Grid-Down Water and Sewer

by Survival Diva on June 14, 2012

Welcome to this week’s Urban Survival Newsletter, brought to you by David Morris’ course.

Survival Diva here…Prepping is a lot like putting together a puzzle: leave out a piece, and there’s bound to be trouble on down the line. If your preparedness plan hasn’t taken into consideration a grid-down scenario, you’d better reconsider. Most of what Mother Nature throws our way involves electrical outages. Typically it’s only a short-term issue; a few days, or maybe a week or two. But what happens if a severe coronal mass ejection from a solar flare fries the grid, or a nuclear EMP is deployed? At that point, grid-down will take on a whole new meaning because of its potential for wide-spread outages and the years it would take for the grid to be pieced back together…and that’s when a plan B will see you through.

So, What Can Go Wrong?

An affective prepping plan should NOT assume the grid will be up and running for the every-day tasks we take for granted during normal times. Grid-down preparedness must provide a survivable plan for water and plumbing (or lack thereof), alternative cooking, lighting, appliances, tools, and in some cases, transportation. Since water and sanitation is near and dear to our everyday life, we’ll start there. 

Not long ago I interviewed the general manager of a huge electrical company that provides power to millions of metropolitan homes. The facts were chilling. Their back-up emergency plan consists of 72 hours worth of diesel to fuel their diesel generators. That’s it. After the 72-hour mark, should truckers be unable to deliver because of gridlock, payment issues, an inability to pump fuel, or closed roads, officials at the electric company will be left scrambling for fuel just like the rest of us. At that juncture our ability to get to the other side of a long-term emergency unscathed will depend upon the preparations that were made beforehand.

Back-Up is a Stinky Subject

Should the electrical grid crash, so goes municipal water. And if municipal water goes down, plan on more than just water outages—which is bad enough—but that fact is, unless you are on a septic system, it’s possible you will experience sewage back-up to bathtubs and possibly sinks and toilets due to pump outages whose sole purpose is to redirect sewage to treatment plants. At the very least, expect for drainage from sinks, bathtubs and toilets to be a problem. The best-case scenario is one where your home sits high enough for gravity to work it’s magic, avoiding backup into your home. The only way to know for sure is to check with your municipal water supplier to see if your piece of real estate has the uphill advantage, or not.

Even those with a septic system can experience problems during grid-down when depending upon a  pump for below-grade levels to the home. A generator can handle the problem–as long as there is plentiful fuel to run them, or in the case of solar panels, enough daylight.

When in doubt, add a camp toilet on your list. They cost around $15 for a no-frills model (basically a bucket with a seat and a folding lid). Their contents must be transferred outdoors, ideally into a hole dug into the ground for obvious sanitary reasons.  David goes into more detail on both backflow valves for your sewer and long term backyard human waste disposal in his course.

Water Wells

If you’re lucky enough to have a well, don’t forget a manual hand pump! Those in warmer climate zones won’t have the expense of a frost-free model which can run as high as $1,500 (before installation). If you live where temperatures plummet below freezing, start pricing out frost-free manual hand pumps. If you have an unforgiving budget like most of us, check into Lehman’s water cylinder. It costs around $50 and will pull a little under 2 gallons of water at a time. It’s slow-going, but it will work in a pinch.

If you depend upon a water purification system for your well to solve the problem of high concentrations of iron, sulfates or any number of minerals that effect drinking water, a good quality water filter like a Berkey or a Katadyn is a must-have. You will need replacement filters. The number of replacement filters to put aside can be calculated by multiplying the number of people in your family or group multiplied by monthly usage (an absolute minimum of water usage per person is 28 gallons per month), then multiply that number by the number of months you are preparing for. Once you have  an estimated gallon usage, check with your water filter manufacturer recommendations to see how many gallons of water can be filtered through their filter(s) before needing replacement filters. And unless you’re a hopeless optimist, toss in a few more replacement filters for Murphy’s Law.

Laundry, Dishes & Hygiene

You will have to hand wash laundry and dishes during grid-down. If you’re on municipal water, you should keep a large tub on hand in case your bathtub and sinks back up or stop draining. Laundry can be done with a hand-agitator which can be found at Lehman’s or a similar site that caters to off-grid living. A wringer mop bucket works well to squeeze excess water from clothing before hanging them on a clothesline. Larger tuff-stuff tubs are an inexpensive solution that serve triple duty for laundry, dishes and bathing.


Hopefully, your preparedness plan includes gardening in case of a long-term crisis where your food storage begins to dwindle. Water needs for gardening must be considered. Here’s where catching rainwater from your roof and routing it to containment barrels will help solve gardening needs in all but the driest climates. For those living in an extremely dry climate zone, a water bladder might be necessary. Water bladders come in all sizes and are relatively inexpensive, but if you plan to bury your water storage, the cost will go up. 

