Create a Water Plan

We need a great plan GIF
That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

Droughts are a normal part of the water cycle, but they’re not always easy to predict. No matter how much water you conserve as a household, you could still face a shortage. According to NASA, droughts are becoming more severe, prolonged, and frequent due to climate change. Thanks a lot, warming atmosphere.

If you’ve never thought about this before, it’s likely your water scarcity plan currently consists of one step: buying a bunch of bottled water.

But if that’s everyone else’s plan as well, you may not even get the chance to buy that water. Or even if you do, it might not last as long as you need it to last.

You will have to learn to live on a smaller amount of water. Start now by creating a comprehensive water plan.

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Step 1: Find Out How Much Water You Need

Do you know how much water you use daily?
In a drought, how much water will you need to survive, every day?

Calculating the exact amount of water you use each day won’t be perfect, but you can get pretty close. Note all of your water use and estimate the amount. Include water for drinking, sanitation, bathing, cooking, cleaning, gardening, car washing, etc.

Keep track of all of the drinks you have in a day, as well. Non-water drinks count toward your water consumption for these purposes. And don’t forget the water your pets use each day.

If you’re totally at a loss, you can use this link to the water usage calculator made by the City of Austin.

In a survival situation, you will need less water than you use in an average day outside of an emergency, but it’s great to know how much you use when water is easily accessible. Calculate which tasks are essential to your survival to determine roughly how much water you would need if the tap stopped working. Disaster preparedness kits usually have at least one gallon of water per day per person, for the bare minimum hydration, cooking, and hygiene purposes. You might need more, depending on your findings.

Baby taking bath in bucket
Include all of the water your baby haphazardly throws on the ground.

Step 2: Learn to Store Water

Are you equipped to store water for prolonged periods?
Are you aware of possible sources of water other than the tap?

During extreme drought, you may not have running water. If you’re relying on stored water, how much should you store, where should you store it, and how can you store it safely?

  • For general purpose water, your bathtub can be a good option. Make sure you clean your bathtub before storing water. The less soap scum in your survival water, the better.
  • For drinking water, commercially packaged water bottles, cans, and cartons are the best options. They can be expensive, but if you have enough money to store bottled water for your family, it is the safest bet.
  • You can use old soda bottles and cans after having cleaned them thoroughly. Two liter bottles are the very convenient. 
  • Avoid storing drinking water in milk or juice cartons. It’s very difficult to wash all traces of milk or juice away. Those juicy bits can cause bacterial growth, which would basically turn your stored water into poison.
  • Be wary of pool water, which might have bacteria or algae lurking within. If you do need to dip into your pool for water, make sure you purify it completely using the steps below.
  • If you are preparing for a severe long-term drought, consider an outdoor water tank. Such tanks can hold from 160 gallons to up to 3,500 gallons of water.
  • While storing water, make sure you can access your containers. For example, if you are storing water in a five gallon container, make sure you have a water cooler or other spigot that will allow you to access that water. Even one gallon containers can be difficult to handle for some, so plan ahead!
  • Remember to never store water in non-food grade containers or containers that previously stored toxic chemicals. They can contaminate your stored water and make it unfit for drinking.

If you thought it would be a good idea to store drinking water in a container that previously contained poison, you might need to stop reading this guide to drought preparedness and start reading a guide to life in general.

Step 3. Learn How to Purify Water

Can you purify contaminated water and make it potable?

If you think dehydration is your most likely path to death during a drought, think again. As you know from playing Oregon Trail, contaminated water is the real threat to your wagon train.

The solution is purification. 

The purification method you use will depend on what has contaminated the water. If you’re not sure what is in the water, the best option is to use all of the purification methods available to you before drinking it. Boil, then treat with iodine or chlorine, and then filter your water before drinking.

  • Boiling water

Boiling water kills bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, but it doesn’t eliminate chemicals. In fact, if you boil water that has chemical contaminants, they may become more concentrated. Be sure to wait for your boiled water to cool before drinking. (Again, we can direct you to the general life guide if the thought of drinking boiling water appealed to you.)

Rule of Thumb

Evaporation due to boiling will reduce your water quantity slightly, which might concern you during a drought. Remember that it’s much better to have a few ounces less of very clean water than a few ounces more of water that will kill you.

Iodine and chlorine are fast, cost-effective, and efficient methods of disinfecting water. Some protozoa have shown resistance to these disinfectants, so boiling first is still recommended.

These pack a powerful punch, so you might feel super confident after this level of treatment. Filtering is still recommended since it should remove any dangerous traces of the disinfectant.

Water filters and purifiers that come with RO (reverse osmosis), UV light, and straining systems are among the most effective options. If you are using a filter, make sure you keep all of the parts clean and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a dirty or damaged filter is counterproductive if your goal is clean water.

glass of water
Is it full of parasites? Even crystal clear water should be treated fully before drinking, if it’s been stored.

Once your house is full of water bottles, iodine, and filters, you’re ready for the drought. Can you make it through?

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.