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Alternative water sources

Center Valley area customers, in Northampton County PA, were without water recently due to three separate water main breaks that caused a loss of water pressure. According to The Morning Call, the Center Valley area customers began reporting a loss of water pressure Saturday, 25 January. As crews worked to fix the issue, an unknown number of residents were without water overnight and into Sunday. Water main breaks are not an uncommon occurrence in urban areas.

That same weekend, in New Britain, CT, residents were without water for almost 16 hours after three water mains broke and had to be shut off for repairs.

So what are you to do if you live in the City and have public water?

First and foremost, have a plan. Store an emergency supply of water – enough for your whole family. If the water outage continues you could purchase bottled water at the grocery store. You could also fill up bottles somewhere. Many grocery stores have a fill spot generally for 25¢ a gallon. Beer distributors, like Brewer’s on Butler Avenue, also provide this service.

In the case of the Center Valley area residents, they were without water for, at most, the weekend. Public Works found the problem and fixed it. A water main break is normally not a long term issue to resolve. However, if a water shortage is caused by sabotage or a natural disaster, the repair time may indeed be longer.

In those cases, there are several alternative water sources if you do not have enough water saved. Every home and apartment has a hot water heater. Most hold 75 gallons of water or more. The water can be drained out from the bottom of the tank. Another option is emptying the water pipes. Even if the local water authority shuts off the water, you may be able to drain the excess water from the pipes. It will not be nearly as much as the hot water heater, but in an emergency, every drop may count.

Another source is the toilet. The water in the tank (that is the back part) not the bowl (that is the part where you go) can be used in a pinch as well. The water should be purified before using as drinking water. To retrieve the water you could simply scoop it out. A tank can hold between two and seven gallons of water.

Swimming pools, rivers and streams are other examples of alternative water sources. In an urban setting however, these may not be readily accessible.

The best way to ensure that you do not run out of water is to make preparations. Make a plan. Practice draining the hot water heater now, so you know how to in an emergency setting. Set up a rain barrel, if your local zoning allows it. Stock up on bottled water. If you can afford to renovate your landscaping, build in fish pond or pool on your property. The best survival tip is to be prepared.

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