Water Storage...What you need to know....
A healthy adult can live for two weeks, possibly as long as four weeks without food. A healthy adult can only live three to four days without drinking water. Water is the cheapest preparedness item to acquire and the easiest to store. It is also the most overlooked item when preparing for an emergency. In case of a natural disaster, the water wagons are the first to arrive. Next comes food and warmth. That tells you the importance of drinking water. It is an item you can’t afford to overlook in your preparedness preparations.
HOW MUCH WATER?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Emergency Management Officials have urged that we store at least a two-week supply of water. About fourteen gallons per person will meet minimal drinking and hygiene needs. Hot environments can double that amount. Also, children, nursing mothers and ill people will need more. Remember that a person normally uses in excess of 140 gallons a day for drinking, bathing, laundry, dishes, watering lawns, etc. If you have the room to store more than 14 gallons per person, you probably will want to do so.
If your supplies begin to run low, remember: Never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool. A clean button or pebble in your mouth decreases the sensation of thirst. If water is undrinkable, wring out clothes in the water and place on the skin. The skin will absorb water.
HOW TO STORE WATER
The best way to store the bulk of your water is in 55-gallon plastic water drums. They can be obtained from most food storage and emergency supply companies. Also, remember to have a smaller container (such as 5 or 15 gallons) in case you have to go to a secondary water source to refill. (Such as going to a water truck after a natural disaster.) A smaller container would also be useful if you had to evacuate your home. Water weighs approximately 8 lbs. Per gallon. This can add up to 440 pounds for 55 gallons of water.
Two-liter pop bottles make a good container for additional water storage and cost nothing if you clean them and fill them with water as you empty them.
Many people are tempted to use empty milk jugs, a very dangerous practice. They are designed to be disposable, and are biodegradable and will break down. Whatever is stored in a container is absorbed into the walls of the container. Rinsing repeatedly or even scrubbing doesn’t necessarily remove the contaminants. However, when another liquid like water is introduced into the container and stored, the original liquids migrate from the walls of that container into the new liquid, contaminating it. Using empty milk jugs is a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. This can happen even if the water has been treated properly!
Commercially packaged water is inexpensive and easily available. If freshly packaged, and stored in a cool, dark place, it should last several years. Check frequently to be sure the container has not leaked.
HOW TO PURIFY WATER FOR STORAGE
In a 55-gallon container, to make the water more palatable, you need to remove the plastic taste from the container. Put about 2/3 cup of baking soda in a 55 gallon container. Fill it full of water, leaving the bung off to let the warm air escape, and let it sit for a couple of hours. Then, rinse the inside thoroughly and drain completely. Repeat this process once more. When you are ready to fill it with water, remember that most water hoses have contaminants that give the water a foul taste (they are not necessarily harmful, they just don’t taste good!). Try to obtain an FDA approved hose if possible. The purest water should be used for storage. Preferably, the water that your family drinks everyday. Be careful to keep the entire area as sanitary as possible. After filling with water, and purifying it for storage, seal your container tightly, label with the date, then store your container in the coolest, darkest place possible. Inside the garage, or on a shady side of your home are possible storage spots. Use one of the following methods to purify your water:
Chlorine bleach will kill microorganisms. Use only plain bleach, no scents or additives. Add 2 teaspoon per 5 gallons of water. Two tablespoons and 2 teaspoon will purify 55 gallons. Add the bleach before the container is 2 full, and stir it around to mix. It should smell of bleach. (If the bleach is a year old, double the amount of bleach. Bleach two or more years old should not be used.) Water treated in this way should remain palatable for a year or more. It is advised to check the container every 3 to 6 months for undesirable appearances or tastes. These are not harmful, but if present it is best to change the water or re-treat it if fresh water is not available. If the chlorine odor is gone when you open a container, it is best to re-treat the water before storing it again since you have re-exposed it to contamination from the air by opening the container.
Iodine from the medicine chest or first aid kit may be used to disinfect water. Add ten drops of 2 percent U.S.P. Tincture of iodine to each gallon of water. This method is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women or people with thyroid problems.
Ion or Aerobic Oxygen is probably the easiest long-term choice for treating water. It is available at most emergency supply stores. A 2-ounce bottle is added to 55 gallons of drinking water. It is a non-toxic, natural product with chlorine that adds so much oxygen to the water that harmful bacteria cannot grow in it. Water with this method can stay pure for up to 5 years. (Internal company tests show that drinking water treated with Aerobic Oxygen will last upwards of 10 years.) If it is stored properly, and in the coolest, darkest place possible, you should change the water and re-treat it in 4-5 years.
HOW TO PURIFY CONTAMINATED WATER IN AN EMERGENCY
You should purify any water if you are not sure of its purity. First, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth. No method of purification is perfect, but listed below are several options. Use one or more of the following ways to purify water:
Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring it back and forth between two containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
Chlorine bleach will kill microorganisms. Add two drops of bleach per quart of water (4 drops if the water is cloudy,) stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not taste and smell of chlorine at that point, add another dose and let stand another 15 minutes. (If the bleach is a year old, double the amount of bleach. Bleach two or more years old should not be used.) If the treated water has too strong a chlorine taste, it can be made more pleasing by allowing the water to stand exposed to the air for a few hours, or by pouring it from one clean container to another several times.
Iodine from the medicine chest or first aid kit may be used to disinfect water. Add five drops of 2 percent U.S.P. Tincture of iodine to each quart of clear water. For cloudy water add ten drops and let the solution stand for at least 30 minutes
Ion or Aerobic Oxygen is a new option for purifying water. It is very effective in killing all harmful bacteria without any of the harmful affects associated with chlorine or iodine. Follow the directions on the bottle. Although it is expensive compared to bleach or iodine, it is ready to drink in only 2-3 minutes after being treated.
Water filters are available at camping and emergency supply stores. There are many different prices and options that filter out varying degrees of bacteria and contaminants. Follow the directions given for the best results.
Purification tablets release chlorine or iodine. They are available at most sporting goods stores and some drugstores. Follow the package directions. Usually one tablet is enough for one quart of water. Double the dose for cloudy water.
ALTERNATE SOURCES OF WATER IN AN EMERGENCY
In addition to water storage tanks, there are a few other sources of water to think about. Fresh fruits and vegetables have high water content. Water packed fruits and vegetables are also a great source. Liquids in the refrigerator, such as ice cubes, milk and juices can and should be used first in the event of a natural disaster. Also any stored juices, sodas, etc. The storage tank of your water heater, and the storage tank of your toilet (not the bowl-and only if the water is not chemically treated) will also provide a small amount of water. It is also possible to drain the pipes in your home to obtain some additional water. If no alternative is available, think of ponds, streams, and rainwater as possible sources of water that would need to be treated. Pool or spa water is an excellent source of water for washing or bathing. Because of the possibility of contamination, and the fact that high amounts of many chemicals used in pools could make us ill, it should be purified before drinking.
American Survival Guide, July 1999, p. 73-76
FEMA: Emergency Food and Water Supplies Brochure
EPA Office of Water: Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water Pamphlet
Waltonfeed.com Emergency Water Storage
Essentials of Home Production & Storage, p. 7
information was complied in 2004