Water is so vital to life that most people will die in three days or less if they do not have it. The human body contains between 50 and 75 percent water, depending on age and gender. Despite this, many of us take water for granted.
According to the most recent medical statistics, roughly three-quarters of Americans are frequently dehydrated, which is surprising given our country’s widespread availability of clean water.
The tragedy is that for many people around the world, getting clean water is a full-time job, making it a scarce resource greater in value than gold.
Climate change and water scarcity
Over the last few decades, we’ve seen an increase in volatile weather patterns and changes in our global water supply. While some areas may see an increase in flooding, others may see an increase in drought.
Freshwater supplies to downstream communities are frequently impacted as glaciers continue to melt. Climate change may result in less water available for agriculture and less energy available for cities and ecosystems worldwide.
Many scientists believe that there is a link between climate change and water scarcity. Climate change may be the most significant compounding factor of existing infectious diseases.
Climate change will affect soil moisture, which will affect harvest size, even as increased heat reduces the nutritional value of foods, including wheat and rice protein content.
The specific effects of global climate change in any given location will range from drought to desertification to rising seawater, which will cause massive flooding.
The growing population and water availability
Water pollution is on the rise around the world, from pesticides to untreated human wastewater. Many groundwater sources are also becoming more contaminated as industrial chemicals leach into underground aquifers.
High levels of pollution can make people sick right away and cause massive illness outbreaks. Their effects can also be long-lasting and go unnoticed for years, in which case the damage to our environment and health has already been done.
The human population has more than doubled in the last 50 years, as has the strain on the planet’s resources as a result of industrialization and increased world hunger.
We just reached 8 billion people on this planet, and more and more people are moving to cities, resulting in megacities that dwarf New York and London, some with peri-urban slums where people live in close proximity to livestock.
Meanwhile, population growth in general, as well as people’s land-use decisions, has resulted in increased encroachment on open spaces and ecosystem disruption. Because people tend to cluster around water sources, the world’s population growth has put a strain on its water basins, reducing the planet’s availability of fresh water.
Agriculture and natural disasters
Over 70% of the world’s freshwater supply is used by agriculture, but 60% of it is wasted due to faulty irrigation systems, ineffective water application methods, and the cultivation of crops that are too thirsty for their environments.
As a result, water dries out the world’s rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers, putting some countries at risk of running out of water resources. Add to that the high levels of pollution caused by fertilizers and pesticides, and it’s clear that more harm to our environment and society is on the way.
Although not always a cause of long-term water scarcity, natural disasters have a negative impact on communities in the short term, often resulting in increased disease transmission and pollution.
There are numerous examples throughout history of how a lack of freshwater has destroyed civilizations and communities, but Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico stands out and shows us how natural disasters can devastate local freshwater supplies.
Furthermore, hurricanes aren’t the only destructive force capable of causing a water crisis. In 2010, Haiti experienced one of the world’s worst earthquakes, killing over 92,000 civilians. A cholera outbreak caused by unsanitary water conditions killed nearly 10,000 people.
This is due, in part, to the 890,000 Haitians who were displaced as a result of the disaster, which put to the limit an already strained freshwater infrastructure. This adds to the evidence that human migration and displacement exacerbate the scarcity of fresh water.
The need to store freshwater
Many Americans may place storing fresh water at the bottom of their daily priority list. Nothing is a priority in many disasters until we don’t have it.
But what if there is no Armageddon-style event, and the problem is subtle, gradual, and causing collateral damage?
Many California farmers went out of business as a result of the state’s six-year drought that began in 2011 and wreaked havoc on its ecosystem. In turn, the world food industry suffered a significant economic blow as a result of California’s drought conditions, raising food industry prices globally, all because water was scarce in one state.
However, disasters and water scarcity are as diverse as the regions they affect. We can plan ahead for how easily and in what quantities we should store water because we should have a good idea of what disasters may affect us based on where we live.
Whether it’s a power outage that lasts several weeks or toxic contamination, such as high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan’s water supply, every American can and should find a reason to keep emergency water on hand.
Water storage options
We can store fresh water in our homes in a variety of ways, depending on our budgets, ingenuity, and knowledge of storage and filtration principles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people drink at least one gallon of water per day (CDC). Everyone should think about his or her basic needs, and if we tracked every drop, we’d be surprised at how much water we consume each day.
Aside from drinking water, most of us should consider activities like hand washing, sanitation, cooking, bathing, and laundry. Water storage should also be considered realistically, depending on where we live.
I believe that there could be various water storage considerations depending on where you live. If you live in a desert with no streams and must store every drop of water you have, that is a different consideration than if you live in a rural area with a nearby stream and the ability to filter that water.
