Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Water Use Reality Check

I've read we can go weeks without food but not very many days without water. With that being said, water should be the number one priority for preparedness and survival during hard economic times. Adequate preparedness requires studying what is available in YOUR immediate area. If what YOU need isn't available within a reasonable distance, you might want to consider moving. This is something I am currently pondering given that I live in the desert and our water supply can be very limited in the event of a disaster.

A recent news story revealed that a local city wastewater treatment employee, angered that he didn't get a raise among other issues, was attempting to blow up a quarter city block along with the water treatment plant. The explosion wouldn't have reached my neighborhood but it would have surely affected our water supply.

Living in the desert landscape of an Arizona suburb, I immediately see that water resources could become very scarce. In a VERY short term supply interuption, our 55 gallon drums will be fine. Combined with our Berkey water filter, we'll be adequately supplied for a week of consumption and cleaning.

However, in a longer case scenario, I'll need to find a reliable source of continuous supply. Water BOBs, hot tubs and swimming pools will only last so long. Especially if I'm not the only one out of water.

I started by googling "aerial water maps" and found that the University of Arizona has a terrificly vivid map showing watersheds, supply vs demand, annual rainfall, groundwater basins, and water quality. also lists several maps including waterfalls, rivers and lakes, satellite images and more.

This reinforced what I already knew. There are no lakes or rivers near my house. So what about catching my own rainfall? A quick trip to this website shows my average monthly rainfall for the year. Looks like I'll get an average of one inch of rainfall each month with the exception of our incredibly hot June/July months.

One measly inch per month? What good would that do? According to this helpful website, "for every inch of rain that falls on a catchment area of 1,000 square feet, you can expect to collect approximately 600 gallons of rainwater." Since my house is just over 2000 sq ft, I could hope to catch 1,200 gallons per month (notice I said "hope".) Using my 55 gallon drums, I would need 22 drums to store this water. I found a supplier of 1500 gallon tanks online for $579 + shipping.

How much do I need? Let's calculate what I use based on what my utiliy company reports. My utility bill shows my house used an average of 14 CCFs per month for the past year. To determine CCFs in gallons, multiple CCFs by 748 or 14x748 = 10,472 gallons per month is what my house uses. Wow! Doing this blog really helps understand how much we are using. Contrasting our ability to collect 1200 gallons of rainwater against our use of 10,472 gallons is an eye opener. Bare in mind that should our water supply become compromised, our water usage for landscaping, long showers, etc would STOP. Still, I had to take pause here as I realize how much we take for granted.

It adds up for a family of eight; showers, consumption, laundry, landscaping (HOA says we MUST have 12 plants in our front yard), dishwashing and general cleaning. Its easy to take for granted. My recent water bill was under $40 for 9900 gallons. Of course, the wastewater bill is calculated based on 90% of the water consumed and is therefore almost equal in cost.

Take the time to figure out what YOU use and plan accordingly. Obviously, I have more work to do on planning for our water needs.

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