Financial crisis, severe weather, ecological collapse and terrorist attacks may be a very real and imminent threat to the wellbeing of many families in the not-so-distant future. While the threat of a sudden and severe water shortage is only theoretical at the moment, it is critically important to be prepared to conserve water strictly in the event of a catastrophe. Knowing the basics of emergency water conservation can save your family’s life under dire circumstances.
Emergency Water Conservation: Equipment and Preparation
No house’s emergency preparedness kit is complete without a resevoir of potable water and a water filter. A home should have a minimum of five gallons of stored water per individual in the household. While this may seem like an excessive waste of space, it can be a lifeline during a catastrophe like a terrorist attack or weather disaster.
Water purifiers are also important emergency supplies and are available in a variety of forms and in countless varieties. Some are specifically designed to be antimicrobial, and others are capable of removing chemical impurities. Many camping and military-surplus stores also carry tablets that can cleanse water of microbes in the event of an emergency. These are important sources of purification if an emergency ends the availability of drinking water.
If a sudden water shortage is imminent or likely– for example, if a storm is quickly approaching and is likely to destroy water plants– fill all your sinks and bathtubs with tap water. These sources can store drinking water indefinitely until the disaster or water shortage has abated. If you need to stop contaminated water from entering your home’s pipes, shut off your water main and use only stored water until officials have confirmed the tap water to again be safe for drinking.
Emergency Water Conservation: Stretching your Water Supply
During a severe water shortage or the imminent threat of a disaster, you should conserve water carefully and religiously until water is again widely available. Water-based luxuries like washing your face, bathing, and showering can wait until later; water for washing should be used only on injured areas at risk for infection.
Additionally, the luxury of a flushable toilet must be abandoned until the water shortage is over. If possible, urinate and defecate in buckets, jars, or even directly outside to preserve the clean water in your toilet bowl and toilet resevoir. While the idea of drinking or cooking with the water may seem repulsive right now, you may see toilet-water as liquid gold if you’re at risk of dying from thirst.
During a water-shortage emergency, do not cook with potable water unless it is absolutely critical. If the only food available requires water to cook, store the leftover liquid after using it. It can later be used as a drinking-water source or even to make a different water-based food, like soup.
Additionally, consider consuming as many foods as possible that contain large amounts of water. Canned soup, juice, canned vegetables, and fruits can all be consumed with their packing-water as both a food source and a source of hydration.
Emergency Water Conservation: Outdoor Sources of Potable Water
If you have exhausted, or near-exhausted, your indoor water sources, it’s time to branch out and seek drinking water elsewhere. The first and most obvious option is rainwater, which is almost always potable and relatively pure when it falls. It can be caught in empty cans, jars, and buckets. Leave as many of these outside as possible during rainfall.
Water from streams, ponds, and rivers can generally be consumed if it is filtered first, both to remove particulate matter and to remove chemical and microbial contaminants. If you have no filter available, strain wild water several times through a thick cloth until it runs clear, then heat it to a boiling point to kill microbes. This method should only be used as a last resort, since it does not fully eliminate pathogens and will not destroy chemical pollutants.
Many succulent plants also contain clean water and can successfully rehydrate someone who is thirsty. Fruits of all kinds, as well as cactus, cattail, and wild onion, are all excellent sources of water in an emergency. Do not eat any plant that you can not successfully identify: poisoning or dysentary during a water shortage can be life-threatening.
Emergency Water Conservation: Childcare During a Water Shortage
Many of us recall a heartbreaking photograph published in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which displayed a young, distraught-looking woman holding a can of formula in one hand and a baby in the other. The powdered formula was of no use without water to mix it with. Because very young infants can die of hypogylcemia in a matter of hours, this adds another frightening dimension to the reality of water shortages.
Among other reasons, this is yet another case in support of breastfeeding. A nursing mother can supply clean, potable liquid to her infants, and it can even be expressed and given in a cup to older children during an emergency. She must, of course, maintain proper water intake to prevent her own dehydration.
If this scenario is impossible, children should be given priority use of available drinking water since dehydration is a much more serious and likely condition for young children. They are also more likely to suffer from microbial infections so, if possible, adults should drink any water that may have trace contaminants, while children should be given the cleanest water available.
Because most children have difficulty self-moderating their use of an available resource, monitor– but do not severely limit– the child’s intake. He should drink enough to stay reasonably comfortable, but not so much that he is urinating frequently or that his urine is clear, if there is a severe water shortage.
Emergency Water Conservation: First Aid for Dehydration
If water conservation and collection methods have failed and someone is suffering from dehydration, treatment should begin immediately to prevent the condition from worsening. If possible, an oral rehydration solution can be made to restore electrolyte balance, containing 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 3 tablespoons of sugar per quart of water. This mixture can prevent mild dehydration from becoming life-threatening, and has been used successfully to save lives by the World Health Organization.
People suffering from acute dehydration should avoid any strenuous exercise that could lead to sweating, and might even consider rubbing grain-alcohol on skin, to reduce body temperature without the use of precious drinking-water. They should also urinate as frequently as they can until their condition has abated, to prevent the buildup of toxins in the kidneys.
Of course, if at all possible, seek emergency medical care if someone is suffering from dehydration during a disaster. Self-treatment and home emergency measures should only be used if no other alternative is available, since dehydration can and will cause death if left untreated, especially in children.
Severe water shortages are a frightening but very real problem throughout the world, and they are likely to affect American families in the event of a crisis, such as a terrorist attack or severe weather incident. You or your loved ones may find that preparation for a water shortage can be your lifeline in the event of an emergency.
Source Used: Mayo Clinic. Dehydration: Treatments and Drugs. Accessed 27 Dec 08