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How much water is enough?

How much water is enough?

If you like eating as much as I do, it’s hard to imagine your body can actually go weeks without

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food.  But without water, our bodies can get into serious trouble quickly – just a matter of days before dehydration can set in. So why is it that many people keep lots of extra food stored in their houses, but neglect to store any water?

by Tom Sciacca

This subject came to mind recently when my cousin told me about having to endure a power outage with no drinkable water. Since power outages often impact water treatment facilities, tap water can be unsafe for drinking. The situation was made worse by the fact that her child had vomiting and diarrhea, which meant that there was an even greater need for

It took some duct tape and paracord to make these quart Gatorade bottles into serviceable water canteens. Many good water containers are free.

drinking water, as well as water for cleaning, sanitation and hand washing.

For instance, a mixture of water and chlorine bleach would have greatly assisted in sanitizing around her child, helping to ensure that others didn’t also get sick. And obviously, you wouldn’t want to clean up after such a mess without being able to thoroughly wash your hands. (As a dad, I know that’s NOT fun!) Finally, water for food preparation is a supply you’ll need over and above what you plan to drink.

If you look at the conventional wisdom out on the internet, you’ll find guidelines such as the following:

  • A normally active person needs to drink at least a half gallon of water every day. Hot environments can double that, and children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.
  • Additional water should be stored for use in food preparation and hygiene.
  • Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day. You should have at least a two week supply of water for each member of your household.

This is all well and good for the most basic needs, but I recently contacted a very knowledgeable ecologist and cultural anthropologist about her opinion of these recommendations, and she recommended much more. Back in the times when people hauled water from lakes and wells, she told me, a normal household used over 2 gallons of water per person for cooking, cleaning and drinking. Nowadays, people are so accustomed to having plenty of fresh water around that
it’s used at a much higher rate. (Don’t forget that people only bathed once a week in olden times!)

So my latest philosophy is that it is better to plan on 2-4 gallons per person per day. Sure, you may use less, but what if the situation lasts longer than you planned? You’ll be happy you had the additional safety margin.

Now, where should you get the water? Well, for a while, I sold canned water, as it can be stored easily for long periods. But after a time, I began to realize that the shipping cost of canned watermade it very expensive for customers to acquire (plus, it’s not exactly a “green” practice to ship water that you can get from the tap), so now I just give advice on how to store it on your own.

  • You can buy jugs of bottled water or you can fill up old milk jugs (which you’ve thoroughly cleaned, of course). Make sure it’s a plastic that is safe for food use and don’t use them for an eternity.
  • Store the water in a cool dark place, such as your basement, if you have one.
  • Rotate your water every six months or so, by using up what you have in your cooking, washing or even flushing the toilet, then replenish the supply.

Keeping water on hand is not simply a preparation for the end of the world as we know it, but it is also a smart precaution
against power outages, storms or any other time we lose basic services. It means you’ll be less likely to panic (like all those unprepared people) and less likely to be demanding assistance from already-overtaxed emergency services.

Of course, having an adequate supply of food is important too, but without water, you’ll be majorly uncomfortable in an awful hurry. Fortunately for my cousin, she and her family came through okay, but the anxiety she felt during the situation helped her recognize that you can never have too much water on hand.

Tom Sciacca is President of CampingSurvival.com, specializing in wilderness and urban survival.

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1 Comment

  1. teabag

    06/20/2016 at 15:31

    a milk jug, or any other opaque or translucent jug, will start to leak after a few months to a year. there’s no guarantee they will last 6 months. i use only the clear plastic ones that bottled water comes in. that’s easy for me, since i drink bottled water, but if you don’t you can also use soda bottles. if you don’t drink soda or other carbonated beverages, you probably know someone who does.

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Leon's Blog

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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