Friday, June 12, 2015

Urban Rainwater Cistern ... It's a Thing, Right?

In my book, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: the Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil, I stated that the second most important factor to consider for survival is water (in the book water is Day 2, right after shelter). The rule of threes in an extreme survival situation states that one can live:

1. Three hours without shelter.
2. Three days without water.
3. Three weeks without food.

Here in the suburbs, we're not in an extreme survival situation (i.e. without resources or tools), and even in the face of a TEOTWAWKI event (or a Long Emergency a la James Howard Kunstler), we'll still have access to stuff that can help us survive. For instance, we'll have shelter (top priority in an extreme survival situation).

The question is, and the reason for this blog (and the above-mentioned book), will we have access to all of the other things we'll need (to survive) and want (to be comfortable)?

Day 2 talks about water, and in places, like Maine, where I live, water may not be such a huge issue. I'm pretty sure I can find it. There's a lovely water fall about a mile from where I live, and worst case, the ocean is two miles in the other direction, and I could distill the saltwater to make it drinkable.

The problem is that transporting the water from there to here would be tiresome (although, on Day 21, I offer alternatives to my having to carry stuff ... and, indeed, it's one of the reasons I have large dogs who are learning to be comfortable in a harness and pulling a wagon - and Jenn Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm also wrote about using dog power in her book Made from Scratch).

Even better than using dogs, however, would be having a fairly reliable and easily accessible water source right here. Rain barrels work well here in the late spring, summer and early fall, but they tend to freeze and split, and as a result, we lose access to that stored water (and have to replace the rain barrels ... although they make cute planters).

I mention underground cisterns on Day 2, as a way to store water long-term, and ultimately, my goal would be to have either a "garden well" or a cistern. I'm leaning toward cistern, and this article seemed like a decent resource for getting started toward more long-term water storage.


  1. I'd love to have one of those too, as it's also freezing here in the winter. On a small lot it might be a challenge for us to get one buried...

    1. Space would be an issue for us, too. We only have a quarter of an acre, and I've thought about a well, but that would be even more of a challenge, because we have a septic system on one side of the house and our chickens on the other side. There's really no place for the well.

      I'm thinking a small cistern (maybe 500 gallons) could be buried under a porch with one of those old-timey hand pumps - which would look cool, too ;).