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Creating Water Out Of Nothing

November 7, 2011 by  

Creating Water Out Of Nothing

Water is one of the most important things you need to consider in a survival situation. I want to share a few thoughts I have on things that can be done on a city or regional level to increase the amount of water that’s available in drought situations. These are measures that can be taken both now and in a grid-down survival situation.

First, plug leaks. The effect of plumbing leaks is incredible. In Austin, Texas, a plumbing company is offering to replace up to 1,000 leaky toilet flappers for free. At a water savings of 10 to 100 gallons per toilet per day, this amounts to a savings of somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 gallons per month. Some places may be able to absorb that kind of waste, but Austin is in what many consider to be the 11th year of a drought that is expected to last at least another year. This is enough water to provide a gallon per day to between 10,000 and 100,000 people, so it’s potentially serious business.

Second, remove cedars. Another Texas water creation story comes from ranches in the Hill Country of Texas. Several years ago, a friend of mine would buy up ranches that had lots of juniper trees (mountain cedar) and seasonal springs. He would then clear out all of the cedars, which would increase water flow considerably and in many cases cause the springs to become year-round springs. Then, he would sell them for a profit, since land with running water is generally worth more than land with a dry creek bed.

The last paragraph will surely bring up a lot of debate. Getting rid of cedar trees was shown to free up 35,000 gallons of water per year per acre in one Central Texas study referenced here (I am unable to find the original study). The issue that complicates the whole matter is that while cedar trees use up to 33 gallons per tree per day, they don’t use up that much more than other plants and the water “savings” remain in effect only as long as the cedars aren’t replaced by high-demand grasses or other trees.

Regardless, I do see situations where people sitting on 10 to 40 acres and a seasonal spring may want to clear out cedar to increase available groundwater — even if it’s only for a few years to fill a tank or get through a rough patch.

Third, don’t water your lawn. I’m always amazed when I have lived in or visited arid high mountain desert communities at the amount of grass that people have planted and how green it is. It’s not uncommon for people with .2-acre yards to use 15,000 to 30,000 gallons of water per month to keep their lawns looking green in these regions. In areas where the primary grasses die after a week or two without water (instead of going dormant), it becomes a choice between two evils during extended droughts: Spend money on water or spend money on replacing your lawn.

This is why, in many cities across the country, people are turning to rock gardens, wood chip gardens, xeriscaping and planting edible, native, drought-resistant plants in their yards. In some cases, people are making the change because they want to conserve water. In other cases, they have decided that it’s too much hassle trying to make grass grow and stay green when nature seems to have other plans. Still, in other cases, it’s because droughts have caused watering restrictions and dead lawns, and people want to “plant” rocks once rather than spending so much time and money on grass.

What are your thoughts on water and strategies to make more water available for drinking and irrigation? What about gray water recycling? Any thoughts on legislating water conservation vs. personal liberty? Where does my right to spend as much as I want on water intersect with other people wanting water to drink? Are stepped-up prices the answer (the more you use, the more you pay per gallon) or something else? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

As an aside, we changed our clocks this weekend. In addition to using the weekend to change clocks and change batteries in our smoke and CO detectors, we also used it as a time to make sure that our preparedness items are in good shape and make the appropriate changes for the seasons.

Here’s a list of some of the things that we did:

