June 22, 2013
Poor Water Quality Come The Zombie Apocalypse?

Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, thinks come the zombie apocalypse most people will die from poor sanitation.

Believe him, most people in a zombie apocalypse would die not from zombie wounds or anything as sexy as that. They’d die, he explained, from the lack of a clean-water supply. And as anyone with even passing familiarity with his books “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z” knows, the biggest risk in a zombie invasion is fluid loss from all that running.

I have previously argued that a zombie apocalypse would be pretty easy to stop as long as we have enough bullets and other ways to do mass killing of zombies.That argument still seems right.

But suppose the zombies totally get out of hand. I could imagine this especially in lower lower gun ownership areas of Europe. Though the Swiss would likely do well. Okay, what to do? Basic survival 101. Get water filters, preferably portable water filters. Though if you live out in the country just roof solar panels and an electric pump would put you in good position. Ditto a hand water pump. Make sure you have a several hundred gallon storage tank in case the water table drops.

Come a zombie apocalypse islands seems preferable. It would be possible to keep the zombies off of islands or wipe them out with enough guns. Much harder to kill all the zombies on an overrun continent.

Someone with a sail boat, desalinating water filter, lots of weapons, and a few sniper friends could scope out an island and choose it for living. With people mostly dead the factory fishing ships would sail in far smaller number and so fishing could get pretty good.

Zombie Apocalypse scenarios have a lot of ovelap with many other survival scenarios. Civilization breaks down. Food supply and water supply are hard to come by. Predators suddenly loom large. But since zombies aren't too bright any organized groups of edgy people with strong loyalties and ruthlessness could certainly survive them and create safe zones.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 June 22 09:10 PM 

Lyle said at June 22, 2013 11:02 PM:

In a few scenarios, the populace is infected such that any cause mortality leads to zombieism. In those situations, islands aren't necessarily safer. Likewise, even established safe zones can be compromised by unexpected deaths (for example if 51-year old Jim dies from a sudden heart-attack during the night).

Russ in Texas said at June 23, 2013 8:43 AM:

If it gets out of hand, then there won't be a lot of people using the hundreds upon hundreds of 40-60-gallon water heaters in their houses, each of which is supplying roughly a month's worth of emergency water. And all of a sudden, cleaning will have the same sort of social cachet it did in the 19th century, when a person's social value was partly determined by whether their home was slovenly or pristine.

Puzzle Pirate (@PuzzlePirate) said at June 23, 2013 8:45 AM:

Have you read this guy's blog? He lived in Bosnia for a year when that place descended into anarchy in mid 1990's.


Vektor said at June 24, 2013 5:19 AM:

In any situation where civilization has collapsed, due to nuclear war, economic collapse, environmental/pollution, pandemic, zombie apocalypse, etc., your biggest threat will be that percentage of fellow survivors that has decided to prey on the other survivors.

Phillep Harding said at June 24, 2013 11:01 AM:

Someone, and I cannot recall who, started posting snippets of a zombie story where he points out something that most people miss. Biological based zombies (as opposed to supernatural based) need to be able to take a dump. Today's underwear will interfere, possibly to the point of blocking the intestines entirely, giving the zombie a limited "life".

His solution was to link the zombie virus to a symptom that made the victim tear off his/her clothing in the early stages.

(Spoiler: Early in the story, the good guys figure out that it's an artificial virus with dual expression. First set of symptoms: mild upper respiratory tract infection to spread the infection. Second set: Mad dog attacks, blood and saliva infectious.) I need to try to track that story so I can read the rest as it comes out.

Randall Parker said at June 24, 2013 7:36 PM:

Puzzle Pirate,

Thanks for the link. Wasn't aware. Very interesting. It is important to understand just how bad people will get.

One way to rank collapse scenarios is by the scale of trade. How far do goods move? Not at all? 20 miles? Still hundreds of miles but not thousands? Do islands trade while large continents decay into savagery?

James Bowery said at June 24, 2013 8:12 PM:

The threat of biological weaponry is far greater than a "zombie apocalypse". The idea biological weapon would have a long incubation period, be triggered to reproduce by specific genetic correlation structures, be transmitted by casual contact and not create any obvious morbidity (let alone mortality) but merely impair cognition while promoting gregariousness.

destructure said at June 25, 2013 5:34 AM:


I'd never thought about zombi digestion. After all, they're supposed to be dead. Or, at least, their higher brain functions are dead. If they're really dead then there's no heart or lungs to transmit blood and energy to muscles and brain. They'd shut down quick. If they've simply lost higher brain functions then there's not much difference between zombism and rabies.

destructure said at June 25, 2013 5:36 AM:


I'd never thought about zombi digestion. After all, they're supposed to be dead. Or, at least, their higher brain functions are dead. If they're really dead then there's no heart or lungs to transmit blood and energy to muscles and brain. They'd shut down quick. If they've simply lost higher brain functions then there's not much difference between zombism and rabies.

