Suburban Survival: Water Emergency Week Day 4

What could happen here in safe suburbia, really? Well… what if a flood, tornado, earthquake, blackout, ice storm or other emergency cut off your drinking water supply with no warning? And your huge legacy oak is blocking the escape route? Or if even the Suburban can’t navigate the quake-heaved streets?

After you’ve indulged in extreme self-hatred about your lack of preparedness, here’s where you can find drinking water around the home for a short term, quick supply.

1. The Toilet:Don’t make that face, this is an emergency! Not the bowl, dummy, that’s where you poop and where e-Coli lives. You can mine several gallons, though, from the tank. Filter it through a piece of cloth if it’s been awhile since that tank was cleaned. (You won’t be using your loo until service is restored; you can figure that one out for yourself.)

2. Hot Water Heater: A water bonanza of up to 70 gallons. To get at it, make sure gas and electric connections are off (and leave them off until service is restored). Put a large container under the water heater’s bottom drain and open the drain. Then, open a nearby sink faucet to release the pressure and start the flow.

3. Your Plumbing: The pipes are filled with residual water, and it’s just standin’ there doin’ nuthin’! Turn off the main water supply line to the house. Then open a water faucet at the highest point in your house to let air in. Next, open the faucet at your home’s lowest point–in the basement or downstairs–and let the water standing in the pipes drain via gravity into a container.

4. Ice cubes: As badly as you might want a cocktail, retrieve ice cubes from your freezer and put them into storage containers to melt.

Bad idea: Don’t pour yourself a chemical cocktail by drinking water from swimming pools or hot tubs.

Military Edition: Water Emergency Week Day 3

The “Greatest Generation” lived in a world of cans, not bottles. During World War II and for decades after, emergency water was provided in grey cans that were used by the military, as stock for civil defense shelters and for provisioning life boats. Some obvious disadvantages were weight and short shelf life due to corrosion and can materials leeching into the water. (Were can openers provided for life rafts?)

Collectors of all-kinds-of-random-stuff will appreciate knowing that these cans pop up with some regularity on ebay.

Makes those wasteful bottles look better, hey? Today’s military issue “emergency water” is packaged in 4 oz. flexible pouches which are easy to move in bulk and have a 5 year shelf life.

Not that the pouch has in any way replaced the bottle. Because pallet-loads of bottled water are expedient to package and ship in large quantities, the pouch is reserved for specific emergency situations, like a survival kit for a life raft. Bottles are movin’ out in this 2005 pic from slagheap on Flickr. Here, U.S. Navy Seabees organize bottled water for distribution in Biloxi, Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Your Parent’s Fallout Shelter: Water Emergency Week Day 2

I’ve declared this the totally unofficial Water Emergency Week here at Thirsty in Suburbia, just because it’s a strange, unsettling and interesting topic. Day two… cold advice from the Cold War.

I was in first grade when the Cold War’s fever-pitch panic hit its stride in 1963 and vaguely remember feeling fearful over dead-serious bits of advice such as this video. (Or film, as it would have been called then. Attention Mad Men writers: this would be a killer storyline! How would Betty decorate the cozy Draper shelter?).

Funny, the most visceral memory I have of this period is a frightening episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Shelter”, in which formerly-friendly neighbors find that adequate shelter, water and supplies are the least of their worries in the face of a civil defense emergency–that the biggest threat to their survival might be each other!

Emergencies, Disasters and Scary Times

Under the dire headline, California faces ‘grimmest water situation ever’ The Guardian (UK) includes the quote from a local farmer, “It’s an absolute emergency and anything to get water flowing quickly is needed.”

Emergency. When that word is used in conjunction with water, you know things are getting scary. Before Hurricane Katrina, there were few Americans who could ever conceive of an wide-scale emergency in which they would lack access to adequate drinking water. Then we watched as Louisiana and Mississippi water utilities failed in the face of broken pipes and the lack of electricity to run pumping and treatment facilities. Water everywhere, and not a drop to drink, literally.

What does it take, water-wise, to survive in a disaster? According to www.disasterstuff.com, you’ll need at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least 2 weeks, preferably for a month.

The website points out this sobering example: if a moderate to major earthquake hit Los Angeles, California today, and only half of the population lost access to water for two weeks, the governement would need to bring in 25,863,740 gallons of water over the two week period just to provide subsistance water. Twenty-five million gallons of water just to survive. That is 1,847,410 gallons of water a day over roadways that will surely be damaged by the earthquake.

