Dry Run: My Real Life Water Lesson

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On the morning of the day before Thanksgiving, as I was getting ready for work, the water pump suddenly began singing a death knell. The gauge on the pressure tank fell to zero. No water!

From some deep level, a stab of terror rose. No water! *This* is what it's like! Suddenly water was the most valuable commodity in the world except air itself. My internal emergency sirens were wailing; the emergency response team was on the scene, developing its plan. The goal: Get water. The deadline: Already past.

I realized I had stored water. But even so, the pump would have to be replaced. Without it, I would have to draw water from the cisterns with a bucket and carry it, a bucket at a time, into the house once I used all that I have stored. Damn. The last thing I want to spend money on right now is anything that requires clean power to run. But there was no option. Well,I would have to deal with it on Friday; I sure couldn't afford to pay holiday labor for the repairs.

Driving to work, I mulled over the situation. What if it wasn't the motor? What if the cisterns had run dry? One of biggest y2k assets was my seemingly endless supply of gravity fed spring water. When I bought the house, the owner told me those cisterns would never run dry. But they had run dry once, years ago, during the drought. And the drought had been so severe this year that it triggered a statewide restrictions on use. If my problem was dry cisterns, my sense of security would take a pretty big blow.

I never thought to check them earlier. This is how easy it is, I thought to myself, to overlook the obvious.

It was too dark to check the cisterns when I got home. But Thanksgiving morning, I pried off the heavy concrete covers and looked into two very deep, very empty holes. No water.

Now it's Saturday morning, and my faucets are flowing again. Now there's a number in my head: 5,000 gallons. Now I mentally subtract every time I turn those faucets on.

Old Git told us, after the hurricane swept through North Carolina, that water was the key item. Until that ubiquitous liquid suddenly disappears, you have no idea how automatically you turn on the tap. Even though you know nothing will come out, you see your hand on the faucet, your wrist beginning its move, before you realize what you are doing. Then you have to stop and reorient yourself: Oh yeah, no water. Well, I still need to wash my hands. Here goes another pint. And you think to yourself, tasting the dryness in your mouth, "What will I do when it's gone?"

What if this had happened to me 36 days or so down the road? Would I have been able to phone a water hauler, from the comfort of my heated, lighted kitchen, to bring me a renewed supply? And if not, where would I get water? From the muddy creek, a quarter mile across the field?

I had taken for granted that I would have water. Now I realized that I had developed no Plan B. Because I have been reading about y2k prep for so long, I immediately made a list of things I needed to do. This problem of mine was a gift in disguise. I am grateful that I still have time to do them, and that I have the information. This problem of mine was a gift in disguise. Mental preparation prevents panic, too.

What if I hadn't been on the Net all this time, researching the problem? What if I lived in a city, any city, and had just discovered that water had disappeared from everybody's apartments and homes? For how many will this be an in-your-face, blaring, life-and-death reality one month down the road? Somewhere, maybe the somewhere that YOU live, it is inevitable.

Store more water, my friends. And beginning now, practice using it consciously, carefully, with reverence. You really have no idea how extraordinarily miraculous it is, or what terror is, until you look at the reality that you may not be able to quickly or safely get more once your stock is gone.

-- Faith Weaver (suzsolutions@yahoo.com), November 27, 1999


--thanks faith, simply a great story and lesson!


........be able to have backups for your backups in those four fields, and to have them for potentially forever. That's it in four little words, but there ya go. And look at the top of the list, it's real, faith has provided a good real-world example. We have three sources of water here, PLUS stored water.Something to consider if ya'all are preparing to "hunker down" in the city or 'burbs. No matter what you call it, when you spin the "cylinder" it's still russian roulette you are talking about, not some exact finite time frame like 3 days or 7 days or 14 days or 6 months or 6 years. As soon as you put a finite date on it, then that's it, that's all the time you want to live anymore. Brings it home when you think about it that way, doesn't it? You can be a "y2k preparer", or adopt a survivalist lifestyle and mindset, there's only two ways to go about this. I'm not counting being a reality dgi, to me, that's beyond help, beyond reason, and beyond redemption until it's too late in most cases.

