Having clean, potable (safe to drink) water in an emergency can mean the difference between life and death. Most of us are so used to having running tap water on demand, that we forget that source can vanish overnight.
While you can survive for weeks without food, your body will start to shut down in just days without water.
What do you do if you don’t have access to basic services due to a protracted power outage or civil threat where you can’t leave home?
You may want to print this out and keep with your supplies. As we face runaway food prices and shortages of both food and energy, I’m advising everyone to act now.
Generally, a normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts (½ gallon) of water each day. Standard emergency guidelines suggest that you store at least 1 gallon of water per person per day for 3 days for drinking and sanitation, but is 3 days’ supply sufficient?
With the current threat of rolling blackouts of electrical grids, it may be wiser to store a 2-6 week supply… and some experts believe those in vulnerable areas should be prepared with 6-8 months supply in a worst case scenario, if municipal water is unavailable, there’s mass looting and staying inside the only option.
Minimum Standard Water Storage Guidelines
One gallon per person per day is for drinking, cooking and hygiene.
3-day supply x 1 person = 3 gallons and a 14 day (2-week supply) x 1 person = 14 gallons
Calculate: (number of days of water needed) x (number of persons in your home) = gallons to store
Consider your family members’ needs and habits to decide the actual amount of water you store for an emergency.
Do you have young children, pets? Consider your storage space. Store more water for hot climates, pregnancy, and persons who are sick. Watch the expiration date for store-bought water and replace non-store-bought water every 6 months.
We will all need to adjust our normal habits to get through an emergency period.
If you’re not collecting rainwater and have no freshwater source on your property, be it a well, lake or stream, you’d be wise to plot out where your nearest water source is.
Store Water in Multiple Containers, Large and Small
Although it’s good to have a large volume of water stored, you should have some set aside in smaller, portable containers light enough to carry during an emergency. Be sure to take into consideration that water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. Two-liter pop bottles are a good option for inexpensive small-volume water storage. Know that over time these water containers can break down and leak. It is recommended to not store them next to food or other items that can be damaged by water. It is not recommended to use milk jugs for storing water; these jugs can become brittle and break down within a short period of time. Glass containers are not recommended for water storage because they can crack during a freeze or break easily during an emergency.
Water, stored improperly, can be hazardous to health.
Purify Water Using Chlorine Dioxide (my 1st choice):
Chlorine Dioxide (CD) is registered with the EPA as a disinfectant, sanitizer and sterilizer which is defined as the ability “to destroy or eliminate all forms of microbial life including fungi, viruses, and all forms of bacteria and their spores”. (There is nothing toxic left behind like with bleach).
1. The 2-Part KIT DIRECTIONS & How To ACTIVATE: Mix 1 drop of PART A 22.4% Sodium Chlorite and 1 drop of PART B Hydrochloric Acid in a small clean container to generate CD. Once you mix the drops, wait 30 seconds for full activation. (You can multiply this for as many gallons as you have and use an eye dropper.)
HOW TO USE: Add 1 to 3 ACTIVATED drops for every gallon of water, depending on its impurity. Shake or stir water, cap, and allow 30 minutes minimum before use. Water contamination determines the time required. If the water is murky use a filter or cheesecloth to strain the water first.
In an emergency, if you don’t have the 2-part kit above, you can also safely use 22.4% Sodium chlorite alone (source):
1. 22.4% Sodium Chlorite For POTABLE (Drinking) WATER STORAGE: Be sure container is clean. Add 2 drops of UNACTIVATED 22.4% Sodium Chlorite for each gallon (4 liters) of water. Seal tightly. Water will stay fresh, taste great, and be odor free. When you re-open the water, add 1 more drop to each remaining gallon (4 liters) and reseal till ready to use.
2. 22.4% Sodium Chlorite For EMERGENCY CONTAMINATED WATER TREATMENT: Use 3 to 4 drops of UNACTIVATED 22.4% Sodium Chlorite to 1 gallon (4 liters) of water and let stand at least 12 hours. Please note these directions are only for emergency situations.
Other Water Purification Strategies:
If you maintain a clean rain barrel setup and treat the water as recommended to kill off any pathogens, the rain water will probably be safe to drink. I would still recommend putting it through additional filtration though, just to be safe. Diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration caused by contaminated water could be a death knell in an already hazardous situation.
