Selco: The Dirty Truth About Water and Sanitation When the SHTF

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by Selco, The Organic Prepper:

Note: The biggest concerns in any long-term emergency are water and sanitation because the lack of these things can cause serious illness or even death. Because water and sanitation aren’t nearly as glamorous as guns and gadgets, they’re often overlooked in a preparedness plan. I asked Selco some questions about these important issues in this interview. The truth about it is dirty, unpleasant, and something for which you absolutely must plan.

Once there was no more running water, how did you get drinking water?

Just like most other things (especially when it comes to non-preppers) it was a matter of levels and layers.

The tap water was going on and off for a few days before service went completely off, so people had a few bottles of drinking water stored. But of course, most of us thought everything going to be restored very soon so nobody had thought about storing big amounts of water.

When it comes to lack of water and being unprepared, the levels and layers that I am mentioning meant that you first looked and asked for tap water (clean) for drinking. Then collecting water from rooftops sounded like a good idea. Then drinking directly from the river was good if there was no other source. And then, finally, when there was no other source. you simply drink dirty water even when you were sure it is quite dirty.

It was a matter of low resources, desperation, and of course low skill levels.

Our main sources were rain and the river.

Can you tell us about your rainwater collection system?
It was not anything smart, especially in the beginning.

The gutter system normally took water from the roof through pipes into the underground collectors and sewers. When we concluded that the running water was not coming back, we simply sawed off a piece of gutter and pushed it inside the main gutter that led from the roof system (on the side of the house that looked inside the yard). Then we collected water inside a barrel.

We just used the water collectment system that was existing there already, and just cut it off at a lower point, before the water was “lost” and redirected the water into a barrel.

It is actually pretty amazing how much water you can collect from the roof during one summer storm. A lot.

When it comes to that system of water collecting our main problem was lack of containers, because even if there is a huge amount of water to “catch” from the rain, we did not have enough adequate containers for that.

Probably if we were prepared in a smart way for that, our water problems would have been easier.

How did you purify/filter water for drinking and cooking?
Two main ways: boiling and filtering.

Filtering of the water was very rudimentary. We did not use any real filters, and people did not know how to make anything too complicated.

The most complicated filter that I saw in those times was a slightly changed version of a “bottle ” filter with rocks and sand with added cloth inside.

We used cloths for filtering, or gauze. If water was visibly contaminated (particles) we would repeat the procedure until the water looked satisfying for us.

Boiling was a widespread method of making water drinkable, and often the quality of stoves and fuel for it were “measured” by the time needed for water to boil.

Were the rivers and streams contaminated? If so, how quickly after things went bad?
River and streams in cities were polluted (if we talk about drinking) before the war because poor care was taken of it, and it was mainly because of industry.

When SHTF that kind of pollution went down because of obvious reasons (everything stopped working) but other kinds of pollutants were there. City services did not work and many people lived next to that river (upstream too). So it was polluted with everything, including bodies from time to time.

We drink it, sometimes even without boiling and filtering. I survived it, but I was sick many times, probably because of that.

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