Emergency Home Drinking Water Supply

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We often take our household water supply for granted. However, when safe drinking water is unavailable, it is more than just an inconvenience - it can become a health emergency. Interruptions may be for only a short period of time, or for days. Every household should have an emergency water supply available.

How much water should I store?

  • Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day.
  • Two quarts for drinking and two more quarts for food preparation and sanitation.
  • Hot environments can double the amount needed for drinking as the body uses water for cooling.
  • Store at least a three-day supply, but consider storing a two-week supply if space permits.
  • Don't forget water for your pets!  Store one quart per small pet and more for larger animals.

What containers should I use?

  • Store tap water in well-sanitized food grade plastic with tight fitting screw-on lids.
  • Avoid plastic milk containers because they may contain protein and fat residues, which might allow bacteria to grow during storage.
  • Avoid using containers that will decompose or break.
  • Containers not labeled for food or beverage storage could release harmful chemicals into the water.
  • Never use a container that has held toxic substances, because tiny amounts may remain in the container's pores.
  • Some old glass jars were made with glass that contains lead, and unacceptable amounts of lead can leach into water stored in them even for short periods.

How should I prepare the containers?

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

Can I store my tap water?

  • Yes. While you can expect that water from a public water supply will be safe, remember that the container used to collect and store the water must also be clean.

Should I boil the water before storing it?

  • Boiling tap water before storage is not recommended. It will not prevent many problems that may occur during storage.
  • Boiling may concentrate other contaminants as the water evaporates away.

How should I treat the water for storage?

  • Be sure that the water you are treating is drinking quality 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.
  • Using a clean, uncontaminated medicine dropper, fill your container with water and add the bleach according to the table below:
  • Mix thoroughly by stirring or shaking the container. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.
  • Chlorine should be detectable by odor after the 30 minute waiting period.
  • If the water does not smell like chlorine at that point, repeat the dose, mix thoroughly and let it stand another 15 minutes.

Where should I store the water and for how long?

  • Store containers with treated water in an easily accessible, dark, cool, dry place away from any solvents or chemicals.
  • Store water in plastic containers away from gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, or similar substances.
  • Stored water should be labeled with a date and used or rotated out every six months.

How do I keep water in opened containers safe?

  • Once opened, sanitary measures are important when using the water to keep it safe and to control exposure to bacteria.
  • To reduce the chance of water contamination, do not open more containers than are needed at the time.
  • If electrical power is available, store opened containers in a refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Use water in opened containers within one or two days.

Hidden water sources in your home:

  • If a disaster catches you without a sufficient stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your hot water tank, pipes, and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).

With a little planning and effort, your family can be prepared for a natural disaster or other emergency with this most important necessity: a safe, adequate supply of drinking water.