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6 Surprising Lessons Learned from a Planned Water Outage

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
6 Surprising Lessons Learned from a Planned Water Outage

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Over the past few days, something has become very clear to me: Backdoor Survival readers are a community.  I have been reading the 176 (and counting) comments to the recent Buzz, and more than a few of you have mentioned that you learn as much from comments as the from the articles themselves.  Nothing could make me happier!

Along those lines, recently I received an email from Karen in Nebraska.  The topic was “What I learned about water recently” and she wrote about the lessons she learned during a planned water outage.

Six Surprising Lessons Learned from a Planned Power Outage | Backdoor Survival

Normally speaking, we prep for an unexpected water outage but that does not mean a planned outage is any less convenient.  (I was going to say miserable but as preppers, we are well prepared so we are NOT miserable.)

With Karen’s permission, I share her experience so that you, too, can learn from it.

6 Lessons From a Planned Water Outage

A couple of weeks ago, we had a water outage (we knew in advance they would be working on our water main for about three days.) I thought it would be a perfect time to test our preps, especially since it was so cold out.

Here’s what I was surprised by.

1. We used a lot less water than I thought we would.

We ended up finding excuses not to use water, when we knew it would take more effort.

We used baby wipes and Clorox wipes for cleaning and hygiene. We used mouthwash instead of rinsing our teeth with water. We used a lot of hand sanitizer instead of washing our hands. (I know, not the best, but mostly that was my husband and kids when I wasn’t looking!)

We ate a lot of canned soup, the kind that doesn’t need water, and we used almost all of our paper plates, bowls and cups, and plastic utensils.

2. We made a lot more laundry than usual.

We ended up using almost every piece of clothing we owned, and figured out what didn’t fit anymore or looked bad or shabby, because we didn’t want to use our water for washing clothes.

I had already not done laundry for several days beforehand because, well, busy life, so clean clothes were at a premium. Clean socks became a barter item by the last day!

3. We need to revamp our toilet strategy.

The boys could go outside for number one, but we girls couldn’t. We filled our tub up before they shut our water off, and used it all in one day flushing the toilet.

By the third day, the house was pretty stinky. It was like although the kids knew they needed to flush less, their bodies needed to go more often than usual! We were using our portable toilet and kitty litter, and putting our TP in a separate bag to go out to trash. It was still pretty stinky. So we are going to make a separate area in the basement for next time.

4. We ended up getting dehydrated a little.

Because we knew we were only going to have the water we had in the house, we all kept finding excuses not to use it. Unfortunately, drinking ended up being one of the things we didn’t do.

We had milk and juice in the fridge, and used up more of those than usual. I didn’t realize this until we ran out of milk earlier than usual, and I took a look at our bottled water. We’d only used a few bottles, where I figured we’d be almost out!

So next time we have a water test, I’ll be encouraging more water drinking. It was easy to overlook their water intake, because they were still going to school and work, and I was busy too. I won’t make that mistake again!

5. Cooking was harder than it had to be.

I didn’t realize until I looked back, but I kept choosing meals that didn’t use much water.

It was easier to open a can of soup than haul a gallon of water into the kitchen to boil something or use paper plates than haul water to wash dishes. (Plus I hate doing dishes anyway!)

I spent one whole afternoon trying to figure out a meal I could make without any water at all. (Hot ham and cheese sandwiches, canned corn, and canned peaches!) By the end of the three days, my husband said he would be happy not to have soup for several months!

6.  I am not at all sure anymore whether we are ready for a longer term emergency.

This was the first time I tested my water preps, and it didn’t go at all how I thought it would.

I have several tweaks to make, and my mindset is definitely different. I am not at all sure anymore whether we are ready for a longer term emergency, especially since we took the lazy way out for a lot of things.

We wouldn’t be able to do things the way we did if the water was shut off unexpectedly and we didn’t know when it would be back on. So I will be reworking my plans and restocking my canned goods. I learned a lesson here, and I just wanted to tell someone who might understand!

The Final Word

What are the takeaways from Karen’s experience?  Let me list them for you.

1.  Stock up on disposable goods, including paper plates, utensils, TP, plastic garbage bags and even disposable cookware,

2.  If a planned outage is scheduled, do laundry ahead of time.  Actually, keeping up the the laundry is a good idea regardless.  You never know when an unexpected water or power outage will occur.

