By now, pretty much everyone who has any interest in survival has heard that they need one gallon of water per person per day for survival drinking and cooking. While that statement may be true, it’s not complete. Drinking and cooking aren’t the only things we need water for, even in a survival situation. So anyone who is planning one gallon per person per day, isn’t planning enough water.
The average American family of four uses a little over 400 gallons of water per day. If only four gallons of that are used for drinking and cooking, what are the rest used for? Well, that water is broken down into:
- 50% for watering the lawn
- 13% for flushing the toilet
- 10% for washing clothes
- 9% for bathing
- 8% for other cleaning
- 8% wasted for leaks and for miscellaneous uses
- 1% for drinking and cooking
There’s no way that anyone can use this much water in a survival situation. Just hauling that much water back to their home every day would end up taking up the whole day. So, a lot of water usage would have to go by the wayside; but it can’t all go by the wayside. Personal hygiene is important for maintaining health, as is proper disposal of human waste. On top of those uses, water will be needed for any vegetable garden you have planted, although the grass can be allowed to die.
Even cutting things to the bare bone, you will probably still need about five gallons of water per person per day. However, only a gallon per person will need to be purified, as water used for bathing and washing clothes doesn’t need to be.
Bathing and Clothes Washing
As I already said, personal hygiene is necessary for avoiding infection and disease. But that doesn’t mean that you need to use a lot of water to bathe. The average bath in a bathtub uses 25 to 35 gallons of water. The average shower uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute. However, in many Latin American countries they bathe using only a gallon or two. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in these countries, and have actually bathed successfully with less than a gallon of water.
The key is that they only put water on their bodies; rather than letting it all run down the drain. So, they’ll take a bucket of water and another plastic container, such as the kind that Cool Whip comes in. They use that smaller container to scoop water out of the bucket and pour it on their bodies, starting with their hair. By starting with the hair, they are able to wet their bodies at the same time.
Rinsing the hair is the biggest use of water, especially for women. The trick is pouring the water from the container right where it is needed, while the other hand moves through the hair to get the soap out. Once that is done, the body can be soaped and rinsed, once again, applying the water right where it’s needed and using the hands to help wipe off the soap.
If the clothes are placed in the bottom of the bathtub or shower, they can absorb the water coming off the person’s body, reducing the amount that is needed for washing the clothes. Those wet clothes can then be soaped and rinsed.
Many people wash dishes with the water running constantly. Just like with taking a shower, this wastes a lot of water. You can save a considerable amount of water by avoiding the running water and using a basin to wash the dishes. Taking that idea a step further, you can use a common trick that campers use. That is to use the largest pot as your sink and wash all the dishes in it. Then, the last thing that is washed is the pot itself.
When washing dishes this way, the order in which you wash them is important. Start with the least dirty and work your way to the dirtiest. If you are washing anything that is glass, wash it first, as glass dishes are most likely to spot. Once the dishes are washed, lightly running water can then be used to rinse them, saving a considerably amount of water.
Saving & Using Grey Water
Your biggest water savings can actually come from grey water management. Wastewater is divided into two groups; black water, which is sewage and grey water, which is water that has been used for washing. That water can be captured and used again, in places where the water doesn’t have to be clean.
The first place where you want to use grey water is for toilets. You should never run clean water down a toilet in a survival situation, the water is too valuable. Instead, use grey water. You can further conserve water by not flushing every time someone uses the toilet. Avoid flushing for urination and only flush when someone has defecated in the toilet.
Speaking of that, urine makes a great fertilizer for your garden. It is essentially minerals, dissolved in water. However, it is acidic, so it can’t be used directly. Rather, urine needs to be mixed with water before it can be put on your vegetable garden. If you have a problem with animals getting into your vegetable garden, pour a small amount of urine around the garden to mark the territory and help keep them away.
Another great place to use your grey water is for your vegetable garden. There usually isn’t enough soap in the water to cause any problem for the plants, unless the water has been used repeatedly. The impurities in the water, such as food scraps and skin cells, will break down in a normal composting process, helping to fertilize your vegetables.
With proper conservation of your grey water, you should be able to get by without having to use any fresh water for your toilets or garden. This will help save you water, as well as reducing the amount of waste water that needs to be processed.