This is an example of acknowledging your surroundings in terms of adequate and safe water storage.
Water storage for children, the elderly, and pregnant women should also be increased. It’s also important to remember that our pets require water and should be taken into account when creating a daily water usage plan. Based on your needs analysis, keep at least two weeks’ worth of drinkable water.
Water should be stored in water-specific containers, such as buckets or bladders designed specifically for water storage. They should also be made of food-grade materials. You certainly wouldn’t want something that contained chemicals or other potentially harmful or unpleasant ingredients or odors.
There are several food-grade options to consider for properly storing our water, each with advantages and disadvantages.
Stackable water containers
The majority of these water containers are made of heavy-duty, dark plastic (typically blue) and can be stacked on top of one another to save space. Each container, which usually has a spigot and a handle to transport and dispense water, has a 5- to 7-gallon capacity.
The most stackable containers can be found in almost any department store’s camping section and cost between $15 and $30 per piece.
However, be careful not to stack them excessively since overstacking can cause containers at the bottom to crack under the weight.
Collapsible water containers
The obvious advantage of a collapsible water container is its storage capacity. They, like stackable containers, are usually equipped with a spigot and a handle.
The materials used in the containers are not as rigid as those used in more permanent water containers because they are collapsible. While most hold 3 to 5 gallons, owners should avoid overfilling them because the increased pressure can cause them to rupture over time.
2-liter soda bottles
Two-liter soda bottles are an excellent way to store water on the cheap.
If you live in the city or a small apartment, 2-liter soda bottles can be collected, thoroughly washed, filled with water, and stored in a closet or food pantry with relative ease. The plastic in the 2-liter soda bottle is also more durable than most milk jugs we buy at our local grocery stores.
Most water bladders for home use are large, can fit inside sinks or bathtubs, and can hold a large amount of water. Many bathtub water bladders can hold up to 100 gallons of water and come with siphoning kits.
The disadvantage is twofold:
For starters, it takes over an entire bathtub until it is drained, so hopefully, families have more than one bathtub or shower.
Second, once filled, don’t plan on moving the bladder until the water has been drained, as a full bathtub bladder can weigh more than 100 pounds.
There are heavy-duty water bladders on the market that can be stored outside, but the tradeoff of losing the material’s integrity due to heat or potentially puncturing it should be considered.
If you want to try this option, I recommend getting one WaterBob for each bathtub. These are the best bladders out there, and they will come in handy during an emergency.
Heavy duty barrels
A 55-gallon blue barrel made of rigid, food-grade plastic can store enough water for an individual for nearly two months. For example, I have the barrel from Augason Farms that comes equipped with everything you need, including a water treatment option. I keep it full of water at all times, just in case.
If you have a large family, you can either add more blue barrels or spend the money on an upgraded version of a heavy-duty water container that holds hundreds of gallons.
Just make sure that once you’ve chosen your heavy-duty water containment site, you stick a fork in it and call it done because it will be impossible to move once it’s filled.
Some stored water is not safe to drink unless properly filtered and purified, but it can be used for non-potable purposes such as plant irrigation. Using barrels to collect rainwater is an excellent way to collect non-consumable water.
Storing water long-term
Keep your water in a dark and cool place to keep light from reaching it. This keeps the water as fresh as possible because water degrades much faster when it warms up than when it is kept cool.
Temperature is the most important factor in long-term water storage. Water should always be stored in a cool, dry place. Under a stairwell or in a closet would work, but the basement is usually the ideal storage location. Water should never be stored in an attic or a garage where it can easily heat due to rising temperatures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) both recommend that non-commercially bottled water be replaced every six months.
Additionally, check the expiration date on purchased water to ensure that the product is safe for you and your loved ones.
Long-term water storage isn’t just for lone survivalists and apocalyptic preppers. It all comes down to promoting common sense, which each of us should practice.
Even though the water in our homes is generally safe, there could be times when a water main breaks or water becomes contaminated, so people should keep water on hand. We can all see the writing on the wall when it comes to the Earth’s freshwater supply becoming increasingly scarce.
I believe there are some indicators that people should be on the lookout for and use as a reminder to stock up on supplies for themselves and their families. I believe it is prudent for people to have water on hand for any eventuality.
Stagnant thinking is similar to stagnant water. It leads nowhere but to diseased thoughts.
If the human race is to stay ahead of the world’s water crisis, it will require personal sacrifice to ensure our long-term water storage needs for ourselves and our loved ones are met.
It will also take flexible and forward-thinking conservation efforts from all of us to ensure that others around the world have access to safe drinking water.
Other Useful Resources:
Drinking Water Survival Myths You Should Know
How to obtain water from the air
Decontamination Procedures and Sterilization of Water
Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation during a major disaster