In my previous post, I discussed what we do during power shortages. Now let’s move on to a situation when the tap isn’t running.
Drinking water – always keep a supply of fresh water on hand for drinking and cooking. A little while ago, a new family moved into the neighborhood and one day when the tap stopped flowing we went to check on them. It turned out that the mother was alone in the house with a nursing baby and had no water to drink. The oppressive heat outside made her reluctant to venture out and ask any of the neighbors for water, so she just sat hoping that the problem would be fixed soon (it wasn’t, until the next day). I dispatched the older children to her house with a couple of water bottles, which were gratefully received – but you don’t want to depend on the kindness of others in such situations.
Flushing the toilet – we have three bathrooms in the house, so the water in the toilet tanks is generally enough for flushing for a day or two, but remember that you don’t have to flush every time (even if it goes sorely against your habits). When there’s no running water, I tell my kids – pardon the details – to only flush when they poop.
Dishes and laundry – the key word here is prevention. Running water issues can be unexpected (a pipe suddenly busting due to excessive heat, for example), so I try not to procrastinate when it comes to dishes and laundry. I do my best to wash dishes right after a meal, and clothes as soon as I have a full load. There are few things more annoying than leaving a sinkful of dishes overnight saying, “I’ll do this tomorrow”, and then tomorrow brings no running water.
Disposable dishes – plastic plates and paper cups are not very classy, economical or environmentally friendly, but when you have no running water for a day or two they can be a sanity saver. Besides, my kitchen cupboards are small and I simply don’t have enough plates for the whole family to keep using for two days straight without the possibility to wash them. I always keep a stash of disposable kitchenware to be taken out as needed.
The garden – this can be a serious issue. 48 hours without water, combined with a heat wave, can easily kill plants, especially those which don’t have deep roots. In such cases, I cover young plants. I also cover some of my garden beds with a mulch of straw to prevent moisture loss.
Finally, I save the water from my baby’s bath and use that for watering the plants. It isn’t much, but it can help tide some plants over until water flows in the pipes again.
I do realize, however, that we need a larger water container for our plants, especially now that our garden is expanding. We are currently planning to set up a greywater tank that will hold all the water from our showers, to use in the garden.
A thriving garden can be killed off very quickly by a combination of heat and lack of water.
Water cisterns – several families in our neighborhood have water cisterns that provide, on average, all their water needs for up to two days. When other people have no running water, they carry on as usual – cooking, bathing, doing laundry – and hardly notice anything is amiss, except perhaps a little reduced water pressure. We are considering making an investment and installing such a cistern, which will eliminate nearly all water-related issues from our lives. The cistern will need to be set up above our house, so that the water runs down by force of gravity.
Electricity and running water are two things that, in the developed world at least, are considered so basic we usually take them for granted. When they are suddenly taken away, people are prone to panic. However, short-term power and water issues are easy enough to deal with, and need not disrupt your daily life – if you are prepared.