After more than a week without running water, I appreciate even more the privilege of living in a first world country. I never expected to be without running water for such a long period, but the unusually low temps in our area have prevented outside repairs. We’re lucky though, even though our water main is broken, it has just enough pressure to allow us to turn it on for a few minutes each day to “restock” our water supply.
All this time without working faucets has got me to thinking about disasters in much greater detail. I also have a much better understanding of how much water you HAVE to have each day to get by.
It turns out that the recommended 1 gal per person per day is actually a bare minimum. We have found that, even if you aren’t taking showers or flushing toilets, you will need closer to 2-3 gallons per person per day. Add toilets and basic personal hygiene (but still no showers) into the equation and you need more like 5-10 gallons per person.
Wow, what an eye opener. Think about it, do you even have enough room or containers in your house to store 10 gallons of water per person for one day, let alone a week? Puts things into perspective doesn’t it?
Of course, not all water is created equal. The quality of the water coming through our broken pipe in not drinkable, so we’ve had to use a purification system to make sure we don’t create a “secondary emergency” by getting sick. We’re fortunate to already own a system that will make our water potable, but it certainly isn’t something I would have thought about having in place for this type of situation.
My Red Cross disaster training has been really helpful in coping with this situation; it gave me some basic guidelines to follow and some ideas of how to be creative with our resources. But nothing short of going through a situation can really make you challenge your underlying assumptions—many you may not even realize you have.
I had never considered how much water it takes to brush my teeth or how to wash my hands one at a time with one hand pouring from the pitcher and the other trying to wash itself. These are only two small things, but there are dozens of small challenges to be overcome without running water, everything from laundry to cooking. I have always thought I would do OK during a zombie apocalypse, but I have definitely reconsidered some of my bravado after this past week.
While we’ve done great, we’ve also not been 100% without access to water or other resources. At any time we can get in our car (which has plenty of gas) and drive to the store or go to a friend’s house for water. We have more than enough food and haven’t lost power or heat, all things that can become scarce or nonexistent for weeks on end during disasters (think Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina).
So my message to all of you who are enjoying a cozy snow day, is to take a few minutes today to consider what you might do if you lost even one of these precious utilities that we take for granted.