3.  Stockpile extra socks!!!

4.  Think through how you will deal with human waste.  This is where extra heavy garbage bags come into play.  Some are available with odor-control features.  Hint:  bigger is not always better.  A bag full of human waste will be heavy.

5.  Even with all the preps in the world carefully stored away in your prepper-closet, there will always be surprises.  Take a weekend or even a day to shut off the water and practice your preps.  That is the very best way to discover your prepper strengths and prepper weaknesses.

I would like to thank Karen, once again, for sharing her experience and the lessons she learned from a planned water outage.  I don’t know about you, but I am now on a mission to find some extra socks!

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to email updates.  When you do, you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-Book, The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

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Below you will find the items related to today’s article.

Hefty BlackOut Tall Kitchen Trash Bags, Clean Breeze, 90 Count :  Chances are you are going to need double the amount you think you will need.  I like these that are designed to keep the odors inside.  If you prefer a larger bag, consider these 30 gallon bags.

No Rinse Cleansing & Deodorizing Bathing Wipes:  One wipe is more than enough for a complete “bath”.  These are a good backup when traditional showers are not available such as the week or weeks following a disaster.  Also good for the sick room as well as camping, boating, hiking and such.  Here is my review.

AquaPodKit Emergency Drinking Water Storage Plus Aquamira Filtration Kit, 65 gallon:    Have you considered storing water in your bathtub?  The AquaPod is a bladder that you can use in your bathtub to store water if you know that a storm, flood, or hurricane is brewing. (I call these “disruptive events”.)  What I love about the AquaPod is that I can purchase refill liners, making this more than a one-time use product.  I am thrilled that you can now filter the water as you siphon it out of the tub. Plus, of course, that it is made in America.  How many preparedness products can boast about that? For more information, read about the All-New AquaPod Emergency Water Kit and Filter.

Hanes Men’s 10-Pack Ultimate Crew Socks: I do not know anyone that does not have a clothes dryer that eats socks.  After reading Karen’s email, I ordered these for Shelly and for me?  I ordered these.  (My clothes are typically very conservative but I love colorful socks!)

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2 oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.


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49 Responses to “6 Surprising Lessons Learned from a Planned Water Outage”

  1. On the farm it was common to wear work clothes until they could stand on their own after a month of wear. But there is a trick to that, it is having the right kind of clothes and changing and washing in between changes of clothes some times bathing 2 or 3 times a day.

    First polyester cotton blend work clothes Like the Dickies or work sport brand are great for this purpose. Second for the feet wool socks the higher the quality the better omniwool is nice, a smart wool or my new fave Darn Tough.. I like the regular work slacks and the long sleeve button down shirts. They are light breathable and can be layered and don’t forget tough as well as being in muted earth tones, greys and the hard to find work greens, like my grandfather wore while he was a mechanic and while he was working till the end of his life. It is not uncommon for me to wear 2 pairs of these lite work pants in cold weather. It traps air and will not sweat up on you when you are working hard and then you can always add long underwire when it is minus 10 or colder. These type of clothes can be soiled and remain wearable much longer then jeans and t-shirt/sweat shirt. And clothing made with button is easier to fix then ones with snaps or loop and hook type clasps.

    I know that this may counter intuitive but a half gallon sponge bath will keep the clothes clean. Have a clean water pail and dirty water pail. For a sponge bath allows you to save water for flushing and other uses. It is also a good plan to wash the sweat before going to bed it help to keep the bedding clean.

    On another note I reuse laundry soap jugs for sanitation water. the push dispenser controls water use and the red colors is near as effective for warm in the sun as a black container so there is no need for wasting time to paint them.

  2. You should have several five gallon buckets with lids (from Home Depot or Lowe’s) full of water nearby for flushing your toilet with a water scoop only large enough to make the toilet flush. Also laying toilet paper inside the toilet before you go will make it easier to flush the poop with less water. A toilet brush wetted will clean off any residue that stays behind with a little rinse water.
    People all over the world (primarily in Asia) simply squat over a hole in the floor which also is the preferred position to allow your body to properly eliminate your stool and may also make wiping your butt easier.

    In my RV trailer, I simply put a 13 gallon trash bag (purchased at Walmart in large rolls) to poop in. I pee in a urine bottle kept by my bed because I have a bad back and hate getting up at night several times, so try to pee separately before you poop in the plastic bag (less chance of leaking if you get a hole in the bag). I can do about three poops before i tie up the bag and put it in the trash for disposal but with more than one person using the toilet you my only use it once before disposing the bag. Although having several people use the toilet successively isn’t much worse than using a public outhouse. You can always squirt some Fabreze on the waste and cover it with TP between usages.

