Suddenly, there's no more water coming from your tap or any water that does come from faucets may no longer be safe to drink due to contamination by chemicals, sewage, or worse.
A disaster, such as a nuclear meltdown or detonation of an atomic weapon, can release massive amounts of radiation into the air; when it falls to the surrounding countryside, radiation can poison reservoirs as well as aquifers (underground bodies of water that supply several regions with drinking water).
Using a mix of primitive technology and modern day technology -- you can have a source of drinking water -- through rainwater harvesting.
If you have the finances, you can purchase large water tanks that can be stored underground and out of sight, providing water for drinking, washing, and bathing in a time of emergency or collapse.
The least expensive way to prep for a disaster is to gradually build up a collection of empty 5 gallon water jugs, the jugs commonly seen on the top of water coolers, as well as sold (and recycled) at stores in several communities.
Empty jugs are light weight -- if you lack storage space, consider storing these in your attic. Or, if you live in an apartment or condo without an attic, be creative. Lift your bed frame two feet off the floor (purchase some lumber from your local hardwood store) and then build a storage area right under your bed. You may be able to store 20 empty five gallon jugs right under your bed.
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Now you're much more prepared for a catastrophic disaster -- you'll have a system ready for harvesting rainwater, and supplying your family with drinking water, much like what is found in a number of third-world countries today.
So, that is how you store water on a budget, and prepare yourself for surviving a catastrophic disaster.
Or, if you own your own home and you have the finances, you can hire a company to build a professional rainwater harvesting system.
What if you don't have the finances for one of these advanced system? Good news -- there are simple, inexpensive ways to also harvest rainwater. Even if you do purchase an advanced system and have it installed at your home or property it's a good idea to learn how these simple systems work because there's always a chance your advanced system will be destroyed in a major disaster.
Without a back-up plan for collecting water, what will you do?
If your water tanks are full when a disaster strikes, you'll have several hundred gallons of water for you and your family to live off.
Then, in the coming weeks as the rain comes down, your water tanks will refill and you will have a constant water supply.
As long as you have fuel for your generator, your pumps will continue to work, and your system will continue to operate.
Now it's time to fall back on primitive technology and use techniques used by primitive people in different parts of the world to collect rain water.
These primitive systems require no power, just ingenuity and planning.
Because harvesting rainwater subjects collected water to contaminants from the environment (such as bird dung, insects, polluted air, and even plant debris), often it's being used to supply water for washing and toilets, rather than for drinking.
(If you want to use this water for drinking, you'll want to turn to a system of distilling -- purifying water by creating steam and collecting condensation -- or simply filtering (primitive filtering, with just cloth, sand and charcoal) and boiling.)
Here's another reason for rainwater harvesting -- collecting rainwater will help make any bottled water you have stockpiled last longer.
A tarp is an easy way to collect rainwater; a larger tarp will collect more than a smaller tarp.
For the cleanest rainwater, every few days clean your tarp, removing any debris or mildew that has formed.
The further away from trees, the better -- your tarp will collect less bird dung and also less debris (like leaves and pine needles) that fall.
To use this system that is already in place, you simply need to make modifications to the down-pointing gutter, so that it carries water to a barrel, tank, pond, etc.
Using an existing gutter system in this fashion, calls for taking some steps before hand. Take the time to clean and repair your gutters; keep them clean with periodic maintenance.
Stockpile a few large tarps; in a time of disaster you can drape 2 - 3 large tarps over the roofing of your home, allowing rainwater to collect on the tarp and then drain into your gutters.
Because of mosquitoes, build "closed-loop" systems. This means that once water hits a gutter, it doesn't collect and pool, offering mosquitoes a place to breed. Instead, the water should drain immediately to a down-spout, and then collect in sealed barrels or tanks.
** In areas of trees, use screens over your gutters ("gutter screens") to help prevent things like leaves, seeds, and pine needles from washing down into barrels or tanks.
** Periodically clean barrels and tanks of any sediment that has collected or algae that has formed.
If you want a rainwater harvesting system for potable drinking water, be sure to choose a type of roof such as uncoated stainless steel or factory-enameled galvanized steel with a baked-enamel, certified lead-free finish.
You can of course build your home with a complete roof that is made specifically to provide potable water through rainwater harvesting. Be ready to shell out several thousand dollars.
High-winds can also take your tarps right off your roof. Learn how to use bricks and string to tie several anchor points to any tarp you use on your roof. You can also tie string to several grommets, and then bolt these ties to the side of your home, but in strong enough winds these grommets can tear free. In this case, look for "heavy duty" tarp. It's much stronger than many types of typical store-bought tarp.
If for any reason you have to evacuate or relocate eventually, tarp rolls or folds up for easy transport.
* Then build a makeshift gutter out of three long three branches by tying them together, with about 2 inches of space between each branch. Then use another tarp or roll of plastic to wrap these branches in.
* Arrange the sticks inside the tarp so that you have a channel (depression) in the tarp that will now catch water, much like a roof-top gutter.
* Set it at the base of your tarp, where water drains off. It will drip down on to this makeshift gutter and then drain down to a bucket or other container you've set up for capturing water.
** Better yet -- along with those tarps you're prepping with, stockpile a number of PVC pipes that are used in plumbing for drinking water (any Lowes or Home Depot will have them). They're inexpensive, light-weight, and can be used in any primitive rainwater harvesting system you build.
** While we're on the subject of materials to prep with, be sure to stockpile a few rolls of duct tape, or as much as a few cases. Duct tape can be used in large amounts to tape together pipes (be sure to have pipe joints, which there are different types, for connecting pipes together at different angles).
** If you have to relocate to a new area (because your area is no longer safe to live), a primitive rainwater system can be easily broken down and moved (depending on the size and number of tanks you have to carry).
Going into winter, if you're counting on your water tank supplying you with drinking water for several weeks at a time, there are different methods for keeping water in your tanks from freezing, when there is no power.
* Start by purchasing insulating blankets that wrap around water tanks, or build insulation yourself (in a mega-disaster you'll be surprised at just how much debris from destroyed homes and buildings can be found, such as wall and attic insulation, which you can collect).
* Use Styrofoam or other insulation (along with plenty of duct tape, to keep insulation in place) to keep valves and pipes from freezing.
* On water tanks, use insulated lids as the lid is an area that heat can escape.
* When placing a water tank above ground, place in an area on your property that receives the most sunshine. You may need to cut down a couple trees that otherwise block the sun.
* Cover tanks with black tarp; when the sun shines on black tarp, it warms the air underneath, creating more warmth around your water tank.
* Tanks can also be buried beneath homes and accessed by cellars. The ground beneath homes is typically warmer when a "heat island" is created, which is a natural occurrence.
* Finally, in areas without direct sunlight, build tanks alongside outside fireplaces, or whatever system you use to heat your home or shelter or to cook with. Arrange bricks so that heat from a fireplace or fire-pit can warm a water tank without damaging it.