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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Your Emergency Water Supply

submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appeared in the April 6, 2003 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Water is a resource that many times is taken for granted. In times of disaster either from weather or other causes an emergency water supply can be helpful. You can purchase bottled drinking, distilled water or safely prepare and store water for your daily drinking and cooking supply.

Water can be stored in food-grade plastic or glass containers with tight-fitting screw-on caps. Plastic containers labeled for beverage storage can be purchased.

Wash the containers and lids thoroughly with hot tap water and dish detergent. Rinse thoroughly with hot tap water.

To treat water for storage, use liquid household chlorine bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use bleach with soaps or scents added. Add the bleach according to the following table, using a clean, uncontaminated medicine dropper.

  • Two drops bleach per quart or liter container of water.
  • Four drops bleach per 2-quart, 2-liter or 1/2 gallon container of water.
  • Eight drops bleach per gallon or 4-liter container of water.

When treating larger quantities of water, use the following table to convert drops to standard measuring units.

  • 8 drops = 1/8 teaspoon
  • 16 drops = 1/4 teaspoon
  • 32 drops = 1/2 teaspoon
  • 64 drops = 1 teaspoon
  • 192 drops = 1 tablespoon
  • 384 drops = 1/8 cup which is equal to 2 tablespoons

Stir the water and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. You should be able to smell chlorine after the 30-minute waiting period. If you cannot, add another dose and let the water stand another 15 minutes. Cap containers and label each, describing the contents and preparation date.

For shelf-storage of water, store containers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Because 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. Remember, 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, replace stored water every six months. For commercially bottled distilled or drinking water, check the label for an expiration date. If none is given, commercially bottled water should have an indefinite shelf-life. 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.

Use water in opened containers within one or two days.

Water that is past the time of desired use can be used for plants or the yard. Be water wise and conserve.

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