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:
- 4 drops bleach per quart or liter container of water
- 8 drops bleach per 2-quart, 2-liter, or ½ gallon container of water
- 16 drops bleach, or 1/4 teaspoon, per gallon or 4-liter container of water
- 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.