One final tip: When using biodegradable laundry and dish detergent, body soap and shampoo, the water can be recycled for use in the garden.

-Barbara, a.k.a. “Survival Diva”

***A few quick notes from David…I strongly suggest that people try to find preparedness and survival solutions that they can incorporate into their daily lives.  As an example, we get the vast majority of our drinking water from a countertop Berkey purifier and from an atmospheric water generator (a high tech dehumidifier connected to a water purifier that sucks drinking water out of the air).  Since we use these on a daily basis, that’s just one more area of our lives that wouldn’t change in a grid down situation.

On gardening, if you are in a situation where non-municipal water is limited and precious, it’s important to keep track of how much water you’re using in your garden so that you know both your burn rate and how much you need to keep on hand and acquire on a daily basis in a grid-down situation.  If you’re doing traditional gardening, there’s a good chance that monitoring your water usage will convince you to add water retaining cover to your gardening beds and/or switch to raised beds or another method of gardening that uses less water.

And, for more information on water filtration and purification in urban disaster situations, please check out my course and/or my course. Both of them go into solid, proven water purification techniques. In addition, both of these courses have upgrades that allow you to receive my Advanced Urban Disaster Water Purification book, which has been called, “the PhD text of disaster and survival water purification.” It goes much deeper into the techniques, chemistry, and physics of various forms of water purification and will show you specific esoteric water purification techniques as well as the fundamentals behind them so that you can adapt them to your particular situation.***

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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

+2 Vote -1 Vote +1gil
June 15, 2012 at 6:55 am

great article David and Barbara.

i work for a water utility and if there’s any hint of social unrest, no way am i coming into work. most others feel the same, so even if there is water to make, there won’t be any workers to treat it, pump it, control it, etc. i’m guessing the electric utility workers feel the same, so there goes your power.

there are several utube videos on how to “drill” a shallow well with some parts you can find at home despot…i watched the vids and am going to give it a try…even if the state says you can’t have a well if you don’t own over 32 acres, who cares in a time of crisis…there won’t be any state regulators at work…you’ll be dealing with russian soldiers who may or may not know what they’re looking at.

lastly, do a google/startpage search on shallow well drilling rigs…they’re pretty cool, portable, efficient, and effective. they’ll set you back around $2k, but you could charge others for drilling them a well also to help recoup your costs.

really lastly, i live on a place with a septic system, but also have plenty of lime on hand for if’n i need to treat various kinds of waste…you can get lime from your local coop or feed store on the outskirts of most cities and it’ll keep forever. handle with care though since it can chemically burn you if you touch it and get it wet.


Vote -1 Vote +1BH
June 15, 2012 at 7:12 am

We live in Florida and have a well. We installed a simple old-fashioned hand pitcher pump with valves to cut off the well from either the electric pump (to use the hand pump) or the pitcher pump (normal operation using the electric pump). We would have to go outside if both the electricity and the city water were off and haul water in. But in no event would we be without water.

The well and pump are an essential part of our gardening operation and gives us a backup source of water under all circumstances. Even here in Florida, where standing water (canals and lakes) are everywhere and it rains nearly daily in the summer, we just experienced months of little rain, which would have killed our recently planted fruit trees.

A well is a great investment. If you don’t have one, you should at least find a source of non-potable water within hauling distance (like a lake). Without a fairly unlimited source of water, even if not potable, gardening is unreliable and you are without a source of water to purify.

In only a few days without water, you become unable to think clearly. Water is life.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Charlie Hoffer
June 15, 2012 at 7:14 am

Note to David. What are you thinking? Sucking water out of the air requires electric power.

Correct me if I’m wrong please. Charlie


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1davidmobile
June 15, 2012 at 7:47 am

Yes. In our case, solar.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Peter
June 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

Hi Dave,

I always enjoy the weekly newsletter and the material you produce. Keep up the great work!

I have a question for you on storing bulk water for consumption. Do you recommend this or have set it up before? If so, what kind of equipment would you suggest looking at? Any steps to keep it safe? Like aerating it or keeping it moving? This would be something that could be filled from the municipal water supply and then kept and tapped.

Good idea? Feasible? Not worth the hassel?



Vote -1 Vote +1ND
June 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Glenn Beck’s website was advertising what looks like a huge bladdewr that fits in a tub which you can keep filled. I haven”t investigated aerating. It might be worth checking out.
Let me know what you think if you follow through. Nancy


Vote -1 Vote +1Hujonwi
June 18, 2012 at 12:59 am

A place called cheaper than dirt also has one called a ‘water bob’ that fits fits in the bath tub and has a built in pump.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:30 am

I’ve seen these bladders advertised for about $25,(cheap). I would’nt put one in my bath tub though,as in a Nuclear situation,my bathroom is already stocked with necessities for 3-5 days. But- would have to sleep in the bathtub’HAHA,not too comfy I’m sure’


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Willard dunn
June 16, 2012 at 1:00 am

I have two freezers they are small but in one as I use food out it. I fill different size water bottles and two liter soda bottles of filtered water. ( tap water will taste bad if frozen because of the chlorine and other additives.)
this way the freezer doesn’t have to work as hard and if the power goes out I have ice to keep thinks chilled and drinking water as it thous out. We used these bottles to keep our food chilled on a camping trip to a primitive camp site at a lake where there was no drinking water and we were there for three days .had water for drinking and cooking..


