Survival Basics – Water for Survival
It is possible for somebody to go weeks without food but when it comes to water for survival, it is a completely different story. Apart from oxygen, water is your body’s most important nutrient. If you wish to stay healthy, you must continually replenish your fluid supply. Failure to do so leads to your organs being unable to function properly.
In extreme heat, dehydration can set in in as little as an hour. Believe it or not, even in cold weather you will begin to become dehydrated with every breath that you take due to the cold air not being able to hold moisture.
Signs of Moderate Dehydration:
- Dry/Sticky Mouth
- Dark Yellow Urine
- Dry Skin
- Muscle Cramps
Signs of Severe Dehydration:
- Very Dark Yellow Urine
- Dry Skin
- Rapid Heartbeat and Breathing
- Sunken Eyes
- Sleepy, Lack of Energy
Signs of Dehydration in Babies and Young Children:
- Dry Mouth/Tongue
- No Tears When Crying
- Dry Diapers for 3+ Hours
- Sunken Eyes, Cheeks, Soft Spot on Top of Skull
- Sleepiness, No Energy
- 1 How Long Can You Survive?
- 2 Water Storage
- 3 How Much Water to Store
- 4 Choosing Water Storage Containers
- 5 Preparation
- 6 Making Water Safe for Storage
- 7 4 Water Myths
- 8 Emergency Water Sources Around the Home
How Long Can You Survive?
The average human can last between 3 – 5 days without water providing that you are not physically exerting yourself.
When it comes to how much water you should be drinking every day, the answers change no matter who you ask but the general idea is that you need to drink about 1/2 gallon of water a day but this depends on how active you are. Some experts even recommend that you should continuously sip on water throughout the day.
There are many reasons as to why you should learn about proper water storage but two big reasons are:
- The world’s supply of potable water is gradually becoming less accessible to us.
- A disaster can occur without any notice.
How Much Water to Store
It is widely recommended that we should store 1 gallon of water per person, per day. This breaks down to 1/2 gallon for drinking and 1/2 gallon for cooking and cleaning. You want to try and store a minimum of a two-week supply so for a single person it would need to be 12 gallons of water. As you can imagine, the numbers soon build up with the more members that you have in your family or group.
Choosing Water Storage Containers
Storing water is the easy part, ensuring it stays clean and safe takes a little more thought. Whilst water does not exactly expire, it is always best practice to rotate your supply as well as swap it out yearly to ensure that the environment hasn’t altered the water in any way.
If you are looking at long-term storage, you should consider looking into purchasing a larger 55-gallon barrel. Most blue water barrels are food-grade but be sure to check before you purchase. For larger families and groups, you may look into purchasing larger options or multiple 55-gallon barrels. If you do choose this option, remember that you will need a water pump to access the water.
If you are looking for something smaller than the 55-gallon barrels you could look into purchasing a 5-7 gallon portable water tank. These are good option if you need to make a quick exit.
As I mentioned earlier, water itself does not expire but the environment can and will alter its usability. When purchasing new containers you MUST disinfect them before adding any water for storage. Follow the simple steps below:
- Wash and rinse the container.
- Add 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid bleach per litre of water.
- Coat the entire inside of the container with the solution.
- Let it sit for 30 seconds, pour out and then let it air dry.
- Add your clean water and cover tightly.
Making Water Safe for Storage
Water from the tap is usually already treated before it gets to you which makes it safe to store as is however, I always recommend that you still treat all water before putting in to storage. You have a few options here:
Purification Tablets – you will need to follow the instructions that come with the tablets as each brand will be different.
Boiling – boiling is more efficient in killing bacteria, viruses and parasites. Bring the water to a boil, let it cool and then bottle it up.
Chlorine Bleach – household bleach can be used for the same purpose as purification tablets. Mix 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of unscented household chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water. Let it stand for 30 minutes and then store in clean containers.
Water Filters – Portable water filtration devices can be convenient for quick removal of bacteria, parasites, and heavy metals. Since most portable filters will not remove viruses, it is best used in combination with another disinfection method such as chlorination.