And also,how many people are you making this decision for? How many minors or elderly or infirm are you responsible for? That's another good question, too. They're the ones gonna be staring you in the eyes with hurtful questions if you have guessed wrong. If you are a lifestyle survivalist, well, mostly you'll never even have to contemplate that question. As a survival dgi, everytime something happens to disrupt "normal" life you'll get hammered with those problems. If you are a y2k-only "preparer, you are preparing for basically one thing, if that thing is minor, you'll feel stupid, you'll suffer that ole disconnect, and not take any other warnings seriously enough, when you should. If a major crash you will have done something positive, that's great, but it won't be enough, because you have fixated on y2k and some finite time frame that absolutely no one, regardless of computer credentials or eloguence and length of post, can predict. Now if y2k is PART of your new found survivalist mindset and lifestyle, that's great! You are TRULY "getting it" now! You are to be congratulated!

jiss some points to ponder zog

-- zog (zzoggy@yahoo.com), November 27, 1999.

(((((Faith)))))! How scary. And as you said so well, fortunate this happened when it was still possible to remedy. Thoughts of Daniel Quinn's Leaver societies and deep ecology come to mind; their entire perspective of not taking anything for granted. Every cup of water, every morsel of food,... I wonder how "civilization" would be altered if every resource was looked at with their special appreciation.

More hugs and tiger swallowtails coming your way from me,...

She in the sheet, upon the hilltop,...

-- Donna (moment@pacbell.net), November 27, 1999.

We had something very similar happen this week.

We've got a fairly humongous pump -- 4", 2HP, 220V. (Used to run a farm before our little house, barn, and small pasture was divided off and sold to us.)

The pressure dropped off dramatically, we figured the pump was dying. Turned out to be a lengthwise split in the buried plastic pipe leading to the frost-hydrant in the barn. Fortunately my brother inlaw was visiting for txgvg -- West Point grad, before he left service was captain with dual specialtes, one of which was -- hehehehe -- water wells.

He and my other b-i-l assessed the situation, dug it up, spliced in a new pipe, re-packed the gravel and dirt, and fired up the pump.

*Then*, we finally got around to testing our generators. By all I've been able to find out through several months of nail-biting research, neither of our 4KW gensets would be able to start the pump. I've been dreading having to buy either a smaller pump, or a bigger generator -- neither of which we can really afford.

So, we wired up gen #1, switched on the pump, and there was a momentary hiccup from the engine, the light we left on as a jerryrigged output monitor briefly flickered, and the pump started within a tenth of a second or so. Whew! We then repeated the test with the other generator, and it worked too.

I still would like to find a spare water pump, in the 1/2HP range (since we don't need a 2HP for the house and barn, it'll be cheaper to buy, and use much less juice).

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), November 27, 1999.

Excellent thread. Living water to you, Faith :-)

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), November 27, 1999.

Last year the electrical wire to my pump shoted out...I thought it was something more major than that. However, I know first hand what it was like to ask my neighbor for water...after about the 3x asking for water, my neighbor was kind enough to hook up a hose and leave the water turned on....The experience taught me a few things.. 1. Using the water from my neighbor conservativley (so not to be a pain in the ass) my wife and I used 30 gallons a day for flushing toilets. 2. Four gallons for dishes. 3. Water for drinking...gallons.

If push came to shove and there was no power or well water available.. I can always sent my wife to the creek to and with the running water and a rock to do the laundry.

-- curt (zztop@epix.net), November 27, 1999.

Last year the electrical wire to my pump shoted out...I thought it was something more major than that. However, I know first hand what it was like to ask my neighbor for water...after about the 3x asking for water, my neighbor was kind enough to hook up a hose and leave the water turned on....The experience taught me a few things.. 1. Using the water from my neighbor conservativley (so not to be a pain in the ass) my wife and I used 30 gallons a day for flushing toilets. 2. Four gallons for dishes. 3. Water for drinking...2 gallons.

