Coping: How Much Water, How Much Food?

In the recent columns we have skirted around how prepping is definitely mainstream. It has come about in a very smooth way, too. Since for the most part, people have not cleaned-off store shelves, as often happens in advance of major storms and such. A word from the German government here, a hint from a reader or two there…

This morning I wanted to run a refresher on how much water and food to keep on hand.

Let’s start with how much water. The Mayo Clinic site over here advises that adequate intake (AI) for a man is about 3 liters a day. The AI for a woman is about 2.2 liters.

Much of this is merely static, room-temperature stuff, though. If you are in a hot climate (the South) and it’s summer, you can sweat off half a gallon per day, or more. When the average air temp exceeded ambient skin temp (which is around 86F or so) then your body starts the chilling processes like sweating. As the air temp gets further from skin ambient temp, the cooling load increases. See our earlier discussions of heat stroke which is when the personal chilling system fizzles out.

The next variable is body weight. All kinds of agencies and medical types use “typical” body weights which for the FAA (to name one) the number is 170 pounds.

If Ures truly tipped the scales at 225 this morning, I would need 32% more water on a weight basis. This would bring my planning number up to 4 liters per day with no heavy sweats.

Then there is exertion level and food types.

Obviously, if I were to ever work hard enough to break a sweat, then I could easily get up into the 5 liters per day category. And, when the SHTF, the texture of that morning moment on the throne is a great indicator. Hard feces tend to go along with some level of dehydration while softs tend to reveal adequate hydration. There are exceptions, of course. Red wine and chili come to mind, lol.

The final point is on food: If your survival cache includes a lot of freeze-dried food, don’t forget that’s part of your water planning. You’d be surprised to learn how much water goes into those, but a liter per person is a good guess. Two to be sure.

Now we add them all up. I figure about 10 liters of water for Elaine and me in fall, winter, and spring, increasing to 12 liters per day in the summertime.

This pencils out to 2.64 gallons per day (cool seasons) and 3.2 gallons per day during summer.

BIG IMPORTANT POINT: This doesn’t include water for gardening and recovery efforts!

Three gallons per day doesn’t leave much for personal hygiene, either. So you could toss in a gallon per person per day for personal use, or a very short shower once a week. This shower would be a wet down, water off, soap up, fast rinse type. They are not relaxing, they’re a task. My family has a history of 10 minute showers, but then again, we’re all negative ion junkies and falling water, OMG lover it… but that’s another topic.
At three gallons per day for the two of us, 18 days on a 55 gallon drum would be doable in an EoW (end of World) scenario. And four such barrels would hit 73 days. 10 weeks, or so.

Calories is the next thing to ponder.

Elaine is less than 125 pounds, usually around 120. This translates out to 1,875 to 2,000 calories per day.

Mr. Lardo, on the other hand, at 220 pounds, wolfs about 3,300 calories, but I can pencil myself in for 2,800. The 500 calorie daily deficit would mean some weight reduction over time.

A pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories, so I would lose weight at one, or more, pounds per week until I drifted down to the 170 range, a process which would take a year. But if the world is ending, maybe faster.

We’d like to emphasize how important it is to get good water collection systems going.

One of the major “this Fall” projects around here is to get gutters up on both of the big buildings and then install large food-grade water storage.

Our house has about 1,600 square feet of roof and the shop/office has about the same, so 3,200 square feet of catchment area.

Thus, when it rains good and we collect 12-inches worth of water, that’s about 23,900 gallons of water.

In the average year, we get 40 to 60 inches of rain. On the low side, that would be 79,600 gallons or 218 gallons per day. On the high side it would be 327 gallons per day. But much of that would go to gardening which we’ll get to in a sec.

Even during the recent summer, looking just at June through August here, we had 8.3 inches of rain, so 16,530 gallons.

Not all of that is recoverable. Sometimes when it rains, the roof gets a spritz or sprinkle so you can’t count that. On the other hand, though, a day like one had in August with 3” inches of rain would have done nicely.

To be sure, roof catchment systems have their issues, not the least of which are pollutants and filtration systems. Still, if you have a water catchment system in place, it’s a worthwhile efforts.

Looking forward to the garden next year (you will see shorter columns here as food production cycles up on my agenda for a few years), a tomato plant is a good representative plant for planning and they need about 1 ½ inches of water per week.

If you dig up a tomato plant, you’d be looking at maybe what? Root diameter of 20”? 10 square feet per week of watering per plant times 1.5” of water gives us 2160 cubic inches of water per plant or about 9.8 gallons per week per plant.

Take this times 30 plants and you’re around 300 gallons per week. But out the backside, if you’re using good fertilizer, you might push 20-40 pounds of fruit per plant out the back side. Depends on your green thumb of course.

