Water, Water, Everywhere

Water Main Break

Image by csuspect via Flickr

July 16, 2011

My son is a doomer, but not a prepper.  He understands the precarious economic position of the Empire, the looming consequences of declining energy supplies and the implications of growing climate change and environmental degradation.  Even so, on the occasional visits upstairs, when he actually catches me in the act of preparations – as he did a few weeks ago, while I was busy washing 2 liter pop bottles, rinsing them with bleach water and filling them with water from the tap for storage in my “doomer” closet – he is likely to shake his head and give me an affectionate “my crazy mother in the attic” smile.

I have been vindicated on occasion – the 2007 ice storm that I’ve talked about on the blog comes to mind.  And the other evening, when a broken water main several blocks north of us sent gallons of water everywhere except into the pipes, tanks and faucets of the homes – including ours – that depend on it, I just went to the doomer closet and pulled out a couple of two liter bottles of water to last through the repairs I knew the city would be making.  We here in Missouri are in the midst of the same heat wave as much of the country and having some water put back to see me through this minor assault on my city water supply gave me a small feeling of security.

About 5 o’clock the next morning, a sudden burbling and frothing from the toilet woke me and I realized the main had been repaired.  I stumbled around the house, opening cold-water taps and flushing the toilet until brown water and air bubbles gave way to a steady stream of clear water once again.   While watching that brown water come out of the tap, even knowing that it would soon clear up, I felt a momentary panic at the thought that it might never run clean again.  And I confess, even after calling the utility company to make sure the now clear water was safe to drink, I polished off the two bottles of water from the doomer closet over the next two days before drinking water from the tap.

My fears were not unreasonable.  A CNN article from January of this year http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/01/20/water.main.infrastructure/index.html  explains that there are “… an average 700 water main breaks nationwide that experts say occur each day. They warn that this is the latest sign of an aging water delivery infrastructure that results in property loss, inconvenience, and threats to public health.

“The nation’s drinking water system is so troubled, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a grade of D minus, in its 2009 Report Card of America’s Infrastructure.

There are many sources of water pollution in this country, some of which we as individuals can control and some we cannot. Most of these are currently regulated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act. http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/ASK/waterpol3.html      But the EPA’s power to regulate under the Clean Water Act is now under assault in the House of Representatives.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-13/limits-on-epa-s-clean-water-powers-pass-house-over-veto-threat.html  And think tanks like the Cato Institute continue to recommend privatization of our water systems.  It seems unlikely in this economic environment that states, already in economic trouble, can long resist the pressures and promises of immediate economic gain over long-term health risks that these changes would allow.

Clean, safe drinking water is by far our most important resource. None of the other resources we spend so much time and money acquiring matter if we don’t have drinkable water.  While the human body can survive for up to a month without food, we can only survive about three days without water.  The World Water Council http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/index.php?id=23  states that, “1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation. 1.8 million people die every year from diarrhoeal diseases, including 90 % of children under 5.”

But, surely such things couldn’t happen here in the United States, you might think.  Think again. http://scottbrophy.com/2011/07/14/scientific-study-confirms-mountaintop-coal-removal-causes-birth-defects-by-polluting-water-congress-passes-bill-to-deauthorize-epa-from-enforcing-clean-water-act/

Although overall water usage in the US has been relatively stable since 1985, http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2004/circ1268/, it continues to deplete our major aquifers. http://www.mvm.usace.army.mil/grandprairie/area/default.asp   And even a cursory reading of the articles on water pollutants at http://water.usgs.gov/owq/topics.html#cont should raise the hairs along your neck.  In addition, as climate change progresses, melting of glaciers and mountain snows will cause changes in rain patterns that will affect quality and availability of surface water for drinking as flood and drought patterns change or intensify.  It will also affect the abilities of our groundwater aquifers to recharge.

We can all find ways to conserve water, but it’s obvious that if 20 -30 years of conservation efforts have only stabilized water usage, that conserved water is being used up by population growth or taken up by non-conservers or both as rapidly as it’s being conserved.

As the economy continues to deteriorate, all of these factors will conspire to decrease the amount of available, clean drinking water – especially for those who cannot afford to pay increasingly volatile prices for it.

It’s always good to have an emergency water supply for unexpected events like broken water mains, sudden polluting events and natural disasters.  But as collapse of the Empire continues along its merry way, having your own source of water, separate from the local utility company,  and a way to purify could be a lifesaving measure.  There are a lot of ideas for a personal or community water supply on the internet.  I’ve collected some of them here https://conflicteddoomer.wordpress.com/gardening-information/securing-a-water-supply/.

I may be the crazy mom in the attic, but at least I won’t be wandering around, muttering like the Ancient Mariner – “Water, water, everywhere,  Nor any drop to drink.”





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13 Responses to Water, Water, Everywhere

  1. Living in an aging trailer park in the Sonoran desert with failing pipes has made me intensely aware of the value of water. We never know when a pipe will burst and the water will be off for hours at a time. I bought a Big Berkey a couple of years ago and it takes this incredibly dicey water and makes it palatable and safe…so far. The dirt and rust that comes out of the taps in even the best of times is seriously off-putting. I’ve got the Spare Room O’Doom, and believe me, I’ve got water in it. Thanks for the great post on the value of water. 🙂

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Patty, thanks. I lived at China Lake, out in the Mojave, years ago and had friends who had a trailer out in the desert. I think A Spare Room O’Doom would be a necessity in the best of times – LOL and now more than ever. They had a well, but had to go down nearly 1000 feet to get it as I recall.

  2. graveday says:

    Linda, go to John Ludi’s site and check out the cheap solar cooker he put together from the internet. It would be easy to use it to create potable water out of the brown water that first came out of your tap, or any brown water, no matter the source.
    This is also useful for cooking of course.

  3. graveday says:

    It’s a short video he made. I’m sure he will let you link. Honor among thieves and all that, heh.

  4. graveday says:

    You’re welcome Linda. It’s a small thing in comparison to all the great posts you have made that have given me food for thought. Sacramento is the home of an international solar outfit that had a humble start. I made some boxes to use at school and one for home. Solar cookers can cook all day while you work wherever and won’t burn your food. I could make two pots of stuff in mine and it always turned out well, unless it rained, heh.
    May your garden grow well. GD

  5. pattybelle says:

    I use my solar cooker all the time, GD. Course I live in AZ, so I’d be stupid not to. I throw a chicken carcass and the vegie trimmings into a pot of water and let it cook all day. It makes the best broth/consomme in the world. Sorry for the cooking digression. I’ve been cooking a lot lately.

  6. theozarker says:

    @graveday – thanks. I love to write, but it’s always nice to hear that it actually gives people food for thought. And so far, the garden is producing – slowly since I got it in so late this year. This has been a very hot, dry July, too, so I’m having to water more than usual, but I’m eating well – LOL.

    @patty – I must have at least a dozen set of instructions for how to make a solar oven of one kind or another, but I never can qui te picture how tab A fits into slot B. This is the first method that looks easy enough to make that I have hopes of finally joining the ranks of solar chefs everywhere! : D

  7. pattybelle says:

    I cheated, Linda, and bought a Global Sun Oven three years ago. Some of the best money I ever spent, and boy did I have to scrimp to buy it.

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