Emergency Water Storage: A Necessary Part of Emergency Preparedness

September 19th, 2012

The type of everyday conveniences that we take for granted, such as readily available water and food, may not be available during and after a natural disaster or other catastrophic event. Consequently, organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stress the importance of emergency water storage. Obviously, humans must drink water to survive but water is also necessary for simple tasks like cooking, cleaning, bathing, brushing teeth, and washing hands. All of these activities require clean, contaminant-free water and therefore emergency water storage should be considered an essential part of preparing for emergencies.

How much water should you store?

Both FEMA and CDC recommend storing at least one gallon per person per day. This amount accounts for drinking water as well as water for activities like cooking and cleaning. People normally drink about two quarts of water per day but this amount can increase depending on certain factors. If you live in a very warm climate or your family includes a sick individual or pregnant woman, consider storing extra water. The CDC recommends that you should plan to store a minimum of at least a three-day supply of water per person but it is best to store a two-week supply for your family. Remember to store extra for your pets as well!

How do you prepare the water?

According to FEMA and CDC, commercially bottled water is best for emergency water storage. Purchasing a two-week supply of bottled water for an entire family can be costly though and will create a lot of waste. To avoid added expense and waste, you can prepare your own emergency supply of water as well. Follow the instructions below to prepare your water supply.

Use only food-grade water storage containers or if necessary, two-liter plastic soft drink bottles. Other types of containers such as milk or juice cartons contain proteins and sugars that are very difficult to remove and can cause microorganisms (mold, bacteria, etc.) to grow in the water. Be sure to wash the containers with water and dish soap. Then add a solution of one quart of water and one teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach to the container, tighten the lid, and shake to coat all surfaces. Allow the solution to set for 30 seconds, empty the container, and air-dry or rinse with safe drinking water. Fill the container with tap or other safe drinking water. If you are using well water or purified water that does not contain chlorine, add two drops of bleach for every gallon of water. Be sure to seal the container tightly and write the date on it. Store the water in a cool, dark place, away from any hazardous chemicals. This water can be stored for up to six months.

What can you do if you use your entire water supply?

If you have used all of your stored water and are still in an emergency situation, you may need to get water from a natural source, such as a lake, river, or pond. You can remove harmful microorganisms by boiling the water for one minute or by adding 16 drops of bleach (1/8 teaspoon) for every one gallon of water. These methods are fairly effective at removing microorganisms but do not remove other contaminants such as fertilizers or heavy metals. If you would like to remove these contaminants as well, the CDC suggests using a portable water filter with a pore size that is small enough to remove bacteria, parasites, and, if at all possible, viruses.


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