What Happens When the Water Runs Out? 3 Skills You’ll Want to Know Before Large-Scale Drought Hits

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With the California drought underway, Americans are finally waking up to the fact that water isn’t the all-abundant resource we thought it was. It isn’t just in California. If you go to the US Drought Monitor, you can see that large sections of the country are in a state of critical long-term drought.

Conservation Won’t Advert a Drought

I’ve done a lot of research into drought survival and find it very unhelpful that virtually all the advice on the topic is on how to conserve water. Yes, water conservation is important and (assuming that everyone gets on board) it could avert a drought.  But I don’t see our politicians teaming up with the environmentalists to pass laws about how much water we are allowed to use! Sure, lots of individuals are doing things like taking shorter showers but this doesn’t add up to jack if big corporations and manufacturers don’t get on board.

So, while I strongly encourage you to take steps to conserve water in your everyday life, learning water conservation tips won’t help you when there isn’t any water left to conserve. You won’t be doing things like “waiting until your dishwasher is full to run it” because you won’t have any water coming from the taps to runt the dishwasher!

Here are 3 skills you must learn now to ensure you can survive when the water runs out.

1. Learn Not to Waste a Single Drop

While backpacking with a friend, we went to brush our teeth using a bottle of water we’d filtered along the way. My friend, a newbie to backpacking, opened up the bottle and dumped a bunch of water over his toothbrush – spilling out one quarter of the water in the process.   I was horrified. To make sure no more of our precious water was wasted, I showed him how you can unscrew the water bottle cap just a little bit so only a trickle of water comes out.   This is just one of many tricks on how you can conserve every single drop of water that you have.

In a true drought emergency situation, here are just some of the ways you are going to save every drop of water you have:

  • Use a compost toilet (which requires no water) instead of a flush toilet.  Read about emergency toilets here.
  • Take a “Navy shower.” Turn on the water or sprinkle yourself with water from a bottle. Use just enough water so your body gets wet. Then turn off the water and lather yourself up with soap. Then turn the water on again for only as long as it takes to get the soap off.
  • Recycle used water. The water you just used for showering? You can install a collection system at the bottom of the shower. This water can then be used for watering plants.
  • Use pinprick hoses for watering plants. Most farmers and gardeners water their plants with the “flooding” method, meaning that they dump water on the plants or use sprinklers to drench the plants. This results in a lot of water getting wasted. Instead, use the Israeli method of irrigation. They turn hoses through their crops. The hoses have tiny pin pricks that allow just a bit of water to come through. This is much more efficient because plants aren’t capable of absorbing large amounts of water at once anyway.
drought irrigation
This is a terrible way to water plants. Instead, prick tiny holes in a hose and run it through your garden so only a small amount of water comes out at once.

2. Learn How to Collect Water

Don’t be reliant on the government for providing you with water! While this might not seem like such a terrible thing right now, in times of serious drought you can expect the government to put serious restrictions on your access to water and charge huge costs for it.

Gain independence by installing a rainwater collection and storage system. It is pretty easy to do and you can even use your existing gutters to collect the rainwater (though, in times of a serious drought, you’ll want to add more vessels to maximize collection). See these examples of rainwater harvesting systems.

Since you aren’t going to get a lot of rain during a drought, you won’t be able to rely solely on this for surviving a drought. Learn how to find water in the wild, such as by knowing how to make a solar still.

3. Know How to Purify Water

In times of drought, it isn’t always the lack of water which is a problem. It is the lack of clean water which is problematic. Take California as an example. They have 840 miles of coastal water – but that water is salty seawater and not drinkable.

To survive any type of disaster (whether it is drought, war, hurricanes, etc.), you must know how to purify water so it is safe to drink.

One of the most effective DIY ways of purifying water in drought areas in coastal regions is to use a solar still.

A solar still uses evaporation to extract clean water from dirty water. It is incredibly easy to make a solar still. You first need a trough or pit of some type to hold your dirty water. If you don’t have water, you can even put moist things like leaves, grass, or even your own urine into it. Then you cover the trough with a piece of clear plastic tarping or glass. As the sun beats down onto the solar still, it causes the moisture from the dirty water or plant matter to evaporate. The vapor travels upwards where it hits your plastic tarp. The vapor turns into water droplets, and these droplets are clean! Now you just need a way of gathering these droplets.

In this example of a solar still, the tarp has a rock on top of it so all the droplets drip down towards the center and fall into a bottle which is underneath.

solar still

The picture below shows a solar still meant to be used for collecting drinking water when stranded at sea. You could easily make one yourself to collect drinking water from the ocean.

ocean solar still

How much water do you have stockpiled for emergencies? What’s your plan for when it runs out?

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