    This all began when my water lines froze one winter and I couldn’t flush my toilet because there was no water and the flush pedal froze. My RV toilet is already a portable toilet. It just has a larger separate tank to empty which would freeze in the winter if not constantly emptied.

    You can also get one of those seats for the top of a five gallon bucket with a plastic bag inside the bucket to poop in that hunters use, called a ‘honey bucket’.

  3. To the person saving and refilling laundry soap jugs. Such a great idea. I do this myself. Those jugs have plenty of soap residue. They will be great for washing dishes, clothes, and people. Sounds like you’re finder a way to save water in every possible container. This simply depends on labeling them with the purpose. I save non-potable water in kitty litter plastic jugs. Here the important thing is the space to line them up on the floor because they do not stack and the lids are not water tight.

    To Gaye, already wearing wool socks. You it’s not even sweater weather yet.

    • Fleece socks are much better and warmer than wool and also stay warm when wet.
      I buy fleece products at after Christmas sales at Kmart like vests and jackets on the cheap.
      I use a fleece long sleeved zip up jacket under my wetsuit when river rafting.

      IT WORKS!

  4. We live in the country and usually experience at least 4+ major power outages a year that last a minimum of 12 hours. We have been without power for a long as 2 weeks in the past. An average power outage here typically is about 3 days. What I do is save all my laundry detergent jugs which are about 1 1/2 to 2 gallon capacity and when empty of soap fill them with water and store. This water usually has some soap in it so it is used for washing. Dishes and people, then eventually for flushing the toilet. I keep back all the heavy duty gallon jugs like vinegar comes in and store water in these as well. I am concerned with the quality of the plastic. I don’t want any of them to break down and leak. I also don’t use milk jugs. I also save any glass jars with screw on lids that come from food products from the grocery store. Like spaghetti sauces, or canned beans. I also ask friends to save their jars and lids for me too. I wash and fill with water, then run through a boiling water bath for 10 min. They will re-seal. This is our drinking water. I also have several glass gallon pickle jars that I can water in and this I use for cooking. I do can my own food but don’t want to tie up our canning jars holding water.

  5. Thanks for sharing. Here are a few considerations for the water consciencous.
    1. Reuse water. Water for dishes can be used for flushing by putting it in the toilet tank.
    2. Capture the first few moments of your shower water (the part where it’s still too cold) and re-use it for flushing/dishes/etc.
    3. Rain barrels at your gutters will collect very drinkable water if you know how to chlorinate.
    4. Stock up on bleach and know how to use it. Westerners are “immuniological virgins”, so bacteria will cause you to have the cha-cha’s–a VERY effective way to dehydrate one’s body
    5. Canned foods have water…but they are als high in salt content. Salt dehydrates.
    6. Save plastic water/soda bottles, fill them and put them in your freezer. They are more dense than air, help keep your freezer cold when power goes out, and can be used for drinking water once everything Thaws.
    7. Fill your bath tub or any other large container (to include swimming pools) with water. It is far easier to filter/treat this water than to “create” water.
    8. Stock up on toilet deotorizer. This allows you to not flush for urine (but ALWAYS flush #2).
    9. Start wearing undershirts. Washing only underwear, undershirts, and socks will allow you to get more usage from your “outer clothes” before they get too rank; while minimizing wash-water usage (which will be used to flush the toilet).
    10. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. This almost makes life unbearable, but these do a real good job of excellerating dehydration.

    • Great post, thanks for sharing. Just a few items.

      #4 – Liquid bleach degrades fairly quickly. Check out the blog entry here on Calcium Hypochlorite (aka Pool Shock) so you can make your own bleach, as long as you’re careful about it.

      #7 – An easier way than having to use treatment is to get a WaterBOB or similar food grade plastic bag for your bathtub. They protect the water from any gunk on the sides of the tub or from stuff falling into the tub, and give you easy access to lots of drinkable water without the need for treatment.

      #5 – Salt is a tricky subject, some folks need more, some need less. If you’re not used to eating canned foods then it’s a good idea to skip them. Although reading the labels on cans can help you make good choices. Just remember, everyone needs salt in their diet in some amount. Electrolyte balance is critical – you just have to know what your body is telling you and adjust your consumption to match.

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