  1. Put backup cold-weather clothes in our cars.
  2. Made sure that supplies that we think are in our cars are actually in our cars. (I have a habit of wearing shorts and sandals in the summer, grabbing shoes and socks out of the car when we’re away from home and I need them and forgetting to replace them. We have the same habit with backup clothes for the boys and snacks for the boys.)
  3. Cycled out all food that was in our cars over the summer and eat or donate it.
  4. Checked the batteries in our 72-hour kits and go bags.
  5. Checked medical kits. Replaced expired items, items with compromised packaging and items that we used over the past six months.
  6. Bought another box of fresh daily carry ammo and shoot the stuff I’ve been carrying.
  7. Replaced CR123A Lithium batteries in my daily use lights.
  8. Recharged or replaced desiccant in our gun safe.
  9. Confirmed that all guns were cleaned and oiled.
  10. Did a quick inventory of our pantry to make sure we hadn’t used up stuff without replacing it.
  11. Confirmed that go bags and camping backpacks hadn’t been looted during outings.
  12. Evaluated goals from the past six months.
  13. Made goals for the next six months.
  14. Took pictures of or scanned any new critical documents, encrypted them and added them to our thumb drives in our Get Out Of Dodge bags.
  15. Evaluated our current state of preparedness in light of what we’ve learned over the past six months and/or what happened to be at the top of our minds at the time.
  16. Rotated and stabilized our fuel storage.

Did you do something similar?

–David Morris

Dr. David Eifrig Jr.

is the editor of two of Stansberry's best advisory services. One of his advisories, Retirement Millionaire, is a monthly letter showing readers how to live a millionaire lifestyle on less than you'd imagine possible. He travels around the U.S. looking for bargains, deals and great investment ideas. Already his average reader has saved $2,793 since 2008 (documented in each Retirement Millionaire issue). He also writes Retirement Trader, a bi-monthly advisory that explains simple techniques to make large, but very safe, gains in the stock and bond markets. This is a pure finance play and the reason Porter Stansberry loves having "Doc" on the team. Doc holds an MBA from Kellogg and has worked in arbitrage and trading groups with major Wall Street investment banks (Goldman Sachs). In 1995, he retired from the "Street," went to UNC-Chapel Hill for medical school and became an ophthalmologist. Now, in his latest "retirement," he joined Stansberry & Associates full-time to share with readers his experiences and ideas.

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  • http://n/a Pauline

    Great Article! Thank You.

  • Sapphira Sez

    i have a reverse osmosis water filter system. It wastes 2 gallons of water for every gallon that we use. I had the waste water channeled into a rain barrel and use it for watering my (environmentally responsible) flower/herb bed. So far everything is still alive.

  • JC

    Good List.
    I’m good for about 90 days without leaving the house.
    After that I have a place out of town where I’m good…indefinately.

  • Dave

    I read the article,, that was referred to above, and found that it actually said the high water-use and the ’33 gallons per day’ by cedars is a MYTH, and in fact they actually shut down their water-use during droughts. I have several cedars on my property and I can tell you, they handle drought better than any of the other trees. I’m no tree-huger (I’m enjoying one in the fireplace right now), but I would suggest not discounting the water-preservation value of the shade and pine needle ground cover that these trees supply.

    • independant thinker

      You must have some odd cedar trees if they shed pine needles. Seriously I do get your point just couldn’t resist the comment.

  • http://none Darwin Demers

    Concerning water,my understanding is that all living plants which use water also store water slowly producing “oxygen” ( which we all need),holding the soil with their root system and stopping the soil from becoming dry and eventually becoming desert! The water that is used was designed by the Creator to do just that. We must desalinate more salt water and stop polluting our fresh water.Finally we cannot put 40 million people in one state. Population demagraphics demand appropriating population on sustainable land mass.

  • Tony N

    We need to consider getting into the middle of the re-hydration process that Earth practices because Water never is eliminated it is only displaced and eventually ends up out in the Ocean and then we have to wait for it to be re constituted back into the atmosphere and then redistributed back onto the Land , and people need to access the water quicker than what this natural process takes so here is the innovation that can produce the immediate access humans need ,

    Solar distillation and desalination of ocean salt water for the masses.

    3D Design Sea Water Reverse Osmosis desalination plant 2.000 m3/d

    Is Desalination the Answer to the Water Shortage?


    First Solar Powered de-salination plant in India

    How to Drink Water from the Ocean

  • John

    …and after you’ve saved all that water, mix it with some benzene and pump it under high pressure underground, recover some portion of that solution, store it in tailing ponds and re-inject it at some time (maybe) in the future. How much fresh water is required to fracture one well?
    Not to worry though, our friends in Canada will build a water pipeline from the Columbia river to the dry states.