This site (and many others) sell just about everything you could imagine for surviving in a disaster. This includes drinking water in boxes and pouches as well as bags and jugs for transporting water. The 4.2 oz. pouches are $20.16 for a case of 100; 8.5 oz. boxed water is $2.09 for a 3-pack. All have a shelf life of approximately 5 years.

It’s the same idea, really, as bottled water but these sure don’t have the same chic-style branding of their bottled cousins!

     

Houston taxpayers get soaked?

When Houston’s Water Museum and Education Center opens in the Fall of 2009, visitors will be greeted with one splashy Texas-worthy monument to mandatory public arts funding.

This $500,000 “bathtub bouquet” (conceptual drawing shown here) will be installed at the outer traffic circle of the new WaterWorks facility and is designed with a hidden water recycling system (thank God for that). Not that it has to “represent” or “mean” anything, but I wonder what the artsy “talking points” will be about the work’s message… there’s plenty of water here, fill ‘er up and splash ‘er out! Whatever, I admit it…I really like it, there’s something irresistable about it.

 As reported on www.chron.com, the Houston Chronicle’s online site, 

Its title, Tubbs, is a pun and tribute to country-music legend Ernest Tubb. Its creator, Philadelphia-based Donald Lipski, is an art-world legend, with work in more than two dozen major museums and a hefty portfolio of public art commissions.

Funded by an ordinance that sets aside 1.75 percent of city capital-improvement project budgets for art, Tubbs is one of eight public commissions set for completion in 2009, say officials with the nonprofit agency charged with managing the city’s art collection.

“We want to have the country’s next great civic art program,” said Jonathon Glus, CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance. “Houston is poised for it.”

Lipski landed the Public Works and Engineering Department commission by answering an HAA open call for artists in June 2007. A five-member panel of department representatives, art professionals and stakeholders met twice — first to review submissions and select three finalists, then to interview the finalists, review their designs and select the artist.

Although the commission was originally budgeted for $350,000, public-works officials agreed to add $150,000 after “reviewing the scale and potential of the Water Museum commission.” That enabled HAA to negotiate a $500,000 contract with Lipski in June, according to HAA’s civic art capital report for fiscal 2008.

Portland tap water really sticks with you

Think you can out-sticker me? Trying to get yourself on the map? Go ahead and try! Don’t have a sticker, you say? No excuse because I’ve scanned one for you! Download a pdf copy here and print off your own. Then, snap a photo of Portland Water’s “I Only Drink Tap Water” sticker in your town and email it to Jennie Day-Burget at the Portland Water Blog. Just remember I was first.

To digest a long and funny story as briefly as possible,

  1. I read The Portland Water Blog (you should, too–hugely informative and entertaining!)
  2. PWBlogmistress Jennie Day-Burget writes on the Blog that, “Our ‘I Only Drink Tap Water’  sticker was seen all the way in Berkeley, California!”
  3. PWBlogmistress generously offers to send stickers to other Blog-fans who request them.
  4. I, of course, request some and PWBlogmistress mails some stickers to me.
  5. I think, well… I live in Kansas City, so I can outdo Berkeley, California distance-wise. And then…

We put the sticker on our town’s beloved Kansas City Scout, photographed it, and sent it to the PWBlogmistress who shared it with the people of Portland!

Awesome! But wait a minute. Someone’s sure to try to outdo me! Maybe you? See the top of the post.

Creative Thinkers Hit the Bottle

www.instructables.com, in partnershp with Tap’dNY, is running a “Keep the Bottle” Contest calling for great ideas to recycle and reuse plastic bottles. Tap’d is an organization that has been very active in promoting tap water as the preferred, smart choice as well as aggressive recycling of bottled water empties. Have a look at the entries, some are practical, some are crazy, but nearly all are pretty inventive.

At 26,000+, the “Most Viewed” entry right now is a Water Bottle Bazooka … quite impressive and as Mom would say, destined to cause someone to “put their eye out.”

Now of course, I couldn’t resist this. Although I’ve been a reader of Instructables for 5 years, I’ve never posted one of my own until now. And here it is, the “Plastic Bottle Self Extinguishing Ashtray!”


Plastic Bottle Self Extinguishing AshtrayMore DIY How To Projects

Naturally I have zero chance at a prize, given the simple concept and the political and social incorrectness of smoking. Still, I was fun to do! (Go ahead and vote for me anyway, OK?)