If push came to shove and there was no power or well water available.. I can always sent my wife to the creek to and with the running water and a rock to do the laundry. It was a real eye opener for me.

-- curt (zztop@epix.net), November 27, 1999.

We're near a really stinky, polluted river--and I think we're extremely lucky!!!

-- Mara (MaraWayne@aol.com), November 27, 1999.

Ron, study potential pump delivery rate and LIFT capability, vs. hp rating AND current draw (Often in separate tables.) You will see that 1/2 hp is kind of a compromise). If you want to buy a pump for a spare, buy the pressure switch and the control box too! (IMO 1/2 hp is too limiting if your well delivers much more.) I don't know how pumps will hold up with shaky power. Don't forget to install a transient suppressor. I have 1 hp pump spares for me and kid's place. Good luck.

-- WFK (kb2fs@mindspring.com), November 27, 1999.

and I was counting on a nearby lake and bayou to send through my Berkefeld.... until I discovered recently both are a mixture of fresh and salt water, brackish. Now I have to figure how to get water from the river, four miles round tri

-- panjandrum (panjandrum@samfoote.net), November 27, 1999.


Good lesson! Whew! JIT.

Backups to your back-ups is only prudent.

In Silicon Valley we don't have wells. Seasonal creeks and rainwater during the winter is our current alternative source for the sprawling city system. (Suspect, if the water does go down, the resevoirs will be "protected").

I've been storing what I "think" I'll need then doubling it. Also have ways to capture rainwater and purify creek run-off.

Here's hoping/praying California has a "wet" winter.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), November 27, 1999.


I'm glad you've got those generators, even if you are short on genuine HP Sauce :)

One point, though: I was leafing through the operating instructions for a Coleman generator I bought earlier this year and suddenly noticed a section on filters. Essentially, it told me to replace the first paper filter after 25 hours of initial run-in time, and subsequent paper filters every 100 hours. "Gee," I thought, "That's not long - better get some spare filters." Off I go to the local outlet of a big chain that is selling these particular generators in Toronto. "Paper filters?", say the guys in that department. "Dunno. We've sold a lot of these generators to people for Y2K, but no-one's been asking us for paper filters. Can't help you there - we don't have 'em."

So I call Coleman [what do I know - generator maintenance has never been on my list of favourite sports before this!] "Sir", says the very patient woman at the other end of the phone line, "We just make the generator. Tecumseh make the engine for that model. You'll have to call them. Here's their 1-800 number."

So I call Tecumseh. I get a real sweetheart of a woman at that number - cheerful, patient, helpful as all-get-out [give her a raise, Tecumseh!]. She faxes me the names, etc. of Tecumseh dealers in Toronto, and Ontario generally, who carry their paper filters.

I start calling the Toronto dealers. One is out of business. One doesn't take retail orders. The others have none in stock, don't know how long it will take to get them, but want payment up front - all except for one dealer, who has them but wants an extra 7% "for bringing them in" and has hours that are awkward for me.

What did I do? Like every good Canadian with a problem, I instantly thought of Ottawa :).

I called a dealer there. "Sure, I've got some," he said. "I just sold 300 [at Can$16+ each!] to someone else and I have 60 left - and that's far more than I normally carry!"

I quickly placed a COD next-day courier order with him, and finally hung up the phone. Total time spent tracking down these essential items? All morning, and half of an afternoon!

Moral of this story? If you have a generator that you haven't even taken out of its box yet, take it out! Read the paperwork. Order the paper filters, some spare spark plugs, a gapping set [for the plug], and a plug extractor that fits that particular spark plug.

Otherwise, you may get just 25 hours run-time from your sparkling new home power plant!

Oh, and did I mention that further perusal of the paperwork persuaded me that a 6-volt lantern battery and a plug-in voltometer might be a wise investment, in case the generator ever lost residual magnetism and needed to be 'excited'....

-- John Whitley (jwhitley@inforamp.net), November 27, 1999.

Thanks for a great post! A very good illustration of what it means to be prepared and also the importance of keeping your thought process in order.

