aftermath of hurricane maria - water bottles filled with water from our hot water heater

diy backup water storage (for condos / apartments)

The dam at nearby Lake Guajataca made national news as it was badly damaged and nearly failed in the days following Hurricane Maria.  This reservoir supplies water to the municipalities of Aguada and Rincón, among others on the west side of the island.  Although the hurricane is long gone, the dam is still damaged and vulnerable.  A couple of months ago, rumors were swirling about possible rationing as the water levels of the lake had to be lowered to allow repairs to continue.

Rationing or not, it’s not uncommon for our faucets to go dry with little to no warning.  In fact, scarcely a week went by in March and April without the water going out at least once.  For this reason, many homes in Puerto Rico have a cistern on the roof to provide a buffer during outages.  Unfortunately, that’s not an option for those of us who live in a condo, so we’ve had to get creative.

flushing toilets

Besides drinking water, this is usually the first thing people think of when confronted with the thought of preparing for a water outage.  Our first tack on this was to collect water from our pool and haul it up to our condo when we needed to flush the toilet.  This worked well enough, but it didn’t take long for this to get old.  Water is heavy and you need multiple trips to flush and then refill.

Our next approach was to fill the bathtub.  This worked a little better, especially when you KNOW the water is going to be out like before a hurricane.  However, it tied up our bathtub and promoted rust making it poor long term solution for dealing with unpredictable outages.

Finally, we settled on an effective, if inelegant solution; a 32 gallon trash can filled with water in our bathroom (see bottom picture below).  Now, using a collapsible bucket that we originally bought to haul water from the pool, we can retrieve water from a much more convenient location.

washing dishes / hands and brushing teeth

It’s a modern day miracle to conjure water out of a faucet with the flick of the wrist.  In fact it’s a luxury that even Cornelius Vanderbilt, the richest man in the US in the late 18 century, didn’t have access to.  With an abundant supply of rain water in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, it slowly dawned on us that it’s not just the water that we missed, but having hands-free access to it.

Trying to pour water from a gallon jug while washing dishes or even your hands is cumbersome and aggravating.  Stocking up on baby wipes can work but is not the same.  Coming to this realization and faced with the prospect of frequent outages, we purchased beverage dispensers for each of our sinks.  For the kitchen sink, we purchased a 2.5 gallon slimline beverage dispenser, and at each of our bathroom sinks we have positioned nifty 1 gallon mason jar dispensers.  Thanks to these tools, we have “running water” even when the tap’s gone dry!

diy backup water storage - beverage dispenser

hands-free running water!

showers

As mentioned in prior posts, showers are a nonnegotiable for me.  Again, baby wipes may do the job for some, but I’m a bit obsessive about my ability to take a shower.  In fact, I even wrote a song about it on the drive home from a particularly hot and sweaty day of hiking at Enchanted Rock years ago!

For our first couple of years here, outages were infrequent enough that a camping shower did the trick.  However, taking a cold, trickle shower out on the balcony at night was really starting to get old so we needed to find a better solution.  Enter the Ivation handheld battery powered showerhead.  Now when the water’s out and we want to take a shower, we fill a four gallon bucket about 3/4 of the way, fill it the rest of the way with boiling water and we can enjoy a hot shower in the comfort and privacy of our own bathroom!

diy backup water storage handheld battery powered showerhead and bucket

how much is a hot shower worth to you?

additional water storage

Reading the above you may have wondered where we get water to take a shower if the water’s out.  Well, I’m glad you asked; we store LOTS of tap water in our emptied drinking water gallon jugs.  We probably have at least 30 of these filled up and ready to go at any given time.  For awhile, they were taking over our floor and countertop space which prompted us to put shelves in each of our bathrooms to store them.  The SINGAYE 5-Tier adjustable storage shelf in particular is ideal for the job because each shelf fits four 1 gallon jugs perfectly.  We use these jugs not only for showers, but also to refill our “beverage” dispensers.

diy backup water storage - 32 gallon trash can and water jugs on shelves

our guest bathroom décor…

diy backup water storage

I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is has been to have these simple tools in place.  Losing water, while still inconvenient, is FAR less disruptive that it was before.  As always, if you have any favorite tools or tips of your own, please share!

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