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:32 am

We’ve done this for years. Theres still ice in the bottles after 3-4 days. Cheaper then buying ice,and it’s usesable for other things.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bob Reynolds, PhD
June 15, 2012 at 7:40 am

Barbara mentioned a hand pump if you have a well. I’m seriously looking at a “piggy-back” hand pump for our well that is available from Survival Unlimited. The pipe is lowered down the existing casing and into the water table (30 to 59 ft in our case). The hand pump can be used alone or tied into the existing line from the electric pump into the house. It is made from stainless steel and a freeze-proof model is available. Does anyone have experience with this brand, or can you recommend a better brand? I’m thinking of purchasing a hand pump and putting it in storage until it might be needed. That way I won’t be violating any possible bureaucratic regulations until such time that all regulations would be null and void.

Suggestions or info? Thanks.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug
June 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm


While I have no experience with this type of pump, I have had experience with hand well pumps. I believe that a single stage hand pump is considered to only be able to reliably lift water about 23 feet (water is lifted by the atmospheric pressure (14.7 psi, average pressing on the surface of the ground water)) and you will only develop a partial vacuum with a normal hand pump so water will only raise in the pipe to where the forces balance. If you can pull a full vacuum at the top you might get the water as high as 33 feet but do not count on it. There are standard work-arounds to get water from deeper wells with a hand pump, but you should consult the pump people for specific information on your requirements.


Vote -1 Vote +1Crawgir1
June 15, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Bob: I ran into this somewhere last week, and was reading up on the Flojack system. Sounds interesting.


Vote -1 Vote +1Survival Diva
June 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Bob Reynolds, PhD’

My delay in replying was to investigate what folks were saying between one model and another. Far as I can tell, the model at Survival Unlimited has rec’d good consumer feedback. My own manual hand pump is frost free, but I haven’t installed it yet. My brother will be doing the installation, but not until it’s needed. We have manual tools and I have neighbors who have already agreed to help–because I’ll share the water ( :


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:36 am

I also have a well(60Ft’) and am thinking of some type hand pump. I’ve had several people tell me you can easily build one yourself and they’ve gone on-line and researched the info. If anyone has done this,I’m sure a lot of us could use the feedback. Most models you buy cost more then we can afford. A good old fashond indoor or outdoor pump will work,but they are considered antiques and if you can find one,will cost more then making one from scratch’


+4 Vote -1 Vote +1Charles May
June 15, 2012 at 9:03 am

If there is no water supply from municipal sources, there is not going to be any toilet flushes or bathtub drainage. Stink will be the order of the day like at the football dome in New Orleans was after their flood. Within a short time thousands will die of thirst with few burials. Lake fronts will be infested with people too stupid enough to go a few hundred yards away from it to use the latrine. Thus lakes will become poluted. Lakefront houses will be destroyed for firewood. Think about it, most people here don’t have enough knowledge to survive without electricity and city water and flush toilets, etc. as do “uneducated people of ‘third world countries ” who have never had such facilities. Get real. Most people with water will starve or become canibals. Just think a city of a million people trying to live next to nearby lakes – who’s going to steal what from whom or kill whom in order to survive?


Vote -1 Vote +1Survival Diva
June 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Charles May,
In a societal collapse, things are going to be difficult, and more than difficult in certain locations, just as the economic meltdown is in the here and now. This is going to be addressed in the near future on this site. There is a lot an individual can do for personal safety, but it requires getting into the heads of the looter… or worse.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:40 am

Guess I’m luckier then the average. I lived on a Indian Reservation for several years,and know what it’s like to live with out running water,electricity’ Outhouse at 50 below,and cooking on a wood stove. Very educational. Plus I grew up at my Great Grandmothers with the same conditions until I was 16. I’m more fortunate then most. I know how to survive without the modern stuff and my visions tell me I’m here to help the ones that don’t know how to live that way’


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eddie Hinson
June 15, 2012 at 9:16 am

From our garden we just canned 50 qts. of green beans, 10 qts. of yellow squash, and starting on my bread and butter pickles. Our Silver Queen will be coming in next week and will be putting up about 100 dozen ears. Will be canning tomatoes in about a week. Will be digging up our potatoes in 2 weeks. Everyone should try gardening, no matter how small, it’s very rewarding.


