Step 2 Where is the Available Water?

Constructing Water Sources

Developed water sources can be numerous and varied and need to be listed on maps according to type. Wells provide numerous sources, and a quarry might provide a large quantity, if it is accessible. Swimming pools provide another obvious source of emergency water. Above-ground tanks for private use and for supporting sprinkler systems may be used in an emergency by prior arrangement with the owners.

Many departments have devised ingenious solutions to improve water availability using developed sources. The innovative nature of fire departments can make this approach limitless.

Cisterns
One community in Michigan dug up existing underground cisterns that weren't in use, cleaned them, put them back in the ground, and filled them with water. Cisterns often provide an expedient and cost-effective solution: they can be maintained by rainwater, wells, tankers, streams, or rivers.

Cisterns should be capped for safety, but they need accessible openings for inspection and for the use of suction hose when needed. Ideally, a cistern would have a dry hydrant installed. In cold regions, a dry hydrant can be used to access water below the frost line. Placing a partly filled floating barrel in the water will also help provide and ice-free surface area for inserting a suction hose.

Construction of a cistern is governed by local conditions of soil and material available.

Example of cistern construction

Filling: When cisterns are buried close to structures, gutters can be arranged to capture rain from the roof and direct it through pipes to the cistern. This will help assure a full supply whenever needed, assuming sufficient rainfall.

Swimming Pools
Swimming pools are an increasingly common source of water for fire protection. A major problem can be accessibility for heavy fire department vehicles. Lightly built cement, granite, or poured concrete pools can present the danger of structural damage, cracking or collapse when approached by trucks or as a result of draining, which removes support for the walls of the pool. During extended wet weather there is also the danger that a drained pool will tend to float upward, pushed by the wet soil. The water supply officer will need to study these varying factors for each pool being considered for emergency use.

Watering ponds and tanks
Many farms maintain water supplies for livestock. Negotiations with owners for emergency use should include an effort to inform them about the need for placement of the tanks and ponds that is convenient both for livestock and vehicles.

Create your own source
What can you do if there are no existing sources of water? The least efficient and most risky solution is to haul water in from a distance; it's much more advisable to create a source near the site. In fact, some districts require developers to install cisterns on their properties.

Accessibility is important
You have located your sources of water; but probably some of them are not accessible to fire apparatus, and some of them are far away from structures at risk.

To gain access to the source, you might need to have a road built, or you might approach it with a portable pump. Another solution is to build a dry hydrant .

To deal with the problem of distance, some rural communities use water tenders to transport water from distant "fill up" points. This solution will bring water to the fire, but it's an inefficient and time-consuming method. For more information, read the section on What are the Water Distribution Options?

A better solution is to install a network of dry hydrants, and it is a solution that more fire departments around the country are adopting. A dry hydrant is a non-pressurized pipe that's installed at a pond, lake, stream, or cistern, and is used to pull water by suction into a water tender.

Water Sources

Wherever you find it: Any water supply is worth considering for emergency use. Here an irrigation well provides hose connections for ready access. Conduct Training to make sure these good sources can be used effectively when needed.

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