A Week Without (Much) Water

Okay, a week without water is a little misleading.  It has been a week with MUCH water.  A week without CLEAN water.  It has definitely been a challenge of our preparations! The photo to the right is the water coming our of our taps right now.  —–>

Why?

The drought that is affecting gardens, crops, livestock and food prices across North America has caused the water table to drop to the point that our well is not replenishing like it is supposed to.  Instead the pump is bringing us the sediment-filled murky looking water at the bottom of the well.  It’s astonishing to me that we are on the edge of an enormous lake and are having issues with our water, but the elevation of our house and well are apparently the reason that we suffer from a lack of water even though we are so close to water.

Our landlords, the nicest people on earth, were going to pay a huge surcharge to have the problem fixed overnight.  Instead, I asked for a hefty break on the rent and figured this would be a great Prep Test!

Given the situation, I feel lucky that we have running water, even if it’s dirty.  This means that I don’t have to be concerned about basic sanitation (i.e., flushing!)  We can also shower, although we were asked to limit the showers to about 5 minutes.

The least challenging part of all is drinking water.  We have what I thought was more than a month’s supply of reverse-osmosis filtered drinking water in large jugs that can be used in our water dispenser.  We are using this water for cooking, making ice and brushing teeth – so it’s actually going faster than I expected it to.  I may need to rethink what constitutes “a month’s supply” after this experiment.

Another challenge is washing dishes.  I’ve taken a two part approach on the dish-washing situation – first of all – I’m trying to reduce the amount of dishes we use so there are fewer to wash. I am using paper plates and disposable cups, and we are using a cup for the entire day before disposing of it.   For cooking, I am lining pans with tin foil so that they only need a quick wipe afterwards.  We also wrapped potatoes in foil to cook alongside the chicken.
There are lots of options for food that use minimal dishes.  For some easy “just add water” food, we boiled water in the tea kettle for instant oatmeal.  Sandwiches or crackers and peanut butter are right at home on paper towels.
Of course, we haven’t been able to be totally dish free.  Since this is just sediment, the water is merely dirty, not bacteria-laden.  Therefore, I’m comfortable with filtering it without boiling and sterilizing it first.  I rigged up a “water filter” using a stainless steel colander lined with coffee filters, resting in a large pot.  I added a healthy splash of white vinegar to both the wash water and the rinsing water.

Another issue was laundry. I did some at a laundromat, but we had some towels that were used to clean up a mess and had to be washed right away.  I placed them in the bathtub and ran the water through the above filtering device to soak them for a while in soapy water.  After draining the first batch of water, I multitasked by pouring laundry soap onto the towels and “agitating” it with my bare tootsies during a quick shower.

While the laundry won’t be immaculate, it’ll better than stinky dirty wet towels hanging around until the well is fixed.

This week has made me do a lot of thinking about water – I had casually thought that living on the banks of a lake I’d never have a worry about water.  That’s not necessarily true!

Our week with limited water was far from a worst-case scenario but there were some valuable lessons learned from it!  The Cliff’s notes version:

  • My supply of drinking water won’t go as far as I thought it would when it has to be used for tooth-brushing and cooking as well as just plain drinking. Yours probably won’t go as far as you planned either.
  • Make water do double duty as much as possible.  (Shower/laundry for example).  You can also use the rinse water from your dishes for other cleaning, like wiping down the counters, etc.  I kept my rinse water in the pot and used it for household chores throughout the day, and when it was time to dump it, I poured it into the toilet, which, while flushable, has suffered from a very low water level. I also used rinse water for watering my plants and spritzing down the ashes when I cleaned out the wood stove.
  • The pets were happy as could be to go for a walk down to the lake a few times a day for a drink, which reserved my water supply.  (I did filter some tap water using the coffee filter method for them to drink.)
  • Reduce the amount of dishes you need to wash.  This is only good advice for a short-term event, like our one-week interval.  Stock up on paper plates, disposable cups, paper towels and tin foil in an effort to save the amount of water you have to use for washing up.
  • The cleaner and more organized your place is before an event, the less difficulty you will have with a low-water transition.  I was behind on laundry so truly had no option but to go to a laundromat – can you imagine how much work that would have been if I’d had to wash all that clothing out by hand in a true disaster?  The counter tops in the kitchen required nothing but a quick swipe with Lysol wipes to keep them clean and sanitary. The dishes were done and put away so we only had to keep up with the dishes we used over the course of the week.

When life throws you a minor disaster, don’t despair!  If you never test your preps before you really, truly need them, you never know where the holes in your preparations are.  Take your event in stride and use it as a prepper challenge – you might be surprised at how much you can learn!

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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

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One Comment  to  A Week Without (Much) Water

  1. Anne Ollamha says:

    I feel your pain. At my mom’s place, they ran into the same problem with the water table dropping. My uncle finally drilled a new well last fall, and so far so good.

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