Vote -1 Vote +1Francie
June 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Eddie: I have been trying to grow a garden for 3 years. The only thing that actually produced was okra. This year i planted green beans, sweet bell pepper, tomatoes, butternut, zuchinni, yellow squash, and pumpkins, as well as okra, scallions, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and broccoli. I do have an herb garden which seems to do very well except for the dill and sweet basil. The darn rabbits ate most of my plants and the squash got a mold all over the leaves.
I live in a mobile home park in Florida and we have had a rash of rabbits running all over the park. As many as we have we are going to become a rabbit farm pretty soon. I bought one of those contraptions that is supposed have a high pitched sound and a flashing light when they come in the yard. What a joke, they just walk right on by it.
I have been buying a lot of dried beans and cooking them and then freezing them. I can’t seem to get my son or my husband in gear to get prepared. Fortunately, they both know how to survive in the wild and I used to camp out when the children were younger, so I know how to cook on an open fire and heat water to wash dishes and to keep yourself clean. It will be an inconvenience to say the least, but we will survive. We do have a well that services the entire park and we all have our own faucets for the water. I am not sure just how you would put a hand pump into one that is set up for the entire park.
I have always been afraid of canning due to botulism etc. I am afraid that I wouldn’t get it sterile enough. I did try it one time and things just didn’t look to good. It was kind of cloudy looking.


Vote -1 Vote +1Chantal
June 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I have just started getting into canning and was worried about botulism as well. Several people told me to just start and then I can go to the local university to have it germ checked. It might not do any good if things go wrong now but it will built confidence and skill for latter.


Vote -1 Vote +1CaptTurbo
June 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

If the gardening isn’t working out so well, put up some rabbits. They are tasty!


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:43 am

Good answer
I quit eating wild rabbit many years ago. The last rabbit I ate was about 15 yrs ago. I had Bar-B-q rabbit for Easter. All my camp buddies were amazed that I cooked the Easter Bunny’


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1TZ
June 15, 2012 at 9:48 am

I live in a place that in the winter, everything freezes solid. I can handle storing water the rest of the year without a problem. Any ideas on how to store water in winter? Even having it in your car is a challenge. I wrap the containers in blankets but it’s not enough. If there is no electricity to keep the temp in the house or garage above freezing, even with solar…some times in winter we get days and days in cloudy conditions, what then? Do solar panels collect enough energy in cloudy days? Will storage containers split if the water freezes solid (even if not filled full?) —- I freeze water in soda bottles for use in the summer but the volume is not large as opposed to gallons and gallons. I know, more questions than answers but necessary. Thanks.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bob Reynolds, PhD
June 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

You might try what I did for water storage. Go to one of your local restaurants and ask if they will GIVE you some of their empty FOOD-SAFE (this is critical) plastic containers with snap-on lids that held food that was shipped in. Most restaurants just toss them in the trash, so giving them away costs the restaurants nothing. Tell them you want to store water in them for dish washing or bathing — not for food or water for drinking. Some restaurants may be wary of liability issues if anything went wrong and you got sick. After thoroughly sterilizing them (don’t forget to take out the sealing ring in the lid while doing this), fill the buckets about 3/4 full, leaving an air space for expansion of the water as it freezes. Then pound on the lids. In very cold weather, the lids may pop off a bit as the water transforms from liquid to solid ice and expands, so be prepared to just pound the lids back on. Doing the above, we got several dozen 2 gallon (approximately) buckets. If you want, put in a few drops of bleach before sealing to keep bugs from growing.


Vote -1 Vote +1Orcinus Orca
June 22, 2012 at 11:39 am

There are screw on lids made for these 5 gal and 3 gal plastic buckets. They make reuse of them much easier for other purposes such as food storage. They come in 12 colors so you can color code your supplies too.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug
June 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Bury the water storage devices below the frost line – your local building department can tell you what this is…just ask them how deep you need to make footings for a porch and use this as the minimum depth of your water storage.


-10 Vote -1 Vote +1Angellover7777
June 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Get over being lazy, and bury your water tanks below the frost line. Harbor freight has a 12 volt (solar?) pump to feed your house. A brand new septic tank holds how many gallons, in a safe enviroment you can drive over if you bury it deep enough. or underground plastic potable water tanks. Quit drinking the koolaid, or taking all the drugs, and wake your ass up.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Survival Diva
June 16, 2012 at 2:55 am

Look into a below-ground cistern. Water stored below-ground won’t freeze. Cisterns aren’t expensive when you’re your own laborer–only few hundred dollars. Many people divert rainwater from the roof into the cistern.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:46 am

I keep as many containers of water (gal,and smaller’) anywhere in my house I can store them. I also put gallons in the freezer for camping,emergencies etc’) You can have enough water this way to keep you and several others for a week or more’


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Debbie
June 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

We live in the desert and with the humidity at 5% or less, We won’t be pulling much water out of thin air here! I do garden and reuse some of the water we use for washing dishes but it stops there. We also have a pool and I an wondering if the pool water would be ok to use on the garden. After 3 days without chlorine in the water, it shows as almost totally chlorine free on the tester. the heat and summer sun can run the chlorine out in 2 or 3 days if it isn’t added EVERY day! Anyone? ? ?