There are some much higher water consumption numbers (*such as here) on a per plant basis, but most of those numbers involve irrigation which is terribly inefficient.

How terrible is terribly?

Well, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization looks at irrigation efficiency this way: You have to look at conveyance efficiency first and then field efficiency. Conveyance first:


And that’s for how long a run? Those are meters not miles. Then we look at field efficiency:


As you can see, there is terrible inefficiency built into unlined sandy soil canals feeding furrow irrigation. Only 36% of the upstream water delivered is actually available to the plant. Longer runs mean more loss.

So as you ponder what life on the backside of SHTF will be like, be mindful not only of the raw calories, and the basic water requirements, but how to prep in the most efficient manner possible.

High density plots with drip irrigation (or hand watering) seem like the way to go. Since plant watering doesn’t require filtered water, it’s simple to “get there” but only if you plan for the water and soil work in addition to the easy collection of a bunch of heritage seeds. The later is a check, the former some thought and work.

Ah, but enough of Winter Garden thoughts…

Off to town for some gasoline for the power tools…winter’s coming and it’s nearly chainsaw season. A big oak is down on the west end of the property and I’m itching to do something creative with it.

Write when you get rich,

25 thoughts on “Coping: How Much Water, How Much Food?”

  1. George, don’t forget to pipe your rainwater to the toilets and cold water side of the cloths washing machine and increase collection as needed. I am using food grade IBC totes, have 12, and can store around 3000 gallons. Right now I am using the water off my asphalt shingle roof for garden, pressure washer, etc, and have another collection system that uses an old fiberglass TV dish, I use that in my hot tub. Feels good to have a few thousand gallons of water on hand.

      • In rural areas this is often used as an auxillary (sp) source of water for fire fighting . . . if your house is higher than the areas where you grow crops you can put in a drip irrigation system where you could use hose with a pin-prick system laid out and rotate which field you wanted to water . . . my dad had a bunch of fancy conifers that he grew (and I watered occasionally) – watering by hand is time consuming . . .

  2. Think permaculture when looking at water. So all the irrigation water should first be run through showers, washers, etc. before irrigating anything. Then a filter bed to clean it up.

    I’m still trying to figure out how best to both keep flush toilets, and safely use the nutrient-dense output.

    If I lived in a city, I would buy a decent sized farm tank and garage it for security reasons.

  3. I visited an “antique village”, a functioning town of several businesses and 20 or so homes, and I noticed on one of the farms, the farmer was carrying water in buckets to the crops, and carefully pouring a little on each plant. The field was quite large, a few acres at least. This must have consumed most of the day, although I suppose it was only necessary when it hadnt rained in a week or so.

    • You’ll need a bit more than the Berkey filter and Bleach though. The Bleach will quickly degrade if stored in liquid form.
      Then there’s the filter…
      I agree that the Berkey is a good final filter in a system designed to provide water. First however you will need some pre-filtering to provide relatively clean filtered water to the Berkey to prevent premature failure of the filter element.

      For starters a series of screen filters to eliminated the bigger junk from clogging the
      system. I’ve seen “leaf filters” added to gutters that cause leaf trash to bypass the pipe while water filters through the slots, and down the pipe.

      Next in line you would be wise to have a fine screen filter to keep out, dirt,etc.

      Then I would have one (or more as needed) simple sand Bio-filters. These consist of a container that holds from top to bottom,a fine filter basket,a space for just water to allow for natural bio-filtering to build up (a couple of weeks) then course builders sand to fill most of the filter, a screen to keep the sand out of the final layer of course gravel in the bottom. A pipe leads out of the bottom gravel inside the container up to a fitting at the water level desired near the top.
      As water is introduced into the basket on top, the existing filtered water will be displaced out of the pipe into a container next to, and outside the filter.
      This “sand” Bio-filter provides all the filtering that some villages have. They do work well.
      Just to be sure I would filter the now clean and clear water through a Berkey after adding the few drops of Bleach to assure it’s clean. (No need to tempt fate).
      However it is reassuring to note that Bio-sand filters do provide clean sanitary water, and have done so in the field,around the world.

  4. I grew up in an area that would be perfect or prepping. Western NY. You can get all the fresh water you want off the great lakes. Farming is plentiful with a moderately low population spread across the area. You can store calories in terms of huge amounts of apple juice, dried corn and use it for people and not livestock.

    But then again – what’s the point? Prepping for a world that will basically be unlivable is an atheists’ way out. Get with community, find a good church, try to live a good life and sure, prep somewhat. But two months after a grid failure – I don’t know if I would want to be around much longer. However, my Amish neighbors would probably be fine if they can defend themselves from the mobs within the first few months. In some ways, they may be hoping this all comes to pass.