    • duaner

      Not going to happen; tapping the columbia river from Canada. They will have to come through the state of Washington (where I reside). This has been tried before when the californicating state wanted our water due to a shortage caused by their own mismangement. Want to look at wasting water try Las Vegas. The state of Harry Reid and fellow nevadans have been quietly purchasing water rights in surrounding states for years to keep Las Vegas wet. Go figure.

    • LowlyWise

      Not if I, and plenty other Pacific NW residents have anything to say about it! We need our water for our own region, despite efforts to sell it to the arid SW. We also don’t need Canadian companies coming in and trashing the whole Midwest with the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • FreedomFighter

    Solar powered water condenser – ultimate in making water from thin air.

    To expensive for me, but if I could I would have it.

    Laus Deo
    Semper Fi

  • MNIce

    Cutting trees to temporarily increase groundwater flow is short-sighted, and should only be done when there is no other means of surviving, or if the trees are replaced with seedlings that for a time have lower overall water requirements than the mature specimens removed. When it finally does rain, the trees help to retain water in the soil to recharge the near-surface aquifers. On the other hand, rain on land that has been recently clear-cut tends to erode the soil, creating gullies, and run off down the nearest stream. There is also strong evidence that the presence of trees (particularly in moderate-to-high-density forests) increases the probability of rain.

    If I had purchased a parcel of dry-country land that only produced “year-around” water flow after the trees were removed, and this was not disclosed to me, I would consider that I had been defrauded.

  • MNIce

    Darwin Demers makes a valid point about population density. Counties have a responsibility to present landowners and residents to ensure they have adequate water. If that means discouraging population growth when the limit of available water has been reached, then the county should consider levying a water development surcharge on the property taxes of residential expansion construction.

    One of the greatest mistakes of the Central government’s (unconstitutional) Housing and Urban Development agency was the construction of massive people warehouses euphemistically labeled “high-rise housing projects.” Besides being environmentally unsound (as in high water usage), concentrating thousands of under- and un-employed people with too much time on their hands in a small space is sociologically disastrous. The small proportion of criminals found in any population have a disproportionately large effect in these projects since there will be so many people in close proximity to their undesirable activities.

  • Tracy Andersen

    It has been suggested (Glenn Beck) that rather than depending exclusively on electronic devices (thumb drives) that important documents be saved as hard copy. (Paper! Who’da thunkit!) Enemies may use an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse Device) exploded high overhead that will disable all electrical processes, including basic power lines.

    Also, in a couple of days, I am concerned what will come of the nationwide “Emergency Broadcast System” test on 11/9/11 at 2:00 PM, that is scheduled to last 2 1/2 minutes (or more, if necessary…?)

    Tracy Y. Andersen

    • 45caliber

      I know if you place your cell phone in a microwave (that is NOT running) it will block all reception. In other words, it isolates it. I wonder if placing thumb drives in an old microwave would prevent them from being erased ….

  • Don

    We have a family master planning calender for things we do every month depending on the month. It includes most of what you listed above in addition to household maintenance, backups, etc. The list is too long to post, but each month has about 6-20 items. Here a few items from the first few months. Maybe it will help somebody.