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen
June 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm

When we lived in Vegas we used pool water for a back up and it worked just fine. As you said, in the desert after 3 days the chlorine is gone. One issue you do have to be aware of is the acid level. Muriatic Acid does not evaporate so rapidly, but, very slowly, even in 110+ temps. Though crops love acidic soil, this would be way too high and it’s toxic.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Doug
June 15, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Pool water usually has too much salt in it to use on plants – you might want to set up a solar still to get both drinking and plant water out of.


Vote -1 Vote +1Survival Diva
June 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I meant to add your name to my earlier reply. Research brought good news! Using a good water purifier like a Burkey or Katadyn will filter pool water, but may shorten the life of the filters, so make sure and set aside extra replacement filters!


Vote -1 Vote +1AutumnGal
June 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

I really wish info from your site was more available to those of us with an old computer and unable or unwilling to spend our $$ on a new one. Mine won’t even allow me to access the videos if/when I can get that far into the newsletter. David, I have your UrbanSuvival book and have learned so much from it, however as in each case we have our own set of challenges that makes some of the suggestions “out of reach”. We are not young, so growing our own garden and canning fit into that catagory of way to difficult with our health issues. I am a survivalist by exposure in that my parents made it through the horrible depression (there was nothing great about it!) and I know what it’s like to not have all the nicities ie running water etc. We will survive as long as possible and to the best of our ability. I am capable of doing a lot with very little and I’d dare say there’s a lot of other “older people” as capable since knowledge is power. However, there are areas where I know I could use some expert advice and have a respect for your intense research that eliminates the useless junk verbage 🙂
I can seldom get past the initial intro page of your newsletter and when I do, it has an Error on page notation at bottom of page which translates to mean, even my time reading the info is very limited. I realize the intro is a “lead-in” to what you will be offering to readers yet it sounds like the info has been included and I (for one) find that to be frustrating. Just my personal gripe…
Don’t know who to give credit to for this quote; “I’ve done so much for so long with so little, that I can do practically anything with almost nothing at all” but pretty sure it fits a lot of your readers. Sooo if there are other websites that would be helpful for people in my position I’d appreciate knowing about them from you or other readers. Depending on what the “IF” is we may actually make it through and any help to do so would be appreciated. Should we not, I assure you we will die trying and we won’t be alone.


Vote -1 Vote +1Doug
June 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm

If you are having a problem with your computer operating system you might want to go to This site allows you to download a completely free operating system that includes Open Office. The philosophy of the site is that programs should be free to all and they have many programs that are excellent. You can load the system as a second system on your computer to try it out then convert later if you so choose. The only requirement is enough space on your hard drive. I am using Ubuntu and have had no problems at all accessing everything on this site. Good luck!


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:53 am

You sound like you live in the boonies,as do I. No decent internet service,can’t watch videos,yet all the sites treat us like we live in the BIG city and have all the convieniences.
Like you,I remember the depression,standing in blocks of lines for even a peice of bubble gum. It taught us how to appreciate the finer things in life and to be thrifty. Nothing wrong with that. It will help you survive when and if the S–t comes down. Be proud you have the survivor mentallity,you will be able to help the less fortunate’


Vote -1 Vote +1Alpenglow
June 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Re: the scenario where the sewer backs up. Would it help to close all the drains in tubs, sinks, etc before the trouble starts? What can be done about toilets without doing alot of expensive sewer line alterations?


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
June 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Not really…those valves aren’t designed to handle “backwards” pressure. If it’s a concern, what you really need is a backflow preventer.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen
June 15, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Back Flow valves can be really expensive to install. They can be as cheap as $750 and can easily be $1500 or more. So, keep this in mind and search for the best deal you can trust. In many areas back flow valves were code at time of construction. However, in older homes or oldeer sub divisions, back flow valves are non-existant. In many parts of the country there are no code requirements for them.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:55 am

I think you may be wrong. I’ve bought them for around $25. Had to have it installed by a plumber or friend,but all my properties have them on the water heaters’ Just a note you should check out.


Vote -1 Vote +1Crawgir1
June 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Where does the backflow valve get installed, near the city/county connection or the house? I’m imagining digging up the yard or getting the county involved somehow, involving equipment and great expense.


