Water is great stuff! I love it and I try to drink as much as I can. But I don’t drink nearly enough, unless I am out in the field. Here in the desert southwest water is always a topic that can be heard around town or out in the field somewhere; farmers are short of it, townspeople expect it. The cattle need it, wildlife have a hard time finding it, towns are short of it and agriculture uses a lot of it. You better drink plenty if you are out hiking or camping.
Here is the tough part, if you don’t drink enough water you will die, period. If you drink water that is contaminated then you get sick and may die. Clean, pure water is one of those things that there is just no getting around, you must have it to live. So let’s talk about how to store it, filter it and purify it.
My Layering Philosophy
The “layering” method of water storage is simple…you need to have multiple layers of water storage to keep thirst as far from you as possible. Each layer defends against all water shortage emergencies.
What types of water shortage crisis are there?
- Natural disasters
- Man-made disasters
- Utility/power disruptions
- Economic and/or social problems
Pretty wide selection of possible emergencies because water is so critical to sustaining life there are plenty of potential problems involved. And any one of them can create a dire situation with your family.
So let’s discuss the “layers”…
As with all areas of emergency preparedness I believe in “layers” of keeping thirst as far away from you as possible. Those layers are:
- Utility water.
- Commercially bottled water.
- Self-stored water.
- Discovered & captured water.
Easy to explain and easier yet to understand.
- Utility water is that water which is supplied to you via a utility company. It is the water that comes to you daily and is stored in existing infrastructure in your home (i.e. hot water tank, toilet tanks, etc.).
- Commercially bottled water is that stuff you buy by the case or 2 – 5gal container. Do I really have to explain this layer?
- Self-stored water is that water which you have personally loaded into a container of some kind and then prepared it for long-term storage prior to sealing the container.
- Discovered and captured water is that water that you can find. Examples:
- Streams, rivers, & lakes.
- Cattle & wildlife water toughs.
- Rain water coming off your roof.
NOTE #1: “Discovered” water is problematic. It takes effort to find it and then more effort to make it safe to use.
NOTE #2: In the case of a disaster or an emergency I strongly suggest you filter and purify ALL water before use. You never know for sure the cleanliness of the water you are about to use.
Dehydration is a Problem
When you are outside working, hiking, or just having fun you will naturally lose your body’s moisture and it must be replaced. Actually, just sitting around the house you will need to take in water as well. Depending on what your activity level is dictates how much water you must take in each day. Just to meet the minimum requirement for an average person not exerting themselves you need about ¾ gal per day. Remember, that is a minimum requirement, average person, little exertion, etc. You go out walking around in 70 degree weather, moderate cloud cover, average health and average physical condition you would move that up to about a gallon per day. Most experts agree the average intake should be one gallon of water each day.
Now if you are hiking in the desert in the summer or cutting firewood in the mountains in December, then you would need even more. If you are working hard in 95 degree sunny conditions you will probably need close to a pint of water per hour, for sure every two hours. Should you neglect this basic amount of water intake requirement let me share with you what could happen:
- Dry mouth, lips and nose
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Deep, rapid breathing
- Rapid, weak pulse of 100bpm at rest
- Dizziness and feeling light-headed
- Temperature drop, especially the extremities
- Sunken, dry eyes
- Blue lips
- Low blood pressure
- Muscles cramping
- Painful kidneys
So how long can you go without water?
Most experts agree on 3 – 5 days tops for the average person; add an extra day if you are in really good shape and excellent health. For this conversation we will assume you are not a Navy SEAL and just an average person, then 3 – 5 days holds true. If you are hiking or working outside then cut it by a third. If it is hot, 80 degrees & sunny, cut it by another third. So, let’s say you are trying to walk through an arid area and it is in the 90’s, you are going to last about 1 – 2 days best case scenario. But don’t get too encouraged. As time goes on and you become more dehydrated you have to look at the stages of dehydration you will likely go through:
Mild dehydration (6 – 12 hours) –
- Lack of saliva
- Decreased frequency of urine
- Decreased output of urine
- Deep color and strong odor in urine
Moderate dehydration (8 – 24 hours) –
Severe dehydration (12 – 72 hours) –
- No urine
- Lethargy and irritability
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Possible hallucinations
So you can avoid all of those discomforts by staying hydrated; in other words – drink enough water. You can pick up a portion of the water your body needs through some foods. However, calculating that amount is complicated and not the focus of this information. For now we will talk about actual water intake.
The best way to stay hydrated is drinking clean filtered and purified water. The best way to ensure you have enough water to drink is water storage; storage being the supply you have on hand and readily available in your house. Storing water can be as complicated and sophisticated as you wish. I always prefer simple; less chance of something going wrong.
Rule #1 – ANY water is better than no water. Yup, any water is better than no water at all. Most water borne illnesses take 3 – 5 days or more to begin severely affecting your gastrointestinal system. That means drinking any available water, regardless of cleanliness, is perfectly acceptable if it means dying of dehydration is the alternative. Obviously if you can filter and purify the water first you are far better off. And that is what we are going to talk about under the “purification” section. But remember, you can die from dehydration. Please don’t die with a puddle of dirty water next to you.
Watch for my next post on WATER: Part 2 – Storage
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