You are absolutely correct in saying that running water is something far too many people take for granted. They never think about it until it is too late. Pump and pipe failures, severe drought, contamination etc...it just never gets through to these people that water is a very precarious commodity.

A natural, ongoing water source is not an option for me, so bottled and stored water is the way I am going. I am preparing to the best of my ability and would urge others to adopt the same philosophy. How can anybody, even the worst Polly alive, say that they don't need food and water???

-- Irving (irvingf@myremarq.com), November 27, 1999.

I have 3 55 gal drums filled, and a 4th filled with dry items. This post made me think I should fill the 4th with water, along with all the plastic soda pop bottles I've saved. See, I'm ready to make oatmeal and pea soup for neighbors, but hadn't considered the water angle. Our water people say they have enough fuel for the generators to run maybe 30 days.

If you haven't read Tom Atlee's forward of Cynthia Beals advice re: neighbors I have it posted on my website click on Community and scroll down to the link there (sorry- don't know the direct route)

-- johno (jobriy2k@yahoo.com), November 27, 1999.

...just think about a place like LA about three days after the water stops flowing, and the toilets stop flushing....

-- Norm Harrold (nharrold@tymewyse.com), November 27, 1999.


I'm an L.A. chick. My most prized prep possession is a PUR desalinization device which I bought used, cheap, I tested it, and it's a gem. (It's work, mind you, but good for emergency.) It had never been used before, but was part of an emergency life-raft kit for a yacht. I'm "bottled" up fairly well. But this device has it's pre-rollover advantages without the drowsy side effects of a nighttime med. ;-)

These devices *can* be found second-hand. Got mine from an auction.

-- (resigned@this.point), November 27, 1999.

You wrote:

"My most prized prep possession is a PUR desalinization device which I bought used, cheap, I tested it, and it's a gem. (It's work, mind you, but good for emergency.)"

What does the de-saline apparatus run on, if I may ask? Meaning, what energy does it need to perform adequately?

Next, are you at the water (sea), or how will you get to it/ transport the water, esp. if roads are jammed/ closed?

Just asking, please don't take offense.

-- faith'nhope (y2kaos@home.com), November 27, 1999.

Faith, wonderful timely post! We take for granted the fact we will always have good water whenever we turn on the tap or flush a toilet.Habit is very strong and it's difficult to adjust our way of doing things. We need a wake-up call at times. I ran the water tanks dry on the fishboat just once,still thought I was on shore. We had to run about eight hours to get into Winter Harbour to refill the tanks. The skipper was not pleased! Eight hours in, eight hours back to where we were allowed to fish. Costly,very. Like I said, it only happened once in 19 years. You can't drink salt water.

-- Eleanore Mameli (eleanore@mail.island.net), November 27, 1999.

Faith - that was a great post. Points well taken.

Zog - great answer. My wife was asked the other day at work if she was preparing for Y2K. Her answer was no i'm a survivalist. She was asked no more questions.

This post is timely for me as this afternoon I filled our 3 55 gallon food grade barrels with water from the standpipe. I filled to within 3 or 4 inches of the tops to leave room for freezing. We are also fortunate in that our larger pond is just 50 yards from the door. Oh I forgot to mention that I have set up a pipe system to fill our water drums from the barn roof. One could also do this in town but I think I would try to set it up so to water barrels were inside the garage.

-- Ed (ed@lizzardranch.com), November 27, 1999.

Amen Faith. My water supply pipe snapped a few years ago (tree root) and it took me over a week to track down the break and make the repair, digging truckloads of dirt whilst nursing an awful bad back. My wife and I learned the value of water the hard way... We've got it stocked in every nook and cranny of the house now and still don't feel like we've enough of it!

-- Choirboy (choirboy@hellzchoir.edu), November 28, 1999.

Well Faith, that was such a nice post! My goodness you sweetie!

-- church lady (isn't@that.special), November 28, 1999.

Praise the Lord, my dear Faith! God bless you for reminding us that we need water! This most divine thread will get you into heaven!

-- Pope John Paul III (knockin@heavens.door), November 28, 1999.

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