-1 Vote -1 Vote +1Angellover7777
June 15, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Install a septic tank secretly, and gate valves in your presently outgoing sewer lines,


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 2:56 am

See above reply Crawgirl


Vote -1 Vote +1doug
June 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm

TZ, we’ve the same problem. I’ve read were some recommend drilling a 1/8″ hole in the piston of a hand pump so the water will automatically drain back down the well. We’ve storage for a good two weeks so I guess my present plan is to pull the head & cap it, and when existing water gets low remove the cap and replace the head (I’ve some good sized wing nuts at the ready). I’ve a couple of PVC pieces that make repriming a snap. I realize it will be a bother but no water is not livable.
As far as water bottles in the jeep come winter, last winter I had an aluminum Nat’l Guard water bottle and a plastic Army canteen without a problem. They were 2/3 full, as was pointed out liquids are only extremely minutely compressible (neglible?), however, the air is compressible. I think the shape on the container is also important- I doubt the canteen would have worked if it were upside down.
I think the suggestion for using buckets would work, especially those tapered with small bases and larger tops as ice forms it would be just pushed higher if it had an air space. Popping the top might be a problem ,but a milar bag inside sealed would insure the integrety of the water while the bucket would prevent puncture and allow stack ability.


Vote -1 Vote +1Darren
June 15, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Is it possible to purify chlorinated pool water ?


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Survival Diva
June 16, 2012 at 3:11 am

I just double-checked the fact sheet for my Burkey water purifier. Pool water can be purified, but it was mentioned it can shorten the life of the filters. Another purifier to look at is the Katadyn. Just make sure and set aside extra replacement filters.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1buster hymen
June 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm

If you have a shallow well, a bucket on a rope will work vs. buying a hand pump.


Vote -1 Vote +1Bob Reynolds, PhD
June 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm


That is not realistic for most wells. At most, they have a casing of about 6″ diameter. Subtract from that the area for the pipe from the electric well pump, the electrical cable and the cable to pull up the pump when needed for maintenance, you’d be lucky to get a one quart cup down the well casing. Your comment was of no realistic value.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Angellover7777
June 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm

They make 5 gal flapper bottom buckets to allow people with 6 inch cased wells to draw water manualy.A 200 foot well using 1 inch pvc pipe can be pulled up by one man, or 2 or 3 if your an academic, then just use the bucket as an old fashioned well, or get a “flojack” to set up a hand pump. I have used both. Former Instructer at Cerritos college and ABC.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Survival Diva
June 16, 2012 at 3:22 am

Bob Reynolds, PhD
They make a small circumference water collection cylinder which, oddly enough, is sometimes called a bucket. They’re lowered into the well by a rope. The one I bought holds a little under two gallons of water and costs $49 at Lehman’s. I’m big on “an heir and a spare”, and wanted back-up for something as vital as water. The cylinder is back-up for a manual, frost-free hand pump…just in case.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 3:01 am

Does that mean you have to remove the existing pump,which sometimes takes a crane??? If you have a submerissable pump,that could be a problem. A top,above ground pump, it would be easier. Some people I know have a sumbmerssible in a room in their house and have to take the roof off to remove it. Think I’ll get a purification system and go to the nearest creek or lake. Sounds easier to me.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Leone
June 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I’ve never seen this addressed but all canned fruits and vegetables have some form of liquid in them. Save the liquid for drinking, I’ll admit green bean juice won’t be tasty but heated, it could be used like soup.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 3:08 am

Never thought of that idea,good one. Also,note that pickle juice helps stop leg cramps.
Dr. had no cures and someone told me about the pickle juice and it worked’


Vote -1 Vote +1Karen Cook
June 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I think it’s important to know how to unclog a drain using mechanical or chemical means as well has having a ‘tub of water for backup’. Hair/particle filters are valuable in stopping some problems before they start, as well as not putting grease down the drain. If you scrape dishes before washing, you can avoid some of the gunk messing with your pipes.


Vote -1 Vote +1Angellover7777
June 16, 2012 at 12:08 am

The big problem is when the government sewage worker don’t show up for work, and raw sewage begins backing up into your water storage bathtub,


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1BobG
June 15, 2012 at 7:05 pm

My dad and I drove a well with 1-1/4inch pipe and a “point”. You can get sand points or in our case another kind, which can go thru tougher clay. We made a tripod of four inch poles (trees), hung a pulley on it, connected a rope to a 70 pound larger pipe filled with lead, dad borrowed from a friend. The other free end of the rope went around a flat pulley on a small gas engine. We wet the rope on the pulley occasionally to make it grab better. We’d tighten the rope to make the weight go up, loossen it to make it fall on the pipe being driven. We drove one down thru 15 feet of hard clay, an 1/8 of an inch at a time. We went down 23 feet on that well. Now you need either a deep or shallow well electric pump. the shallow well pump only lifs water about 21 feet. You could do it by hand, but lifting the weight would be hard.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Great Grey
June 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm

One thing when you need to filter water is if you prefilter it, it can take some of the load off your primary filter. It maybe a cheap one, homemade or an used one that’s passed it recommended life. Also just a simple settling tank can help remove stuff that can clog a filter.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Thinker
June 15, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Water only expands about ten percent on freezing, so you don’t need a lot of space. As pointed out above, the shape of the container plays a part – the more room you give the water to expand, the less likely of it breaking the container. As a chemist and former lifeguard, I would not have a problem drinking properly chlorinated pool water without any other treatment. Mostly I would want to filter it to remove the chlorine (and any other crap that might be present), but in an emergency, I’m much more concerned about the nasty bugs than any dirt. Hopefully, the chlorine took care of most of the bugs already. As noted above, the chlorine residual in a pool ( the amount of chlorine left available to do any good) rapidly decreases with hot, sunny weather. In two or three days, without replenshiment, it is totally gone. By the time you are going to think about drinking out of your pool, I suspect it will be totally devoid of chlorine and you are going to want to filter it to remove the nasties.


Vote -1 Vote +1Crawgir1
June 15, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I have a reverse osmosis system in my home, wouldn’t that work for emergency use if you could get the unclean water to flow through the system? I imagine there would be a jury-rig possibility there.


Vote -1 Vote +1Thinker
June 18, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Reverse osmosis is wonderful, but remember that it depends on the aproximately 85 pounds of pressure that the city water supplies to work. We have have it too, but this discussion is about when the power goes out. YOU have to supply the power to force the water through the filter system. This really means an entirely different system. Check out something called Survivor 35 by Katadyn. It is a manually operated reverse osmosis unit designed for lifeboat use. “Jury-rigging” a home water system is complex, and you have to figure out how to power it in the event you need to use it that way. The unit above is small, portable and just requires a little muscle power.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Gulfcoast Gal
June 15, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Along the southern coastal areas, many of us have banana trees in our yard. They are an excellent resource for smaller amounts of liquid. Warning — the “water” stains clothing permanently. However, I understand it is drinkable in a pinch. The roots draw the water upward, and filter it at the same time. Improvise a small tap and catch bucket. Further, new banana leaves make nice dew catchers.

Also, along the coast, ground water is just a couple of feet down (if that much). Spending some quiet time with a sharpshooter shovel or post hole digger to access water in the backyard (even during a dry spell) might produce enough water to keep a person alive. Improvise a bucket (empty food can) and rope (string, fishing line, wire) to get water out of the hole. If nothing else, use a dip rag on a string to sop up water that seeps into the bottom of the hole.

After crude filtering, the water should be clear enough for a very simple, cheap, solar disinfection process (SODIS) to kill water-born pathogens. Watch the video at the following site to see how to determine if the water is clear enough for SODIS. Brilliantly simple.

If better alternatives are available, use them. Gravity filters are highly recommended for removing toxins which SODIS does not address. However, SODIS is a simple process to remember for killing water-born diseases in dire circumstances.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Jim
June 15, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I have a small campstove that uses the small propane containers, of which I have several on hand. Also, for a limited amount of light, I have 14 solar lawn lights that last all night in the yard, so you could have a certain amount of light if you just set them on a table outside or by a large south facing window during the day, without the ground ‘spike’ and have plenty of light. Also, I have a ten below zero sleeping bag to use along with heavy blankets in addition. If you use some good old fashioned American ingenuity, you can come up with lots of ideas.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 4:09 am

A reminder for those that have a camper in your yard. I’ve stocked mine with all emergency
provisions to survive. Food,medical supplies,cook stoves,candles,etc. It’s ready to bug out if I have to,just hook up and go and I can live for months with everything I need. Also,I can just go camping if I want and it’s all ready to go.I still have to remember to make sure the propane tanks are full,but can survive without them too.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bob Reynolds, PhD
June 16, 2012 at 5:21 am

Doug, Crawgir1, Angellover7777 & Survival Diva;

Doug — there are two ways to lift water from a well — pulling and pushing. Pulling creates a vacuum and relies on atmospheric pressure. As you said, with this method you can only lift water about 30 feet. The other, and more commonly used, method is by pushing. This is what submersible electric pumps do, and what many hand pumps do. Basically, the “guts” of the pump are at the bottom of the well rather than at the top. Each stroke of the handle lets water into a special part of the drop pipe via a one way valve. Each succeeding stroke of the handle then allow more water in, effectively pushing the water upwards rather than pulling. The depth (or height) limitations can extend for many hundreds of feet. The model I am looking at relies on this pushing rather than pulling action, and it is touted to be effective down to several hundred feet with some modifications. Anyone thinking of putting in a hand well needs to understand this difference so they don’t buy the wrong type, leaving them “high and dry”, which in this case could be fatal.

Crawgir1 — thanks for the suggestion of the Flojack. I’ll look into it.