Distillation – the most effective method of water purification, as it will certainly rid the water of all bacteria, viruses, parasites, heavy metals and most other chemicals, but is a slow process and yields very little drinkable water at a time. The process works by collecting the condensation from the boiling process.
To distill water with a cooking pot, fill it about halfway with water. Turn the lid upside-down and tie a string from the lid handle to a cup so that the cup dangles above the water. When the water is boiled, the condensation will drip from the lid down into the cup. Boil for about 20 minutes. You can also purchase countertop water distillers that can typically produce up to 4 gallons of water per day.
There are other ways of collecting water both in and outside the home. In your home you can gather clean water from the toilets water tank (not the bowl), your hot water tank, and from melting ice cubes. Outside you can collect rainwater or gather it from local rivers and streams and boil it with rocks.
4 Water Myths
Myth #1 – You Need to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day
This is one of the myths I see on an almost daily basis and just the other day I was trying to clear this one up on Twitter as so many people were still believing it. The truth is, there is very little, if any scientific basis for this statement.
Every individuals needs will be different and there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration such as:
- Body size
- Diet, and
At the end of the day, your body knows when you need a drink so listen to it.
- If you’re thirsty – drink some water
- If your mouth is dry – drink some water
- If your urine is unusually dark – drink some water
Don’t worry about counting glasses as your body is very good at keeping track for you. In fact, 20 percent of the water intake comes from the foods that you eat.
Myth #2 – If Your Urine is Yellow Then Your Dehydrated
Yellow urine can certainly be a sign of dehydration but so can a lot of other things. You can’t trust this alone as any of the following things could make your urine yellow:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Medical conditions
Myth #3 – Water in Caffeinated Drinks Doesn’t “Count” Towards Keeping You Hydrated
It is often said that the water in caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee or soda does not count towards your water intake which is completely untrue. There is absolutely no evidence that the diuretic effects of caffeinated beverages cancel out their hydration effects.
Myth #4 – If You’re Constipated, Drink More
While this may be true for some, it isn’t true for everybody. If the individual is already sufficiently hydrated this is of no use at all. It would work however, if the individual was dehydrated.
Emergency Water Sources Around the Home
Depending on the severity of a disaster, it could mean that your home is without a supply of fresh water for days, weeks, or possibly even longer.
It is important that you understand how to find alternate water sources from around the home that are safe for you and your family to drink. Luckily for you, you actually have several sources that you can use, providing you can access them.
Following a disaster, before trying to access any water from your faucets or water heater, you need to ensure that your water source hasn’t been contaminated. If there are any contamination concerns in your location, this will be communicated by the local officials using local news sources.
What Not to Drink
The following types of water are unsafe to drink, even if you treat or filter it.
- Water from your toilet bowl, radiators, or water beds
- Water from your swimming pool or hot tub. This can be used for personal hygiene and Sanitation.
- Flood water
- Water that has floating materials in it or that has an unusual odor or color
- Water that you know or suspect might be contaminated with fuel, heavy metals, or toxic chemicals
Safe Water Sources From Around the Home
If you have advance warning of an incoming danger, you have the time to prepare in advance and maybe fill the bathtub before it happens. Sometimes, the warning just isn’t there or comes a little too late to prepare.
It is always a good idea to stockpile water as part of your preps but if for whatever reason you haven’t, it is time to hunt around the home.
Refrigerator and Freezer
Any ice can be melted and the water used.
The tank behind the toilet, not the bowl, can be used. As long as it is clear and has not been chemically treated with toilet cleaners such as those that change the color of the water.
Your water heater is a possible source for clean, drinkable water. The average home water heater has at least 30 gallons of clean drinking water and can be used in an emergency.
Take the time now to read the instructions and find out how to drain the water.
Canned Fruit and Veg
In an emergency situation, you should save the water from any canned fruit and veg that you and your family eat and use that.
Any water collected from sources outside of the home should be treated to make it safe for consumption.
It could be contaminated with livestock waste or human sewage. If you suspect or know the water is contaminated with toxic chemicals or fuels, it cannot be made safe and you should not drink or bathe in this water.
Possible sources of water that could be made safe by treatment include:
- Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
- Ponds and lakes
- Natural springs