Russ in TX said at June 25, 2013 8:10 AM:

So, James: you're saying that Facebook is a bio-weapon?

Tim Hogan said at June 25, 2013 8:29 AM:

One day some Luddite is going to start a meme that obsession with zombies is just hive societies way of presaging the coming enslavement of mankind through ever more enthralling technology. One day there will be a few Luddites left on the outskirts of the forbidden zones but in all the megapools across United Pangea the zombies will be hooked up to datatrunks and alitubes watching the millionth fractalsqueeze of Romero's Dawn of the Dead but still completely uncomprehending. The irony is that at least Zombies can move to scratch their own ass. I know, that's called twisted irony. The meme gets twisted too. One day (today) this post is hastily cognexed by GridQueen but hidden inside it is a semantivirus that slowly over many centuries gestates resulting in an infinitely recursive idbomb. In a desperate attempt to escape the inevitable planetwipe GridQueen jettisons a billion Qpies of herself into deepspace - forgetting to wipe the Futurepundit archives from the wayback spindle............ Cut to aerial view of Barterton PA, last outpost of a once thriving Luddite underground network. Continuous trackzoom into shattered home of Luddite. Zoom and hold on fading TV. 10 second fade out on scene 45 in Planet Terror showing Quentin Tarantino's leprous body parts. Then bring on Quentin for some edgy commentary. When it gets tedious after 15 seconds open trap door.

Phillep Harding said at June 25, 2013 11:26 AM:

destructure, That was part of the diff between bio based zombies and supernatural based zombies. The bio based are still "alive", supernatural based not. And the second expression of the bio based zombie plague was altered rabies.

The zombies in the second stage of the disease were fast moving with some cognitive function, able to recognise prey and to lock on to a prey and ignore alternative targets as the prey tried to flee.

The plague was, effectively, two or more viruses spliced together, and an artificial construct.

Blast. Still cannot find the story.

James Bowery said at June 25, 2013 2:19 PM:

Russ, actually, I was thinking of Hollywood.

Marcel F. Williams said at June 25, 2013 2:52 PM:

The number one killer of humans in any global apocalypes is starvation. That's why mass starvation frequently occurs in nations that are involved in civil wars.

And if everyone is infected with a zombie virus, as they are in the 'Walking Dead' then humans are doomed to be overwhelmed by zombies that have mostly emerged from from individuals who have starved to death.

And you can't eat bullets unless you intend to kill yourself:-)

Peter said at June 26, 2013 12:40 PM:

Phillep, it sounds like you could be thinking of _Under a Graveyard Sky_ by John Ringo.

Phillep Harding said at June 26, 2013 4:43 PM:

Peter, yup. That's it. No wonder I could not find it where I was looking.

Baen Books. Great stuff.

REN said at July 7, 2013 1:30 PM:

Food in America depends on long distance rail and truck transportation networks. Go to your nearest grocery store produce section and see how much lettuce or tomatoes, or whatever, is brought in from long distance, perhaps trucked in from California. A small percentage of the population works on farms, and in fact many farms are mega business in league with industry and banks.

So, the world food supply is economically dependent on supertankers making their way to deliver crude. The straights of hormuz could be blockaded easily by sinking a few tankers. That would disrupt oil, in turn making diesel and gasoline scarce, in turn driving up prices and prohibiting food from making it to markets. Hawaii, and other regions are totally dependent on transportation networks.

In other words, we have instability embedded in industrial countries food supply system. The money system would also go into positive feedback with speculation causing higher prices to inflate out of alignment with reality. Most sheeple's economic output is then diverted to food, making other goods and production decline. People get thrown out of work because they cannot sell their goods and services. For example, if 25% of your output is only available to buy things other than food, then other things won't be bought. Today, our money supply is diverted to paying down debts, and little is left over for trading with other people. High food costs would divert the "optional" part of our output, thus collapsing the economy. Hammers, shingles, and other non immediately important goods will not be bought.

Lack of food distribution and production would then lead to general lawlessness, and imposition of martial law. If predatory elites wanted to, at this point they could herd the population into "food" camps, where the population can be controlled, or turned into zombies with inoculations. We don't need an airborne scenario, inherent weakness is our economic system makes the food deprivation scenario not fantasy, but instead likely. It is not a stretch to imagine fearful elites concocting a scenario where an apparent plague eliminates the useless eaters. While in the food camps, defend your usefulness, or die.

I would suggest to have a store of water and food for at least a month. Work out a plan with your neighbors for common defense and 24 hour patrols/surveillance. Money becomes increasingly useless in an economic plague breakdown. Chlorhexidine stores are useful to self treat skin disease:


We will probably never see a movie about this scenario, because it is too close to reality. Our movie industry, and mainstream press, has long been controlled by money elites.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright ©