55 gallons of water. Store these off direct contact with concrete. You will need a drinking water hose, bung wrench and siphon to start the water flow. 
Billie Nicholson, editor
Need drinking water and have no SUN OVEN® or water filter? Remember these six steps to more drinkable water.
- Locate a clear plastic beverage bottle.
- Look for the recycle symbol with the number 1 inside it, marked PET. This type bottle can be used for water purification.
- Collect clear water with low sediment, pour into the plastic bottle.
- Cap the bottle and shake it well.
- Leave the bottle in direct sunlight for at least six hours; longer if weather is overcast or water is cloudy.
- After six hours in sunlight, you will have bacteria free water – UV rays kill all harmful bacteria. Depending on your water source, this water should be drinkable.
Remember that this method of water filtering doesn’t remove chemicals or viruses, but in many cases those aren’t the top concern in an emergency water situation.
Billie Nicholson, editor
It’s nice to have a supply of rainwater for gardening purposes and, with that in mind, we put a rain barrel to collect water from off the roof of our shop. The usual rain barrel system has a single plastic drum placed under the downspout on the corner of a building. About 30,000 gallons of rainwater falls on the roof of the average home per year. So there is plenty of water to go around. Excess water overflows the barrel and is absorbed into the ground.
We do not want to use valuable stored drinking water for cleaning, washing and hygiene if we lose access to our regular water supply. We decided to expand the amount of rainwater storage by adding two additional water barrels next to our existing one. We used sturdy plastic trashcans we had on hand.
When installing any water catchment system it is necessary to make sure that each barrel is on a sturdy base and is level. As a base we used cinder blocks and 2×4 pressure treated lumber.
We drilled holes into the trash-can lids and installed garden hoses from one barrel to the next. To keep the hose ends from floating we placed a weight on the hose end. Before inserting the hose fully in place we charged each hose with water so that there would be a siphon-effect between the barrels.
When the water is used from one barrel the other barrels drain too. They also fill up the same way through the siphon-effect. As a final touch we placed a screen barrier at each hole so the mosquitos would not breed in the stored water. We treated the water by adding non-scented, not detergent bleach in the amount of 12 ounces per 50 gallon barrel. This prevents algae from growing in the water. We now have 150 gallons of rainwater storage capacity.
This month’s article includes:
Thanksgiving Day – An American Tradition a change of economic systems led to this holiday for expressing gratitude http://www.sunoven.com/archives/12222
A Winter “To Do” List http://www.sunoven.com/archives/12232 Don’t let cold weather catch you unprepared.
Use household items to make your own Gel packs for sprains and swollen joints. http://www.sunoven.com/archives/12238
Inviting pests to leave your home this winter, naturally. http://www.sunoven.com/archives/12260
Commit these ground to air emergency codes to memory. You may need them this winter. http://www.sunoven.com/archives/12243
Squash Chips – an alternate way to preserve summer squash without freezing. http://www.sunoven.com/archives/12272
French style Stew http://www.sunoven.com/archives/12032
There is a limit to how much water we can store. In addition to the small containers in our bug-out bags and car, we also set up a 55 gallon drum. At 8.3 lb. per gallon that 457 lb. container will be in place until it’s emptied. We recently rotated a water container that was set up seven years ago. When opened the water tasted sweet with a hint of chlorine, and was clear and sediment free. To empty the drum, we created a syphon by pulling a vacuum on a hose with our Shop Vac to start the flow. Once emptied, we washed the 55 gal. drum, then placed it on untreated wooden 2x4s to keep any chemicals in the cement floor from
leaching through the food-grade plastic container. Keep in mind that bleach now comes in two strengths, 5% and 8% sodium hypochlorite. We have 8%, so we added 12 oz. into the drum before filling it with water. Once filled to the top, we sealed and labeled the container “water” and included the date. To further protect the barrel, we placed a piece of finished wood on top to serve as a flat surface for storage.
Billie Nicholson, Editor
According to the recently released data from NOAA, nationwide, January was below average in precipitation. The state of California continues to suffer from water shortages, especially in the San Joaquin Valley, the salad bowl of the world. In addition to losses of jobs, the effects of this drought will show up in every grocery store across the country in the form of reduced selection and higher prices. Besides growing some of our own vegetables, we should all consider the following tips to help conserve water.
- Make sure your home is LEAK FREE. To check this, read your water meter at a time when no water is being used. Two hours is a good test time. Check the meter again after two hours. There should be no change. If there is, you have a leak.
- The first place to check for leaks are dripping faucets. Stop these by replacing washers in the hot and cold handles. A one second dripping rate will waste 2,700 gallons of water per year. This will increase your water and sewer costs or strain your septic system.
- The second place to check is the toilet. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water holding tank. If there is a leak, the died water will show up in the toilet bowl in about 30 minutes. Replacements parts can be purchased at your local hardware store and are easy enough to change. (I know, I’ve done it.) If the toilet handle sticks leaving the flapper open, lots of water will be wasted. Replacement or repairs of the flapper/chain mechanism is also easy. Be aware of the sound of running water. Check the toilet first when you hear it. Installing a low water volume tank or adding a brick inside an older tank will raise the water level in the tank but reduce the amount used per flush. Throw tissues and dead bugs in the trash to avoid unnecessary flushes.
- Install a circulating water pump on your hot water heater. These come with timers and can be adjusted to allow warm water to be circulating in your water lines. You’ll get warm water quicker.
- Running water while you brush your teeth can waste five gallons of water. Wet your brush. Then apply toothpaste and brush without water. Rinse your mouth with water from a cup. Wash out brush and sink with water from the tap.
- In the kitchen, if you’re washing dishes by hand, fill a small tub or large bowl with soapy water and wash in this. Stack the washed dishes and then rinse them. Garbage disposals require lots of water to operate properly. Start a compost pot as an alternative method of disposing of uncooked food waste. The worms in your garden will thank you.
- Store drinking water in the refrigerator. You will not need to run the tap to get cool water.
- If you have a well, check the pump periodically. Listen for the pump to click on and off while water is not being used. If it does, you have a leak.
- Mulch around plants to hold moisture in the soil.
- Water lawns and garden in the early morning hours. Don’t allow sprinklers to leak, or water your street and driveway. Change their position so water falls on lawn and bushes. Check sprinkler heads periodically for line breaks and head damage. You’ll recognize the water oozing in the grass near the head. Adjust the timers to control watering duration based on the time of year.
- Raise your mower blade to three and one-half or four inches. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the roots and holds soil moisture better than a shorter cut.
- Be aware of and follow all water conservation and water shortage rules in effect in your community. Every drop counts. Water Saving Tips
Additional Articles in this month’s issue:
- Mother Earth News Fair – a great preparedness educational opportunity. Look for one near you.
- Cheese Production – Made Easy gives step by step instructions for making cheese easily at home
- Creating a Sustainable Garden discusses ways to improve soil health
- Blackberries, Bain or Blessing? describes a way to safely pick wild blackberries, including a recipe for Solar Oatmeal Berry Crisp
- An alternative Protein Source – Raising Rabbits gives an overview for raising rabbits for meat. Did you know Californians prefer it to chicken?
- Have you considered Adding a Survival Net to Your Bug-Out Bag? – learn 10 uses
- Our Solar Chef has created Savory Solar Vegan Fritters this month as a great way to eat your veggies
Billie Nicholson, Editor