West Virginia Water Contamination – Could You Survive?

A West Virginia water contamination emergency has threatened the lives of residents in a West Virginia community.  Many there are now attempting to live without access to clean water after a chemical spill contaminated the Elk River, the Kanawha County community’s natural water supply.  Where is Erin Brockovich when you need her?

FEMA and Homeland Security are currently inbound with trucks filled with water bottles, but many store shelves have been stripped bare since early Thursday.  This recent West Virginia water contamination emergency definitely qualifies as a real-world survival scenario, and should prove to be a great reminder for the rest of us that having backup water is a must.

3 Reasons You Must Store Water

Our family recognizes the important of having clean water, and has taken steps towards an emergency water plan, but preparing for emergencies is sort of like saving money – we can always do more.

If you are not convinced having some extra water on hand is important, consider the following.

  • Humans can only survive about three days without water, less if the elements are extreme.
  • Water is a basic means of sanitation – from washing dishes to bathing and flushing waste.
  • You will need water to reconstitute all those cans of dehydrated food you put away for a SHTF scenario such as this one.

A Water Emergency Plan

When formulating your family’s emergency water plan, start with the most immediate needs and grow from there.

Like any emergency preparedness plan, you must balance issues such as likelihood of scenario affecting you, storage space and budget.  It would be much more difficult for people living in a small apartment to store two 55-gallon drums than someone living on 5 acres.

Likewise, it would be hard for someone struggling to make ends meet to stock a full pantry and a year of Mountain House meals.

Talk things over with your family, and consider space and budget.  Find a balanced plan for storing food and water than helps you sleep at night, but does not unnecessarily strain other areas of your life.

With that in mind, here is my family’s four-level water emergency plan.

  1. Store 72 hours worth of water.  This first-level storage should be in the form of a mixed variety of gallon water jugs, plastic water bottles, and water packets (great for bug out vehicles). 
  2. Store 30 days of emergency water in 5-gallon containers or 55-gallon drums.  The general rule for determining how much water to have on hand equates to roughly one gallon per person, per day.  So a family of four needs access to about 120 gallons of water, or 24 5-gallon containers.
  3. Have a way to collect water.  Consider adding a rain barrel or two to your backyard.  Wide, shallow “kiddie pools” can also collect significant amounts of rain water in a thunderstorm.  Learn how to make a solar still.
  4. Have a means to treat non-potable water.  Water is heavy and takes up a lot of space, so for most people, storing anything beyond the requirements of level two is difficult.  For longer-term disasters, you will need to make plans for treating other water sources to make them safe to drink.  Have backup heat sources for boiling water.  Consider some iodine drops, bleach and solutions made specifically treating water.  Look into a water filter.

Remember the rule of threes:  You can only live 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.

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