    Home Master Planning Calendar

    • Conduct annual family meeting and set goals for year
    • Replace batteries in clocks
    • Replace batteries and test Smoke, Radon, Carbon Monoxide, Gas detectors and alarms
    • Replace batteries in door locks, intercoms
    • Check passports, driver, hunting, fishing, firearm, FCC licenses for expiration dates, and mark calendars for action
    • Check vehicle plates and registration for expiration months and mark calendars for actions
    • Check vehicle emergency information for accuracy: insurance, call lists
    • Check internet provider expiration dates (email, website hosts, and domain name registrations) and mark calendars for actions
    • Check auto-payment credit cards for date expirations and mark calendars for action (subscriptions, Paypal, domain auto-renewals, business renewals)
    • Test and update URL links, IDs and passwords to all companies noted in Budget and Financial spreadsheets
    • Update the “Alien Abduction” Notebook (our “how-to” book for our financial, domestic, and technical “stuff” – cable, computer and network configurations, account numbers, IDs, passwords, keys, codes, PINs, combinations, document locations, key people contact information, etc. )
    • Check and restock rainy day supplies as needed (see Inventory spreadsheet)
    • Update Credit and Debit Card Account numbers, expirations, Bank addresses and phones to separate file in case wallet or purse is lost

    • Clean Refrigerator dust beneath, under, and behind
    • Clean Freezer dust beneath, under, and behind
    • File taxes with or without refund expectation
    • Refresh and update Home First Aid kit
    • Contact to confirm or cancel yard maintenance company as needed
    • Check and restock rainy day supplies as needed (see Inventory spreadsheet)

    • Replace batteries in yard mole repellers
    • Repair rabbit fences around gardens (flower and vegetable)
    • Put weed killer on lawn, fertilize as needed
    • Clean and Replace Air Treatment System filters
    • Unstick all windows (make sure they can open easily)
    • Dust all computer vents and components inside and outside
    • Check and restock rainy day supplies as needed (see Inventory spreadsheet)

    • Drain gas from snow blower and repair as needed
    • Clean gutters
    • Clean or replace dryer vent hose
    • Clean lint from under, around, behind dryer
    • Clean or replace furnace filters
    • Refresh First Aid kits in vehicles
    • Put summer survival gear in vehicles (jackets, bug-spray, flashlights, First Aid Kit updates)
    • Siphon or drain generator gas to container for use in yard equipment
    • Fill generator if needed for event
    • Check and restock rainy day supplies as needed (see Inventory spreadsheet)

    • Wash windows
    • Check windows for glazing, glass, or latch repair needs
    • Remove leaves from patio, use chlorine to remove decay stains
    • Tune piano
    • Uncover and restore patio furniture
    • Re-fill freezer with milk jugs of water
    • Check and restock rainy day supplies as needed (see Inventory spreadsheet)
    • Update Credit and Debit Card Account numbers, expirations, Bank addresses and phones to separate file in case wallet or purse is lost

  • Don

    Just a generic comment about world population. Yes, we supposedly hit 7 Billion people. I’m hearing and reading that some think that continued growth of a few more billion is unsustainable. I respectfully disagree (with a disclaimer). I think we have technology now that could dramatically increase our resources. We still farm in two dimensions. We use food for fuel, we’ve not even come close to developing solar, wind, and water power. We still primarily live in 2 dimensions. We general still travel to work. We have a lot of living space yet on land, underground, underwater, and space. Much technology will be developed in the next 100 years. These people believing we’re a population capacity remind me of those who thought that patent office should be closed (a while back) because everything had been invented. Most think in terms of what we can do today, and not what we’ll be able to do tomorrow. I have a lot of confidence in us – we’ve always been most creative when we’ve had few other choices. We’re really not even there yet. Now the disclaimer… then again, even though we could, maybe we won’t.

    • independant thinker

      I agree. We have been at or nearly at the “population limit” for at least a couple of hundred years and possibly longer if one cared to look it up.

  • LarryH

    Here in CA the Tamarix (salt-cedar) trees are a known water hog. They are capable of drying up streams, and they can exist in desert locations. A very environmentally unfriendly tree. It even leaves salt deposits behind when it finally does die.

  • independant thinker

    Now that it is mostly establisned I do not water the lawn except for a small trouble spot that the grass is slow to cover and I do not water that very frequently. One thing I will do is pull my truck into the yard if it desperately needs washing and giving the yard some water that way. I also have three 300 gallon food grade plastic tanks I use to hold rainwater for garden irrigation. Plans are to purchase either 3 or 5 more, double stack them, and plumb them all together. In an emergency I could use that water in house as well with treatment.