    The one long view I have is that once oil runs out, it will be a huge burden on world society that requires cheap oil to get around. Universities will have a hard time existing. But Fiat currencies will simply vanish and the only real currency left is (not gold) – it is time. Time spent by humans performing manual labor to share resource, build and rebuild. A man’s muscles will be worth more by weight than gold.

    George, I commend your writing and financial prowess. But I do find that prepper-talk is a bit isolationism and anti-community. A prepper should try to know most of his neighbors within a 1 mile radius. If he does not, he may just become a target of hungry people during an “event”.

    Here’s an idea for prepping. Grow Trinadad Scorpion peppers. You can make gallons of some amazing pepper spray from the output of just one plant.

  5. House that are on a slab need the water runoff

    of the roof to minimize the chance

    of a slab crack. During

    draughts water


  6. Strange how what the msm says Trump says and what Trump actually says. Case in point his comments on mental health before a veterans group and what the msm pulled out of a half sentence. The big money must be really afraid of him.

    • If you watch television shows that are pro Hillary.. just pay attention to who is sponsoring them.. almost all of them are from the one percent owned corporations and research groups

    • I thought the same about Hillary’s comments regarding Sanders’ supporters and deplorables. She spoke the truth about what young college graduates may feel about the economy and their futures. If you think that 1 out of 4 Americans holds racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic opinions and to be such is deplorable, which I do, then you agree with Hillary.

      • Hillary will saY Anything FOR Money.
        Bring me wer Goldberg pep talk and let’s see what’s worth $250K, huh?
        no available?
        Just another Clinton depends what you mean by disclosure.

  7. Here is a daily water intake calculator out of India that takes into account your weight, activity level and climate conditions:

    Important Water Facts:
    ? Human body is made up of almost 60%-70% water.
    ? Beverages like Tea, Coffee and all alcoholic drinks are all dehydrating fluids and will eliminate water from your body. So if you are thirsty make sure you are not drinking any dehydrating fluid.
    ? Drink a glass of water before a meal. It not only controls your eating and helps to keep your weight in healthy range but also helps to protect your stomach wall from the harmful effects of digestive acids.
    ? Drinking enough water helps you to lose weight because without water the body can’t metabolize fat adequately.
    ? The symptoms of dehydration include headache, stomachache, behavioral changes, depression.
    ? 22%-30% loss of total body water can lead to coma and death

    • Your post hits home. I drink just about only weak coffee at home. My wife, the same. We do have extra pounds and she lives a more sendentary life than me. Her relatives also just drink bottled ice-teas and not water directly. All unhealthy.

      If everyone adhered to “water as a base” of all food intake, it would help quite a bit. I give my dogs water and food that is good for them – they eat better than I do.

      • Thanks John. I mix 12 oz of water with ice and vodka and find the hydration exercise enjoyable.
        Daily at 5 PM with the Mrs.
        Oh, and yes it’s a 20 oz tumbler. This is Texas, you know.
        I should explain: My half gallon glass broke.
        Before that it was an I.V from a 55 gallon drum of ice water and a vodka drip but changing the barrels got to be too difficult. Couldn’t get a pipeline approved since I’m too honest…The plan was to bring ice water down from Canada to keep up with local demand.

  8. Funny I should read about drinking water. As I came across this the other day.
    Drink more water: One of the primary jobs of the large intestine is to reabsorb water back into your body. If you don’t drink enough water, then the colon will suck out moisture from your poop, leaving a dehydrated, constipated lump behind. You should aim to drink at least 3-4 litres (quarts) a day of liquid. Note: Coffee, milk, and alcohol do not count. 1.The easiest way to get 3-4 litres in a day is to time your water 30 minutes before a meal and 2 hours after a meal. If you drink water too close to a meal, you risk diluting your stomach acid and not digesting your food properly. So drink water:
    a.1 litre as soon as you wake up, ideally after you scrape off your tongue.
    b.1 litre in the mid-morning, at least 2 hours after breakfast and at least 30 minutes before lunch.
    c.1 litre in the mid-afternoon.

  9. Good thing Joseph didn’t feel that way when God told him to store up grain for a seven year stretch of famine.

  10. Central and Western NY is at some level of drought. I spent the first half of the summer carrying water by hand – expecting that eventually the “normal” rains would soon return. They didn’t and I eventually did end up buying a pump system to move water from our pond to the crops. Sigh. New normal???? Climate IS changing.

    • Dude Climate has always been changing. Ask me about the Anasazi in New Mexico and Arizona for God’s sake. You’re being swept up by the mania. Mania check time!

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