Authors: Nicholas Hyde
Tags: #Sustainable Living, #House & Home
A prepper’s guide to the collection, treatment, and storage of drinking water while living off the grid.
© 2012 by AndrewKaschPublishing.com
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying, or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder.
: The Author and Publisher have strived to be as accurate and complete as possible in the creation of this book, notwithstanding the fact that they do not warrant or represent at any time that the contents within are accurate. While all attempts have been made to verify information provided in this publication, the Author and Publisher assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein. Any perceived slights of specific persons, peoples, or organizations are unintentional. In practical advice books, like anything else in life, there are no guarantees of personal results. This book is not intended for use as a source of legal, business, accounting, medical, or financial advice. All readers are advised to seek services of competent professionals in the legal, business, accounting, medical, and finance fields. Furthermore, what works for some people may not work for others. Following the advice given in this book may result in unintended consequences in your life and the author and publisher assume no responsibility for that.
Harvesting your own drinking water can be dangerous
. The methods suggested in this book for purifying water may not work exactly as described and you may end up sick or dead as a result. Pursue the contents of this book at your own risk.
Table of Contents
The provision of safe drinking water is always the first order of business in any survival situation. If you have seen survivalist Bear Grylls skydive into remote backcountry areas on his cable TV show, you know that locating fresh water is the first thing he always does. While the human body can survive for a month or more without food, it cannot go more than a few days without water. In extremely hot climates, you could be dead in a matter of hours.
It logically follows that as a prepper or an off-grid homesteader, your first priority is maintaining a sustainable potable water source. It is not practical to attempt to simply store a large supply beforehand, because we humans just consume it too quickly. Even if you have the equivalent of an Olympic-size swimming pool at your disposal, your family will go through it all within a few short years. You need a renewable source of fresh water, and you need a reliable system of making it safe for human consumption. That’s what this book is about.
In the following pages, we will discuss in considerable detail the best methods of harvesting, keeping, and purifying fresh water for human consumption. Fortunately, this can be accomplished without sacrificing the comforts of a modern home, if you so choose. Producing your own delicious drinking water is a very satisfying project, and there will be no public utility water bill to pay.
One thing we have going for us is water is never very far away. More than 2/3 of the earth is covered with it, which seems appropriate, being as the human body consists of roughly 2/3 water. However, only 3% of the water on earth is fresh water. (Living in modern times does have its advantages; saltwater can now be quickly converted into fresh drinking water using convenient equipment which is affordable to most homesteaders, and we will cover that.) Of the earth’s fresh water supply, nearly 70% is frozen or trapped inside of glaciers. The overwhelming majority of the rest of it lies underground, leaving less than 1% on the surface in streams, lakes, ponds, and swamps.
There’s more. As you know, water comes in three different physical forms. The earth’s atmosphere contains another large supply of it in gas form, perhaps enough to fill all of the earth’s rivers to their high water mark and then some.
It’s a good thing the earth yields such an abundant supply, because people consume an awful lot of H2o. In America alone, it has been estimated that more than 390 billion (with a b) gallons of water are used every single day. Each time a person flushes a toilet, between 1.5 and 5 gallons are used, depending on the age and efficiency of the toilet. Turning the water off while you brush your teeth actually saves several gallons. If your toilet runs, it is likely that 10+ gallons are wasted before you remember to go in and jiggle the handle. This is the reason many off-grid homes are being built which use non-potable, recycled water (grey water) for toilets, irrigation, and even in some appliances such as washing machines.
When a person chooses to move to an off-the-grid lifestyle, conservation usually becomes a major motivating force. One is suddenly more aware of one’s own wasteful, modern living habits, and begins to make compensating adjustments. Water is the most precious resource, so it is usually the biggest conservation target. Of course, this depends greatly on where you live. If your home is in the Pacific Northwest or Great Britain, there is always plenty more water on the way – usually within a matter of days, at the longest – so the only concern is how to best collect it, treat it, and store it.
The rest of us will need to pay attention to our supply and stop living like a blissfully blind city-slicker (the water system in New York City leaks more than 35 million gallons a day). That doesn’t mean you can’t take a shower every day. It does mean you need to pay attention to your consumption habits and make an effort not to squander your resources needlessly. However, in no way should you feel compelled to reduce your own personal consumption of fresh water! Quite the contrary; you should enjoy it all the more when you harvest it yourself and cease to spill so much of it down the drains. Properly supplied, you will not be able to drink your way into a personal drought, so by all means have those 8 glasses a day, and make all the homebrew you want. You may, however, want to think twice about washing your car with potable water every weekend.