  • JeffHTX

    To get water out of a well when the EMP or CME hits, try the well bucket from or google “build a well bucket”.

    • independant thinker

      Lehmans also has well buckets. They have other things that would be useful in survival situations as well.

    • Beck

      JeffHTX…to get water out of a well?? This woman of 62 years use a rope and a pail. Been doing it for 5 or 6 years. Beside getting the water out of the well…it also builds up your upper body muscles.
      P.S. Don’t forget to tie knots in your rope…makes it easier.

  • 45caliber

    Just a suggestion: If you want to keep your grass alive (and mostly green) while not watering it, cut it high. Do not shave it! If the grass is about 3-4 inches high all the time, it will usually live (and mine is fine after a year of drought) without needing to be watered. It won’t grow very well as the grass will basically shut down but it will last.

    • karel Eekels

      45caliber, you are so right in what you wrote. If people/gardeners are “shaving” their lawns there are consequences one prevents the formation of dew. Furthermore by watering one’s lawn (for the looks) under harsh dry seasons, the root-zone of the grass will relatively stay at the surface. Over time “deprived” grass roots will grow deeper and deeper to seek moisture under the lawn surface.

  • Miki

    We moved from Maryland to Colorado 2 years ago. Water rights is a big issue here. Where we live, we can’t recover rain water – it must be allowed to just go into the ground. Yet the towns around here, water their lawns. It is just plain ridiculous. This is high desert and lawn grass doesn’t grow here without huge amounts of water. My feeling is if you want grass, don’t live in the desert! Go somewhere like Maryland!

    • independant thinker

      Tony Hillerman had some interesting observations on that in his Jim Chee/Joe leaphorn novels.

  • Buck

    Irrigation to grow grass should be banned every where . It is the height of stupidity . Irrigation should only be used to feed people or livstock to feed people . Using water to grow lawn or other ornaments is akin to abuse as many people are water poor .

  • Beck

    We have 9.7 acres and live in the hills away from town, but close enough to get supply. We are deep in the vally and ground water flows down toward us. We have three wells on our place, and let the back acres grow back which is being taken over by trees. Some day they will become our fire wood.
    Last summer drought kill off my garden, grass, and wild herbs. Our wells got low, but didn’t go dry. I collected enough wild herbs in the spring so I’m not hurting in herbs.
    We have over 50 pounds of rice, and beans, and if we need some greens for our diet there is enought Pope, Plantain, and Dandelion growing in our yard. Also wild garlic is easy to find in the yard. Picked enought black berries to dry and the rest I made blackberry wine as will as dandelion wine. The drought ended and we got some rain the next month, but not a soaking rain…still the wild grass, and herbs returned. And I do save my projects on papers in notebooks..ready to take with me or if there is no longer any power.
    Got a great 500 pounds woodstove to heat the house and cook on if the need arise.
    I use Peterson Field Guide book on Medicinal Plants and Herbs.

    • granny mae


      How long do you think 50 lbs of rice and beans are going to last you? I’m afraid that a lot of people should research just how much food it takes to survive for any length of time. To think you are going to suppliment with foraging is a little pie in the sky I fear. You have to take into consideration that the weather has not and probably won’t be favorable for much of anything. Plus how many people are going to be foraging right along with you? How many people are going to be hunting and how long with wild game last? How long will it take to kill something to eat? I think you should be adding to your stash right now while you can because in my opinion you are very under stocked ! Then again maybe you are planning on starving some along with eating. I plan on eating and starving only when I have to.

  • Prosperity

    If your climate is right, try oregano (yeah, the pizza herb) as a lawn. Tough, drought resistant, low-lying, doesn’t need mowing, smells great!

  • gillysrooms

    One Australian guy has developed a method of extracting water in dry desert areas by cooling the morning air in underground pipes which apparently still contain moisture during the cold mornings.


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