MakeShift 27 Deadline in Three Weeks

MakeShift 27 Deadline in Three Weeks

The deadline to turn in solutions for Volume 27’s MakeShift challenge is in three weeks – October 28! Put on your thinking caps. You need to figure out a way to provide safe drinking water for your family after an accident at the nuclear power plant upstream from you.

The Scenario: You’ve just returned to your country home from a shopping trip to town, some 20 miles upriver, with all the fixings for a weekend barbecue with your family, including a fresh bag of your favorite mesquite charcoal and some other sundries: coffee filters, kitty litter for your pet Persian, Sheba, and some fresh aquarium sand for your daughter’s collection of goldfish — all of whom she’s named Moby Dick. No sooner are you in the door than the power goes out. And, calling the electric company to report the outage, you quickly discover the loss of power is now the least of your worries.

There’s been a serious accident at the nuclear power plant 5 miles upriver from town, and radioactive steam is now escaping into both the air and the river. Containment of the leak and restoration of power are both currently indefinite. You are advised to stay indoors and drink only bottled water until further notice, as they now presume the river water is contaminated well past your location.

The Challenge: You consider getting everyone into the car and evacuating. But, given the prevailing winds, your only way out would certainly put you right in the path of the leak — so that’s really not an option. And while your large house can be sealed up easily — and there’s enough food for a week or more if need be — aside from some beer and a few bottles of soda, you have no bottled water! So what are you going to drink? You must devise a way to provide enough safe drinking water for your family of four to weather the crisis for at least a week.

What You’ve Got: In addition to everything mentioned, you have a garage full of tools, a 5-gallon plastic jug your family uses to collect spare change, and anything else that would normally be found in a typical house. So prepare to hunker down, break out the board games, and protect your nuclear family. Good luck (to all of us).

Send a detailed description of your MakeShift solution with sketches and/or photos to by Oct. 28, 2011. If duplicate solutions are submitted, the winner will be determined by the quality of the explanation and presentation. The most plausible and most creative solutions will each win a MAKE T-shirt and a MAKE Pocket Ref. Think positive and include your shirt size and contact information with your solution. Good luck! For readers’ solutions to previous MakeShift challenges, visit

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10 thoughts on “MakeShift 27 Deadline in Three Weeks

  1. stevepoling says:

    Is this nuclear accident something like Three Mile Island, Fukushima, or Chernobyl? Each accident had different hazards that were unique to the circumstances of that accident. In the case of TMI, you could pop popcorn and watch everybody else get excited from your back porch. Fukushima had problems like tidal waves washing your cabin away. Chernobyl (like Windscale) was a graphite-moderated reactor fire. I think a more realistic scenario would be a successful dirty-bomb attack. If you want to be terrified, look at how much fallout results from a nuclear attack on a nuclear reactor. So, this is a black swan event.

    Unless this event happened many years ago, ground water won’t be contaminated. If your cabin has a well, your tap water will be just fine. No need to be MacGyvering anything. So, this cabin has to be on city-water…

    I’m just a spoil sport, aren’t I? Rigging a geiger counter out of stone knives and bear skins, I want to learn howto do that. Could you build something from a smoke detector?

  2. Fire Onyx says:

    @twitter-17907728:disqus Very true about being a country house, you are 99% likely to be on well water.  Since the nuclear accident is on the only road that you can use to get back to civilization, you are WAY out there!

    If you can drive the opposite direction on the road, it would be MUCH safer than staying at your house.
    (Block vents in the car with a rag if you are that worried).

    If there is no road and you don’t have a 4×4 offroading capable vehicle to get the hell out of there ( But anyways, the power is out.  So how do you run your well assuming you are an unprepared country home (just moved out to the country)?   And you call yourself a maker by living so unprepared???? And who has a nuclear power plant in Northern Alaska anyways?

    I think there is a very good chance you have a generator living out in the country.  Power if you have it tends to be pretty flakey in the country, lots of lines to get knocked out before it gets to you, so to survive winter power outages and keep your food for summer outages, you probably have bought a generator, or work off a propane generator already.

    I haven’t opened my well pump to see if there is a slot for a hand crank.  But there are alot of things I would do/think of before building a basic carbon filter + hole in the ground solution.

  3. Patrick Tait says:

    I’m guessing “force your kids to swim in the stream in hopes they develop superpowers” is a bad answer?

    Also, how long before results are posted? the most recent one with the results is over a year old

  4. Halfvast Conspirator says:

    I say wait for FEMA with the ice and bottled water

  5. Halfvast Conspirator says:

    I say wait for FEMA with the ice and bottled water

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