Residential Water Interruption: Are You Ready?
It’s January 2, 2023, and large numbers of residents of Asheville, North Carolina have been without water at their homes since Christmas Eve, a little over a week ago. As a Communitarian Prepper, this unfortunate current event can provide a case study for all of us concerning the ways we need to prepare for temporary (or even long term) interruptions in municipal water service, as well as other life sustaining services and utilities. Whether or not you have a well on your property, have a nearby neighbor with a well, or start making plans to put in a well, making SOME plans and preparations for how your family can weather and sustain a temporary cutoff in access to purified drinking water through your household taps is important. That’s the focus of this post.
How likely are you to lose water at your house? Hopefully not very likely, but if we consider our experiences living in Oklahoma City for 16 years, it’s a definite possibility. We lost water access a couple of times because of some slab leaks we had in our house, which required us to cut off our city water feed at the street. This was a big inconvenience, but thankfully just lasted a few days. I am in the habit of keeping about six, five gallon plastic water containers full in the garage, so at those times we had stored water to use in our toilets as well as for drinking and cooking needs. See the article, “Best emergency water storage containers for your home” from ThePrepared.com for more suggestions on water containers.
In the case of the current municipal water outage in Asheville, severely cold weather caused breaks in over 1700 miles of water lines, leaving over 38,000 people without residential water service. There are several threat vectors to consider when it comes to an interruption in water service at your house:
- A localized leak in your house or neighborhood
- A natural disaster created by severe weather, like dangerously cold winter temperatures (like Christmas 2022,) a tornado or a hurricane
- A domestic terrorist attack, like we allegedly sustained in early December 2022 on the power grid in North Carolina’s Moore County, just outside Fort Bragg.
Regardless of the cause, when water stops flowing from the tap at your house, you need to figure out:
- How can I obtain and store water in containers that I can use at home?
- How can I purify water that I either obtain from a neighbor’s well or my own, or another source, that could include your own tap before municipal water purification systems are back online.
This latter situation is now affecting many residents of Asheville, North Carolina. Today, “Buncombe County schools” have switched to “remote learning” for several days because many families are either without water or without purified water, and “boil advisories” continue to be in effect. This means even though water is flowing out of taps at home, the water isn’t purified and can’t be consumed / used for drinking until is been treated with a filter and/or chemicals.
I’m a camper, backpacker, as well as a former Philmont Ranger (summers of 1991 and 1992) and USAF cadet survival instructor (summer of 1990), so I have some experiences with backcountry water purification. My experiences as an Eagle Scout on high adventure treks to Philmont as well as the Minnesota / Canadian boundary waters area on a summer canoe trek also inform my experiences and skills in this area. My former Scoutmaster, Ray Hightower (Troop 74, Manhattan, Kansas) was a fan of “Polar Pure” water purification, which uses super-saturated iodine water to purify (usually) quart sized water bottles. That is still my preferred method, and I keep a bottle of Polar Pure in our garage-stored camping gear. If you’re needing to purify larger amounts of water than quart water bottles, however, a different solution is needed.
In the past, I have kept a large bottle of bleach in our home emergency supply cache, since bleach can be used to purify water effectively. It’s recommended that you wait at least 60 minutes before drinking water purified with bleach. If you boil water to purify it, you also have to wait until it cools off.
One of the important things I learned in Scouting and various survival training lessons was that to be purified, water does NOT need to be kept at a “rolling boil” for 5 or 10 minutes. Once water has gotten to the boiling point, all the “bad stuff” which needs to be killed through the purification process (like the Giardia parasite, which we all DEFINITELY want to avoid, since it STAYS in your gut indefinitely after you’ve ingested it) will be killed.
The other water purification method which is on my “Communitarian Prepper Wish List” is a water filter. These can be drinking straws or larger capacity filters. It’s also possible to get a residential well installed, which has built-in water treatment, purification and treatment included. This latter solution is my “prepper dream,” but it’s not something we’re going to obtain in the near term.
As with all types of emergency preparedness, it’s vital to think about these issues and TAKE ACTION TO PREPARE for these possibilities well BEFORE a crisis starts. What would you do if your residential water supply was cut off today? What would you do if it remained cut off for three days? For a week? For a month?
Any preparation you can do now can pay dividends in case of an emergency. Remember, communitarian preppers are not just interested in taking care of themselves and their immediate family members, they are also interested in providing for neighbors and others in the community who many not be as well prepared for a crisis or disaster, or may not physically be able to provide for themselves and need assistance.
There are important lessons to learn from the recent and ongoing water crisis in Asheville, North Carolina. The question is: What are YOU going to do now to better prepare yourself and your family for an interruption in municipal water service?