Wow! So, I turned off our running water for 48 hours this week as one of my challenges for National Preparedness Month. And I actually learned a lot more than I thought I would! I really just wanted to see how much we used (you can find that info at the very end of this post), but I learned a lot more than that. I’m so, so glad I did this. I highly encourage you to do the same if you haven’t already!
And if you did already join me in the challenge, then I’d love to hear how it went for you. I know that one great reader, Vicki,
has already left some helpful comments on the intro post for this challenge. I’d love to hear from more of you below!
Warning: When I say I learned a lot, I really did! This post is a bit long b/c of it! But I’ve tried to make it easy for you to scan through it and find the info that most applies to you, so don’t get too overwhelmed!
What I Learned:
1. Anxiety is a REAL Issue!
My kids really will experience anxiety in an emergency situation! I did not tell my kids that this was a “test.” I just told them our water wasn’t working. One of my twins started crying and asked what we were going to do. He said something like this:
“Water is my favorite drink and I really like baths. And I think my teeth will fall out if I can’t brush them. What are we going to do Mom?”
Seriously? I was actually rather surprised at his strong reaction (and my other kids followed). So, what will I do with this information?
First,this re-affirmed my desire to have enough water stored that I can keep our lives
relatively normal. My son quickly realized that he could still drink as much water as he wanted to. We had a bath (although we used much less water than usual) and he was even able to brush his teeth! He was just fine after seeing that our life didn’t really change that much.
Second, I am so grateful that he has now been through this “crisis.” If we ever truly have to face a long term water shortage, he will be much more prepared and confident in our ability to do so. there will be just a bit less anxiety in our home than there would have been without this practice. I’m excited and even more determined to practice more things this month (as part of National Preparedness Month) and in coming months!
2. Laundry will be a challenge
I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit that I haven’t ever really considered how I would do laundry in an emergency! The night before we started this challenge, my son asked if I could clean a shirt for him to wear to school. I told him I wouldn’t have it clean by the next morning, but that I was planning to do laundry the next day, so he could wear it the day after. And then, I woke up to my water off and couldn’t do all that laundry!
So…..I will be making a few changes:
First, I think that instead of having one laundry day where I do all our laundry, I will try to do a load a day or so. That way, we always have some clean clothes and could get by for a few days to a week with doing no laundry.
Next, I added a bit of water into my totals (listed at the end of this post) for the amount of water I would expect my family to use each week.
Also, I will keep my kid’s “too small” clothes just a bit longer. In an emergency situation, I’d be totally fine with them wearing slightly high water pants! I’d just be grateful for the additional clean clothes!
Last, I will be doing a bunch of research on how to do laundry in an emergency to come up with a solution that will work best for our family. I will actually try out different methods and share what I learn here on the blog.
3. My Kids go to the Bathroom a LOT!
Seriously! WAY to often! We didn’t flush every time they went, but anytime it was “stinky,” we did! We filled up the back of the toilet with our stored water and we flushed it. But about half a day into it, I realized that in a true emergency, it wouldn’t just be our water that was off, and we wouldn’t be able to flush!
So, again, a bit embarrassed here, but I’m just now realizing how important it is to have some way for us to dispose of / take care of that type of waste in an emergency. Had we not be able to flush, it would have been a serious issue in just those two days. Not only would it have been unpleasant, but it would have been unsafe and unsanitary. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like for weeks or a month!
My husband said, well, why not just dig a hole in the backyard and go there? Well…..that would quickly become a serious issue. Untreated raw sewage can pollute fresh ground water supplies. It also attracts flies and promotes the spread of awful diseases.
First, I will be investing in a bunch of these Gotta Go Waste Bags. These bags are 100% biodegradeable and are solid sturdy bags that can be placed in a bucket or even in your real toilet (all for keeping things as normal as possible, right?). Each bag comes with a ChemiSan application that turns fecal matter into na Enviro-Friendly material.
Second, I will be investing in this bucket seat cover. We go through a lot of 5 & 6 gallon buckets at my house. I usually just give them away, but I will be keeping one and putting this cover on it (and the waste bags in it) in case we need to leave home and don’t want to pollute other areas!
Last, I will also be investing in a few more sanitizing wipes (like Clorox wipes) to make keeping our hands, toilets, floors, counters safe and clean a bit easier without depleting our water supply.
4. I think dish water is gross!
So, when I wash dishes (with running water), I get the dishes just a bit damp and then put a drop of soap on each. I use a wet rag to wash them and put them clean (but soapy) in the sink. Then, I spray / rinse each dish individually and dry them.
But that processes uses more water than I was willing to use in our mock emergency situation. So, I put about a gallon of water in the sink with soap in one side of the sink and a clear gallon (no soap) in the other side. I washed and rinsed all dishes in the same water. And by the time I was done, both sides of the sick looked GROSS! It just felt so unsanitary to me! Yuck. I was washing / rinsing dishes in dirty water!
