In my very first post, I said I would help you protect yourself, your family, and friends. To do that, we need to figure out what climate change means for average people. What threats could we be facing in a warmer, more erratic and unpredictable world?
Right off the top, we have to expect days of extreme heat. If that heat is coupled with humidity, the danger of hyperthermia (dangerous rise in body temperature), heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and death rise exponentially, because your sweat can’t evaporate, thereby cooling you. On hot days, people are going to have to be able to a) drink lots of clean water, to maintain hydration; b) cease outdoor activity that raises body temperature; and c) get in cool areas.
Drought goes with heat if that hot weather persists. Most cities get their water supply from local rivers, and cycle the supply through water treatment centers. If a shortage develops, city governments restrict water usage to meet basic needs. But what if a shortage is combined with some kind of contamination of the water supply? What if the shortage goes on and on, and eventually a family needs more water? For example, a garden you depend on to meet food needs may be getting thirsty.
I think it’s wise to store water. I know, I know. In our bustling world, it seems silly or inconvenient to worry about water. I suppose it is, until you need it! Apparently, a person can survive about 3 days without water, but of course, those are pretty awful days. We’re 2/3 water, so consequently many body systems suffer when we’re not adequately hydrated. I get a headache and grouchy (which is common) when thirsty. I don’t want to experience anything more severe!
Climate change has already been linked to both acute and chronic kidney damage due to heat waves causing heat stroke- a high body temperature ITSELF can damage your kidneys- and dehydration. Of course, the combination of the two is particularly destructive. Lack of water and heat make our kidneys particularly climate change-sensitive. It’s just better to be proactive here, and be sure you’ll have plenty of clean water on hand.
A guideline states that a person should drink 2 L (1/2 gallon) of water per day. During a heat wave, you’ll need more. So to be safe, a family of four should have about 16 L (4 L per person) stored for just one hot day. If that family wanted to store enough water for a week, that would equal 112 L (30 gallons). There are big storage containers available, and I’d consider one if I knew a heat wave was in the forecast, but they’re not very portable.
Some sites don’t recommend milk jugs, but they’re an affordable alternative. I store my water in them, with a teaspoon of bleach added to the first batch of water. I rotate them so that none is older than six months, although apparently “if a water storage source is in ideal conditions (it started out clean and was stored in a dark, cool area, not directly on concrete or near harsh fumes and chemicals), it technically can store indefinitely.”
In the summer, I catch rain in big plastic tubs for my garden. If I see mosquito larvae in it, I give the plants a big drink and start over. Have you noticed that plants “like” rain water much better than hose water? There are countless scientific reasons for this, including the fact that nitrogen, abundant in air and a critical plant nutrient, is captured in rain drops and deposited in soil when it rains. The energetic process of lightning creates a particularly useful form of nitrogen for plants.
Rain water is also more acid than hose water, and the CO2 in our atmosphere is partly responsible for this: “Carbon dioxide is also brought down to Earth to the benefit of plants when it rains. Carbon dioxide… imparts to rainwater an acidic pH. When this acidic rainwater reaches the soil, it helps to release micronutrients such as zinc, manganese, copper and iron that are essential to plant growth.”
And, amazingly, our skies are full of bacteria. Some of them are plant helpers. And some of them, it appears, are able to make it rain! These bacteria are able to coalesce ice crystals- the precursors to raindrops- around themselves. Now researchers are trying to determine if these “bioprecipitating” bacteria may be useful to human beings during droughts, via cloud seeding, but with bacteria instead of chemicals.
Back to household water. Thorough emergency preparedness sites always mention that clean water is critical not only for drinking, but also for food washing and cooking, staying clean (hygiene is essential to health), taking medicine, and even washing out wounds. And don’t forget pets! One prepper couple said, “We found it almost impossible to live off of one gallon [2 L] per day.” This is completely understandable when you learn that the average westerner’s indoor water usage is 197 L (52 gallons) per day. A full quarter of that is from flushing toilets, but that’s a whole different post! Point is, clean water is vital to you and your family’s health. It’s well worth securing a store of it in the age of climate change.
Worldwide, only “2% [of water] is fresh. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere.” Climate change increases “the amount of water that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn can lead to more and heavier rainfall… Although more rainfall can add to fresh water resources, heavier rainfall leads to more rapid movement of water from the atmosphere back to the oceans, reducing our ability to store and use it. Warmer air also means that snowfall is replaced by rainfall and evaporation rates tend to increase. Yet another impact of higher temperatures is the melting of inland glaciers. This will increase water supply to rivers and lakes in the short to medium term, but this will cease once these glaciers have melted. In the sub-tropics, climate change is likely to lead to reduced rainfall in what are already dry regions. The overall effect is an intensification of the water cycle that causes more extreme floods and droughts globally.”
I include all that info to say in conclusion that although we can predict general effects on the Earth’s water cycle, climate change will effect each region of the globe uniquely. The only thing we can all know with certainty is that there are challenges ahead. That’s why I recommend taking the issue of fresh water availability off the list of problems to be solved in an emergency if possible. I think, too, that knowing you have water available for your family adds to one’s peace-of-mind. It also goes a ways towards initiating a proactive attitude and a preparedness mentality in a time they are, in my opinion, sorely needed. I hope this post gets you thinking “independence” and “water is life.”