The first thing most people think about when a power outage occurs is how to produce light. Of course, this is especially true when it happens at night. That’s why flashlights should be kept close at hand in several different rooms.
Next might be providing some backup heat or cooling, depending on the outdoor temperature when the blackout occurs. Then we think about ways to keep our refrigerated foods cold in case the outage lasts for a while.
Probably one of the last things we consider is the availability and safety of our water supply. This is something worth thinking about because clean water is essential for our health and hygiene. As well as for cooking, cleaning and waste removal.
Will water still come out of our taps during an outage? And will that water be safe to drink? The answers depend on a variety of factors, and that’s what I want to discuss today.
Know your water source
The availability of water during a blackout depends on your water source. If you live in a house that gets its water from a public system, it should continue to flow. At least until your local water tower is empty.
But if you get your water from a private well, it won’t get pumped into your pipes without a generator. If you live in an apartment, it depends on whether the complex has its own water pumps. That’s something you might want to find out about in advance.
Here’s where it can get a little complicated. If you have a private drain field (septic), water will flow if it’s gravity-fed. But if it’s a pump-assisted septic system, you won’t get water from a private drain field without a generator.
You’ll also need a generator (or backup battery) for sump pumps and pump-assisted toilets. But the power requirements for a tankless water heater or an electric water heater are too high for portable generators. If you have a gas water heater, you should be OK.
Gravity works water wonders
Have you ever wondered why water towers are so high? It’s not just so everyone can see the name of your city.
It’s because if power can’t be generated, water will flow where it’s supposed to just by gravity. That’s why tall apartment complexes and tall business buildings are sometimes negatively affected by outages more quickly than houses are.
Of course, if the blackout goes on long enough, your local water tower will run dry. A city’s backup generators may alleviate that situation.
But it’s not unusual to have lower water pressure on higher floors of your home. And the longer the outage lasts, you may have lower water pressure throughout your home.
Hot water will run out
I mentioned gravity a moment ago. We can all be thankful for gravity when it comes to removing waste from our toilets.
As long as everything is gravity-fed, wastewater will leave your home during a blackout. That’s assuming your home is connected to city sewers or your own septic and drain field.
If your home relies on a pump assist, you’ll get a limited number of flushes. You’ll need a portable generator to remove waste after that.
Assuming you’re hooked up to city water, it’s OK to shower. But you’ll be limited to the amount of hot water that was in your tank prior to the blackout.
It’s always a good idea to have as much clean drinking water stored as possible. You never know when you might need it.
Filling up your bathtub immediately after a blackout occurs is a good idea. But don’t use that water for drinking, as it can harbor bacteria and viruses.
Also, fill a couple of buckets with water, putting a little dish soap in one but not the other. That way if your water flow stops, you’ll have some water for hand washing and some for rinsing.
Once an outage occurs, limit the number of times you flush your toilet. And choose a sponge bath over a shower until your water is flowing freely again.
4Patriots Sun Kettle
If your water supply is affected by an outage, your city might declare a boil advisory. That’s due to contaminants that could be in the system.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to boil water when you lack electricity is with a solar cooker. And I’ve got the perfect one for you. It’s the Sun Kettle from 4Patriots. It works quickly and quietly and needs no cords, batteries or flames.
Its parabolic mirrors trap the rays of the sun, which are then focused on the tempered-glass tube. It will get your water boiling in just minutes.
And that will provide you with water for drinking or warm food to eat. You can prepare coffee, prep a warm washcloth and administer first-aid. And it will keep liquid hot for hours. All with the free power of the sun.