So again, I will be adjusting some things:
First, I will store more paper products. We can burn them when done using them, so I feel fine about it environmentally. It will save time / stress in a true emergency and I won’t have to wash my dishes in dirty water!
Second, I will accept the fact that I like to clean / wash my dishes individually and store more water accordingly. Even with paper products, I will still have pots, pans, serving spoons etc that will need to be cleaned. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I think this solution will work well for our family!
5. Bathing takes less water than I thought
The #1 reason I’ve pushed for storing WAY more than the recommended 1 gallon / person / day is because I felt like bathing would take a LOT of water! But really, it didn’t. I bathed with about 2 gallons of water. And I bathed my kids in about 4 gallons total (the boys shared and the girls shared). So, if we bathed every other day, that is only about 110 gallons for our family for an entire month. I was happy to find that out.
Plus, it didn’t take that much hot water to make the baths comfortably warm!
I did learn however, that I really don’t like sponge baths for the same reason I don’t like washing dishes in dirty water. I prefer showers. So does my husband. I know that many families would be able to use less water by sharing their bath water. But for me, I’d rather store more and have my own 2 gallons! (-:
Second, I will be purchasing a solar shower that we can hang and use in our regular shower. As a bonus, this could also be used if we had to pack up and go for any reason.
6. Different sized water containers are a good thing!
I’ve always taught that you should have lots of different sized water containers. But now that I’ve actually lived it (kind of), I’m even more convinced that it is important. It was nice to be able to quickly grab a water bottle to drink while working out or going to soccer practice etc. The 5 gallon jugs were perfect for a makeshift faucet. And the 55 gallon drums were a convenient way to store lots of water. Moving the water from them to the 5 gallon jugs was simple with our siphon pump. We only had to pump it 3-4 times and then the water just flowed right out. My problem was getting it to STOP! I ended up spilling a bit each time!
Even though we have quite a few different sized containers, I will still be making a few adjustments:
Second, I will be adding a few more water bottles so we’d have enough to use those for our drinking water for the entire month.
Third, I will be purchasing an additional siphon pump in case ours breaks. It made transferring water from one barrel to the next SO easy, I do NOT want to be without it!
7. I am Blessed!
Last, and most importantly, this experience taught me to be more grateful for my running water! What a blessing it is to have this convenience in my home every day! Having running water saves me time (meaning I can do other things with that time…like play with my kids), makes it easier for me to protect my kids from disease, makes cooking simpler / easier etc. Here are a few interesting facts from Water.org:
- 780 million people worldwide lack access to clean water: that is more than 2 1/2 times the entire population of the United States and over 10% of the entire world’s population!
- 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.
- Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water related illness. In fact, lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.
- An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day
Those of us with running water are very privileged indeed! Living without running water complicated my life. It made keeping my house clean and sanitary more difficult, it made cooking more time consuming. It increased the stress in our home (and my grumpiness toward my kids and husband). And note that I still had access to plenty of clean water and so did all my neighbors etc. I wasn’t at any true risk like those who live without clean water are every day. This small experience was eye opening to my ingratitude and lack of appreciation for this incredible privilege.
So, I’ve decided to do something small. I will be changing up my facebook page header today and I have donated to water.org. I would encourage you to find something you can do as well! Even if you aren’t able to get involved financially, there are plenty of way you can help solve the water crisis in the world.
How Much Water We Used:
Well, over the entire 48 hour period, we used 34 gallons, but I need to make a few adjustments:
- 10 of those gallons were used flushing toilets. I will not be storing water to flush toilets.
- I’m adding 1.5 gallons “extra” b/c in an emergency we will likely get dirtier, and possibly have wounds etc to clean.
- I’m adding 1 gallon for drinking water. I realized on day 2 that we were drinking lots of milk and OJ…stuff from the fridge. I want to be able to have enough water if we have nothing else to drink.
- I’m adding 1.5 gallons (5 gallons / week) for laundry. I may adjust this after I do all my laundry experiments.
How Much Water I Will Store:
So, that means that my family of six would use about 14 gallons of water every day (2.3 gallons per person) in order to maintain a somewhat normal routine in the event that our running water was shut off.
So, we’d need:
- 42 gallons for a 3 day supply
- 98 gallons for a 1 week supply
- 196 gallons for a 2 week supply
- 420 gallons for a one month (30 day) supply
Personally, my goal is a one month supply. I plan to do that in the following way:
- 10 Five gallon jugs (50 gallons)
- 12 water bottle 24 packs (38 gallons)
- 6 Fifty-five gallon barrels (330 gallons)
In addition, I would like to have the ability to filter / sanitize water for our family of six for six months. That is about 2000 gallons. If you are interested in a similar goal, you can find lots of ways (some free) to filter / clean water here: Survival Kit Series, Water Part 2
How About You?
I’d love to hear from all of you! Did you take my challenge as part of National Preparedness Month? Or have you ever lived without running water for a period of time? What did you learn? How much water do you have stored for your family?