Filtration systems such as the Berkey system (or a DIY Berkey system) that can filter out pathogens would be ideal. Also, be sure to stock up on extra filters. These kinds of filtration systems can also be used to filter other, far more questionable water sources, such as water collected from a lake or stream.
Even a small survival water filtration system such as the LifeStraw is better than nothing, and will allow you to filter the water you’re about to drink no matter where you are. If you don’t have a filtration system capable of filtering out bacteria, viruses and protozoa, you’ll need to filter out any debris first and then disinfect it using other means.
Options from the EPA include:
- Boiling — It won’t remove debris, chemical contaminants or other impurities, but it will kill bacteria, viruses and protozoa that could make you acutely sick. To disinfect by boiling, start with water that has been run through some kind of filter. In a pinch, you could run cloudy water through a clean cloth or coffee filter. Bring the water to a rolling boil for at least 60 seconds. A solar kettle can be a valuable backup system that will allow you to boil water during a power outage. Let the water cool and store in a clean, closed container. To improve the taste, you can add a small pinch of salt per quart or liter of water. Other strategies that can help improve the taste of boiled water are to pour the water back and forth several times between two clean containers, or stir it vigorously with a large spoon.
- Liquid bleach — After filtration, add eight drops of 6% bleach per gallon of water, or six drops of 8.25% bleach per gallon. DO NOT use bleach products that are scented, “color safe” or have added cleaners. If the water is cloudy or discolored, use double the amount. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes before using. The water SHOULD have a very mild bleach odor. If it doesn’t, repeat using the same dosage and let stand for 15 minutes. If the chlorine taste is too strong, pour the water between two clean pitchers several times and/or let it stand for a few hours before using. Only use regular, unscented chlorine bleach that’s been stored at room temperature for less than one year. You’ll need a medicine dropper to measure out the drops.
- Lugol’s 2% Iodine— First aid iodine solution is another option if you cannot boil the water and don’t have bleach. Add five drops of Lugol’s 2% iodine to each quart or liter of water. If the water is cloudy, add 10 drops. Stir and let stand for 30 minutes or more before using.
- Water disinfection tablets — You can also purchase ready-made water disinfection tablets. For those, follow the instructions on the product label. The USB-rechargeable UV light SteriPEN is another way to destroy over 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
Hopefully, reality is starting to set in and you’ve already begun considering your options. How are you going to provide safe drinking water for yourself and your family if the worst-case scenario becomes reality and there’s no tap water and no bottled water being delivered to the store?
State Extension Recommendations To Store Drinking Water
The Penn State Extension makes storing water simple for an emergency, especially when the water is not contaminated.
Select the option that best suits your family. Here are some guidelines.
If your water comes from a public water supplier or is disinfected, you can store it in clean soda bottles or milk jugs with screw-on tops. Follow the directions below.
- Thoroughly wash plastic soda bottles or milk jugs with warm, soapy water. Use containers with screw-on tops. Sanitize the container by putting one teaspoon of household liquid bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite or higher) in one quart of water. Pour this solution in the container and leave it there for two minutes. Pour the sanitizing solution from the container. Rinse the container with potable (suitable for drinking) water.
- Fill bottles or jugs directly from the faucet. Cap tightly and label each container with the words “Drinking Water” and the date stored.
- Store sealed containers in a dark, dry, and cool place.
- If after six months you have not used the stored water, empty it from the containers and repeat steps 1 through 3 above.
If your current water source is contaminated or you do not wish to prepare your own water for storage, purchase bottled water from a store. Bottled water is available in local discount stores or grocery stores. Purchase gallon-size (or larger) containers of bottled water. Consult the Bottled Water publication to learn more about how to select a good quality bottled water. Follow step #3 and #4 above once you have purchased the bottled water.
U.S. Springs Map
If you live in the U.S., findaspring.com can help you locate freshwater springs, most of which are relatively pristine, that allow you to collect water free of charge or for a small fee. As long as you have water purification and disinfection supplies on hand, you’ll be able to treat whatever water you’re able to get your hands on.
10 Ways to Clean Drinking Water (Video)
15 minutes. Start at 40 seconds and learn a lot.
Correctly storing water for emergencies is now a necessity.
“A drop of water is worth more than a sack of gold to a thirsty man.” ~Unknown
“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~spoken by Jesus in John 14:4
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Medical Disclaimer: I am no longer a practicing medical professional, and I am not doctor. I am a mother. I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use. Using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is intended to treat or prevent disease. Consult your own doctor.
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