Overlooked Water Sources In An Emergency
As disruptions in our daily infrastructure due to weather related disruptions, the hurricane on the East Coast this week being a good example, as well as other more mundane problems, busted water mains or electrical outages being another example, there may be times when your stored water supply (and you are storing emergency water aren't you?) will begin to run short. In those cases you may need to scrounge for additional water. Here is a list of places that are often over looked.
Just by its typical construction, your home has several accessible water resources. These include:
1) Your Freezer and Refrigerator: I keep several gallons of water as ice in the bottom of my freezer, in the case that the electricity goes out. Once those containers melt, the water is drinkable. A good place to store extra water is your freezer. And can be adjusted as you get empty space in it. Don't forget that big tray of ice in your refrigerator too. Once it melts, you can drink the water too.
2) Your Water Heater: Most typical water heaters contain a lot of emergency water. Learn how to open the drain BEFORE an emergency though. Put in place the tools and the containers you need too. Most water heater drains sit close to the floor (an argument on why you should consider raising it on blocks when you replace it next time), so have a plastic or metal pan that is short enough to get under the drain or get a short length of hose.
3) The Pipes In Your House: Depending on the size of your home, you can have quite a bit of drinkable water in the pipes running everywhere. Locate the lowest facet, and you can drain most of it. Remember, in an emergency you might want to close the shut off valve at the point your outside water enters the home (typically next to your water meter) to prevent contamination if the local water supply is compromised.
4) Bathtub and Toilet: If you have time as an emergency approaches, one good action is to fill your tubs and sinks beforehand. This provides you with a large temporary supply that's easily accessed. Toilets provide a smaller supply, but remember, use the water in the upper tank, and not the water in the bowl. Water there though, can be used for your pets. The bacteria that would give us problems, pets typically are not affected by.
5) Canned Foods: Your emergency food supplies are another big overlooked source of water. The water and juice that is inside most canned vegetables is a source of extra water and nutrition in an emergency. Don't discard it. The saltier brines can be diluted with some extra water, and will provide needed electrolytes too. If water is an issue, consider what foods you eat, and pick the ones from your stores that contain the most water, or use the least water to prepare first.
6) Irrigation Lines and Garden Hoses: If you are a gardener and have irrigation lines in your yard, these contain stored water. Tapping them can be a challenge but most systems have a way to drain the pipes for the Winter. If not consider retrofitting them before an emergency. Also, consider buying a small hand pump and some flexible tubing. You can use it to drain irrigation lines and other harder to reach sources. Don't forget your outdoor hoses either. Typically you have that 50 feet of garden hose coiled on the outside wall. Those loops contain water too. You can carefully unspool it and drain the water in an emergency.
7) Rain Water Capture: Many disasters come with rain. If you don't already have a rain water capture system, you can improvise one with a large tarp. A standard 10x12' tarp will collect over 70 gallons of water when there is one inch of rainfall. Now there will probably be significant loss, but tarps as well as plastic storage containers are useful in a pinch.
Moving away from your home,
8) Fire Hydrants: Water in municipal lines is under pressure, so do this carefully. Note, your neighbors will be thinking about this too, especially if they see you out there doing it, so be prepared to share.
9) Commercial Buildings: If you look up in any commercial building, you'll see the fire sprinklers. Just like your home water pipes, the sprinkler system contains stored water. Depending on the size of the building, this source can be huge. Look for the fire department access, which is typically well marked. The water though, like the water from fire hydrants can be under pressure. Don't forget, commercial buildings have toilets and water heaters too. A good addition to your emergency tools is a four way sillcock key to access exterior taps, available at hardware stores.
10) Backyard pools or yard water features: Get familiar with your neighborhood using Google maps. Don't trespass but homes abandoned in an emergency may be accessible.
11) Local streams and drainage: If you take the time to notice, there are a lot of streams and drainage in a typical suburban environment. Almost every small bridge is there to allow water to run off safely. Scout these ahead of times and you may be able to supplement your water in an emergency.
Now how to filter and purify questionable water is the subject for another post, BUT these sources can help you in an emergency.
What other sources can you think of?