Store Drinking Water in Case of Emergency or Disaster
Submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
There are many situations when a water supply could temporarily be interrupted for a few hours or up to several days or weeks. Availability of drinking water is critical in these situations because water is the most important nutrient for the human body. Creating an emergency water supply can be a lifesaver if a water supply is interrupted.
In an emergency, an ample water supply is a priority. Needs will differ depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate. However, most people need to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot weather can increase this amount. Children, nursing women and ill people also will need more. In addition to drinking water, supplies for food preparation and hygiene are needed. In general, store at least one gallon of water per person per day. Never ration drinking water, even when supplies run low. Drink the amount needed for the day and try to find more for tomorrow. The amount of water needed can be minimized by reducing activity and staying cool.
An emergency water supply can be purchased bottled water or potable tap water stored in containers that have been cleaned out at home. There are many types of containers available for water storage, including those made of glass and plastic. Containers can be purchased in most housewares and sporting goods departments and some water vending locations. Avoid using plastic milk containers because fat traces may remain.
Treating the water with chlorine is recommended because organisms, such as bacteria, can be introduced as the water is collected. Use standard liquid household bleach with no scents, soaps, or other additives. Add four drops of bleach per quart or liter container of water. Stir the water, cover, and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. If you cannot smell chlorine after the 30-minute waiting period, add another dose. Cap containers and label each with the contents and date.
Store water containers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Since most plastic beverage containers degrade over time, store them away from heat and light to prevent leakage. Store water in plastic containers away from gasoline, kerosene, pesticides or similar substances because vapors from these products can penetrate plastic. Glass is non-permeable to vapors and gases. Also, water weighs over 8 pounds per gallon, so make sure the shelf or storage area is strong enough to support the weight. For best quality, use or replace shelf-stored water every six months.
To improve the taste of water stored for a long time, pour it back and forth between two clean containers several times to aerate it. Regardless of how water was treated and stored, measures should be taken to control exposure to bacteria once containers are opened. To reduce the chance of water contamination, open only the containers that will be used immediately. If electricity is available, store opened containers in a refrigerator at or below 40 degrees. Avoid introducing bacterial contamination into the stored water. Do not put dippers or spoons into containers or drink directly out of a container. Keep container openings and lids clean. Also, use water in opened containers within one or two days.