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Friday, August 28, 2009

Water Logged

From the Fast Life (19 July)
I recently got serious about the water portion of our preparedness and self-reliance plans and thought this information may be helpful to someone else working on this part of their own plans.

We have one small "fruit room" in the basement reserved for food storage. (I am not sure why it's called a fruit room. That's what it said on the blueprints. Every time I call it a fruit room, I picture the Fruit of the Loom guys hanging out in it. Even though I know better, I always semi-expect to find them there, and my body fills with suspense right before I turn on the light in the room. Every time.) I realized I could make more room for food if I moved the toiletries and stored drinking water out of there. So was born, The Water Storage Room.

Currently, it holds a few months of water for our little family, with space to add more! This 5x8 room was originally designed to be a bathroom in the basement but we decided against finishing it as such at this time.

We bought the 55-gallon, 30-gal and 15-gall through a lady in the classifieds. The 5-gallon containers we bought at Macey's. The one-gallon containers and 16oz bottles we buy at whatever grocery store we're shopping.

I will focus in this post on the large barrels.

We sanitized them, rinsed them, and filled them. Wish I had photos of the process? That day, I just wanted to get'erdone. We scoured neighboring construction sites for wood to line the floor. (And found some other cool stuff, too!)

The project went off without a hitch. Almost.

We ran a drink-safe hose from the spigot outside, down into a window through the basement. David needed to run an errand and seemed worried that I might flood the basement. "Don't go online leaving the water running. Stay here." He used his serious voice to stress, "If the barrel overfilled it would be a really bad thing."

I can't say I blame him for being overly cautious. During the first 3 years of our marriage, I burned beyond use 3 or 4 VERY EXPENSIVE saucepans and skillets because I went surfing online while something cooked, and I totally forgot.

So, off he went. I was very diligent and stayed at my post. I filled 3 barrels (although maybe too full) without making a mess. (Don't leave your barrel unattended; it doesn't take as long as you might think to fill.)

Dave came home, and it was my turn to run errands. I was halfway to my destination when Dave called my cell phone asking where our extra towels were. Huh.

He had put the hose into a barrel, went outside and turned the spigot on. Apparently, while he was outside, the pressure of the water shot the hose out of the barrel and it began hosing down his office in the basement. He didn't know this of course until he was back in the house, walking down the basement steps. Then there were the few seconds of pause as his brain tried to register why there were puddles of water in his office. I'd like to say that I was the bigger person and didn't mention the irony of the basement being flooded by NOT ME. Maybe next time.


Here, I've addressed some common questions and concerns regarding water storage. ALSO, I've linked at the bottom to the challenge that the gals at FoodStorageMadeEasy just announced!

How much water does the LDS Church recommend?
They recommend a 2-week supply per household. That's a minimum of 1 gallon a day per person per week or 14 gallons per person. Keep in mind that this water is to drink, to wash, and to cook with. I decided to store more because we have dried foods that require water for reconstitution. I don't want to stress over rationing too much water for bathing and rinsing. Plus, not everyone will have enough or safe water stored and this will give me enough to share.

Big water barrels are hard to move in case of evacuation.
True! Each barrel weighs 440 lbs when filled (and I can only carry one of those at a time. Barum-pah!) For this reason, we also store 5-gallon barrels, 1-gallon containers, and 16oz bottles. The larger containers are ideal when you are stuck at home (blizzard, quarantine, minimal earthquake damage, etc.)

Isn't it better to buy new barrels instead of used?
Whether you buy them new or used, they still need to be washed and sanitized. If you buy them used, make sure they were only used for food-grade materials. Ours were used for soda syrup, molasses, and vinegar. Buying used barrels will save you 40-60% in cost of a new one. That's "Buy one, get one free," baby!

How do you clean and sanitize them?
(These instructions are from another used water barrel supplier.)
  1. Rinse out barrel.
  2. Pour into barrel 1/2 cup of bleach and some water.
  3. If there's a strong concentrate smell from previous contents, add 10 tsp of baking soda. Vinegar can also be added.
  4. Recap barrel and roll around, getting solution everywhere. You may leave it overnight.
  5. Dump out solution and rinse again with plain water.
  6. Fill barrel leaving a 6" gap for freeze expansion.
  7. If you stack barrels, put plywood between barrels. (Put rope or strap across the lip on the top portion of the barrel and secure to wall.)
  8. Place a pallet or 2x4's under the barrels.
To treat the actual drinking water:
Use chlorine bleach, approx 10 TB per 55 gallons.

My neighbor Brooke said she had her kids sanitize her barrels for her. They'd roll them up her sloped driveway, let go, and then pretend they were Indiana Jones running from the rolling boulder.

How do I fill them?
I was surprised to find one couldn't use any new garden hose to do the job!
I was pretty impressed with these instructions until Step 6. That's just not how my water barrels roll.

How do I store them?
Make sure they are sitting on wood. Otherwise, chemicals and taste from the concrete will leach into your water. If you're in my neighborhood, this is a good time to lay the foundation for your water barrels as there is plenty of scrap wood and pallets over in the new neighborhood going up next door. Make sure to pull from their scraps and not their supplies!

How often do I need to rotate them?
Every 6-12 months. Think this is a pain? IT IS, which is why I never stored this size container before. BUT, I bought this which makes it so I don't have to rotate the water for at least 5 years! It's basically bleach, but pre-measured for this size supply. (I wouldn't be surprised if it's the 10 tablespoons of bleach per 55 gallons posted above.)

How do I empty the gallons for use or when I move?
Sell your house and let the new owners deal with them. HAHAHAHA
Ok, the real way... here! Cool, huh??

Are there any other supplies I need?
A bung wrench (to open the barrels)

I still feel uncomfortable saying bung wrench. A cap on one of our barrels was damaged so we went to Emergency Essentials to get a replacement. When the sales associates approached and asked how he might assist me, I may have too loudly answered with, "I need a bung!"

He corrected me. "You mean a bung nut."
Yes, that sounds so much better. Thanks.

So, that's our Water Room! All that's left to do is throw some rope or bungy cords across the front of the containers for earthquake-proofing, add some water filtering alternatives, and we're set!

Now, it's your turn.

CHALLENGE! CHALLENGE! CHALLENGE! is hosting an annual 7-day preparedness challenge. Wanna find out how prepared you are? Wonder what holes need plugging in your plan? Join the challenge! It's fun, challenging, and eye-opening! And you might win something!


AJ said...

Thank you for posting this. We have had empty 50 gallon barrels for 2 years because I really have no idea what to do with them. Now I know!

I did buy a bunch of 1 gallon water jugs but didn't know not to store them on cement so the cement ate them and they leaked all over our basement. You saved someone else from making the same messy mistake!

Englishfam said...

Very informative and looks doable! Thanks for all the tips Adhis.

Kristen said...

Cool siphon tube video! We have one but I didn't know it's that easy.

A lady here recommended stocking up on hand sanitizer too, to help conserve water when times get tough.

By the way, my mom and grandma and great grandma etc all called it the fruit room... you just made me realize that we don't! I will from now on.

Heidi said...

Could you be any smarter? Wow! My mom calls her a fruit room as well's full of canned fruit from the peach tree, pear tree and apple trees!