As the winter progresses one is reminded to always be prepared in case of emergency. Snowstorms, power outages, broken water pipes, and spring floods can all present challenges to basic living conditions. It is important to always be prepared for emergencies that may create a need for you and your family to remain in your home for an extended period of time. Having ample water and food storage is a good first step in making sure one’s family is protected.
Experts recommend having at least a three day supply of water stored in case of emergenciesthat might limit access to clean drinking water. Each person should have at least two gallons per day – one gallon for drinking and one gallon for basic hygiene – stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. It is also recommended that you store one gallon of water per day for your pets drinking needs.
While bottled water is adequate to meet these storage suggestions, another option is to clean and store tap water for future use. The first step is to ensure the proper containers are chosen for water storage. While fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers are adequate, clear food-grade plastic or glass containers are preferable. Begin by cleaning containers and lids with hot soapy water, rinse out the containers and lids thoroughly, and then sanitize them using a solution of one tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Finally, let stand for 2 minutes and then thoroughly rinse out the containers.
Once the containers are sanitized, fill them with potable drinking water. While public drinking water should be clean and free from harmful bacteria, it is suggested to add one-eighth to one-quarter teaspoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water for storage. Use unscented liquid household bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. This small amount of chlorine protects against any trace lingering organisms not caught during the regular filtration process. Remember to seal the containers with the appropriate, tight fitting lid. Date the containers and label them as “drinking water” and replace every six months for better flavor. Although the taste of stored water might be better within 6-12 months, all water that is cleaned and purified before being tightly sealed will be safe to drink indefinitely.
Storing clean drinking water is an important part of emergency preparedness and is too often overlooked. It’s easy to take the abundance of clean water for granted, but one must only look at the past situations in New Orleans and Haiti to see the importance of having clean water stored for emergencies.
For more information about emergency water storage visit our website here.
(Ralph Morris, M.D., M.P.H., is a preventive health and public health physician, and a member of the Water Quality & Health Council)