Angellover7777 & Survival Diva — Your suggestions are fine, as long as there is nothing else in the well casing. All functional wells with electric pumps have a lot of other stuff (pipe, electric cable, lift cable) in the casing, so a 6″ bucket with rope is only effective if you pulled the existing electric submersible pump out. This would work in an EOTWAWKI scenario, such as an EMP, etc. I’m looking at a dual system that can work in extended, but not permanent, power outages. As for how many academicians it takes to pull up a rope, it depends on whether you have climbed mountains with Army Rangers, Navy Seals, etc, on such “hills” as Mt Everest, among others. Don’t assume ALL academics are wusses. Most are. Some are not. Not to worry. Almost all academic wusses will die out within the first 3 days of a SHTF, standing by a water cooler in the hallway, wondering why nothing comes out when they push that little button thingie. They’ll be among the first to go.


Vote -1 Vote +1Survival Diva
June 19, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Bob Reynolds, PhD

You’re correct! I should have mentioned to either have a professional install the manual hand pump, or wait for when you need it, and THEN pull out the electric well pump, and get it going–which means manual tools and help to get the piping down the well.

Almost all academic wusses will die out within the first 3 days of a SHTF, standing by a water cooler in the hallway, wondering why nothing comes out when they push that little button thingie. They’ll be among the first to go….. ( :

THIS was a good visual. What folks have written here, that we spoiled Americans will have it way tougher than those in third-world countries is spot-on! Can you imagine the Banker (okay, I know they’re not all spoiled) who can’t get his garage door opener to work and cannot make his or her dinner reservations…they’ll be lost. It will be those who have led more difficult lives, who know how to hunt and fish and garden, and won’t come unraveled when they must use alternative cooking for meals who will likely fare better in a meltdown.


Vote -1 Vote +1Eyetech
June 19, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Around here (south central Ohio) almost all houses built after 1960 have sumps with pumps pulling out gallons of water daily. I haven’t had the water tested to find out what’s in it yet. I suppose I can have that done by a county extension agency?


Vote -1 Vote +1Shirley
June 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Thanks, everyone! David, I have a question on a different subject. I know that sometime sooner than we would imagine could happen, our computers may go down. I would like to receive a newsletter but am not using credit right now. Can arrangements be made?


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Evan
June 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Hi Shirley,

The newsletter is free, and all of my products/courses are available in physical form. Hope that helps


Vote -1 Vote +1Adam
June 22, 2012 at 7:41 am

Over here in England we had a month of hot weather when a drought was announced and a hose pipe ban imposed. This was followed by a month of torrential rain with much of he country going on flood alert and emergency services being put on stand by. THis goes to show how vulnarable our water grid system is and how quickly WSHTF are wate rwill be contaminated bsewage in our over populated county.
Those living in rural parts of Scotland , wales or england shoudl be alright as the plentiful supply of water from the sky gets stored there and fed first to rural homesteads so its unlikly to suffer from sewafge back up and even if it did many of these places have lakes that fresh water can be taken from.
You article and recent events here in eth UK have focused me and my girlfriend into prioritiing water loss, contamination or rationing as the number one threat in case soociety breakdown.


Vote -1 Vote +1Nancy
June 22, 2012 at 11:58 am

We have unlimited access to the Pacific ocean. Have there been any break-throughs for treating salt water for survival?


Vote -1 Vote +1davidmobile
June 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Yes :). Solar distillation is the simplistic method. I go into detail on a few methods in my advanced urban water purification book.


Vote -1 Vote +1Shelgeyr
June 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm

For those who live reasonably near a major soda bottling plant, be aware that many of them give away food-grade 55-gallon plastic barrels (exception: I’m told, but have not verified, that Pepsi no longer will gives these out – and I hope I’m not defaming them if this is an untrue rumor), provided you’re not planning on turning around and selling them. Others charge around $5 each for commercial users. You can store a lot of clean water a long time with those things (search around on the web for detailed instructions, most of which will have you use a little bleach).

If you’ve got some spare space, like in a garage, look into getting a good, used, food-grade IBC Tote, which generally range in the 250 to 330 gallon range. Bonus: They’re stackable!

If you some of either of the above items, and decide to do something more than just store water, do a web search (while you still have power) on “aquaponics”, and take at least a step towards food self-sufficiency. It is fun too!


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Yankee Girl
June 28, 2012 at 7:43 am

If the grid goes down, any solar equipment goes down. The only exception is those with the expensive battery backup. See here:


Vote -1 Vote +1davidmobile
June 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

That’s not really true. Natural news is normally a good source for info, but in this case, the article is so full of generalizations and inaccuracies, that it would take another article to set the record straight.


Vote -1 Vote +1Highpockets
June 29, 2012 at 4:17 am

Thanks David for an informative site’


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