In ancient times, thousands of years before residential plumbing, people still had enough water to drink. If they could do it, you certainly can. Back then, they didn’t know about germs. Consequently, health problems ran rampant through societies and life expectancies were relatively short. These days, you can have the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the simple pleasure of harvesting drinking water from nature, and make it safe to drink, too. Since that is by far the most important step, let’s start there…
The Dangers of Drinking Wild Water
Although fresh water supplies can be found almost anywhere there is land, it is estimated that around 90% of the earth’s surface water is contaminated and unsafe to drink as-is. Exactly how unsafe ranges from the presence of minor microorganisms which may cause a mild upset stomach to harboring dangerous bacteria or virus strains which will result in violent illness, disease, and even death.
Before Louis Pasteur discovered germs in the mid 1800’s, it was common practice in many societies not to even consume water. Back in those days, people would drink beer, wine, or various forms of tea instead. Water from the surface of the earth was known to be risky and unsafe, although they didn’t know why. What they did know was that once water was processed into beverages, it was safe. So, that is what they drank. Fermented juices were typically diluted with water to create weak alcoholic beverages which could be consumed without making one too intoxicated to work. This is a practice that goes back to ancient times. The Hebrews of Biblical times would dilute wine with water, about three parts water to one part wine, for regular daily consumption with meals. That was enough alcohol to sanitize the water being consumed, for their purposes.
Well-water is much safer than surface water as a general rule, but only once you know the well is safe. In the old days, the household servants would be the guinea pigs for newly dug wells. If they didn’t get sick, then the land owners would know it was safe to drink from, at least for a while. It is possible for a good well to become contaminated from surface water and go bad. Springs are known to be a reasonably safe bet for good drinking water, but only at the source, where the water first emerges from underground. After it has run along the surface for a while, it becomes contaminated. Likewise, rainwater is safe to drink before it comes into contact with anything. The process of vaporization purifies it, so when it reforms as a liquid it is about as pure as it gets (yes, even “acid rain”).
Whenever you see a national disaster in a third world country reported on the news, one of the main concerns is a cholera outbreak. This happens because wastewater drainage systems become rerouted and find their way into drinking water supplies, contaminating them. It doesn’t usually happen right away, as the bacteria require time to colonize. In places like Zimbabwe, residents don’t have access to chemical treatments, such as chlorine, so it is easy for drinking water reservoirs to become spoiled. One small infection will eventually spread through the entire supply. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, a severe cholera outbreak occurred one full year later. Cholera typically has about a 1% fatality rate.
Roughly 4% of all human illness is attributed to waterborne disease, estimated to be responsible for nearly two million deaths annually. According to the World Health Organization, almost 90% of waterborne disease cases are simply the result of unsanitary practices with unsafe water supplies. These figures do not include mosquito-spread diseases such as malaria. (Mosquitos require a water source in order to proliferate, but their usage of the water supply is not known to directly cause it to become unsafe for human consumption.)
The culprits are microorganisms who make their home in fresh water. They fall into four broad categories: bacteria, parasites, protozoa, and viruses. The old adage that running water is safe to drink while standing water is unsafe is a misnomer; while you are less likely to encounter protozoa and bacteria in running water, parasites and viruses are not deterred by it.
Bacterial infections in drinking water are the most common and the most feared. Bacteria can be found everywhere on our planet and some dangerous strains do make their homes in surface freshwater supplies, especially those located in warmer climates. An example would be Legionella, which is responsible for Legionnaires’ disease. However, most bacteria contaminations in drinking water supplies are introduced by an outside source, such as sewage, which the bacteria use to culture up and become strong enough to result in a major infection. Waterborne diseases in this category include botulism, cholera, e.coli, dysentery, salmonella, and typhoid.
Parasites in drinking water are essentially very small animals, usually ingested by people in egg or larvae form. Once they get into your digestive tract, the eggs hatch and these animals are then capable of traveling through the walls of the digestive tract and taking up residence in human tissue or the bloodstream. If these creatures are living in the water supply, it has become contaminated and anyone consuming that water without properly sanitizing it first is liable to infection. This category of waterborne diseases includes blood flukes and worms such as tapeworm. The record tapeworm pulled out of a human was 37 feet long.
Protozoa are categorized as plant life and include algae, fungus, and amoeba. A drinking water source that acquires protozoan contamination is usually the result of coming into contact with sewage or animal waste. However, some protozoan infections have been detected naturally in groundwater, and are therefore the primary risk of well water contamination. Typical signs of infection in humans include flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Viruses are prevalent on planet earth, and unfortunately some of the more dangerous varieties will readily take up residence in drinking water supplies which have not been properly treated. We all know what the symptoms of a virus feel like. Waterborne viruses can be deadly and include Hepatitis A, SARS, and Polio.