In case of the unlikely event of a failure in our water system and customers are unable to access fresh water for a period of time, it’s important to take steps now to ensure that you and your family are prepared. We strongly recommend that you keep at least a seven-day water supply per person in your household. This means one gallon of water per person, per day. And don’t forget your pets! Some conditions (like warm weather) and individuals may require more water, such as children, nursing mothers and those who are ill. Plan accordingly, and, when in doubt, store more than you think you may need.
ONE GALLON PER PERSON PER DAY X 7 DAYS = YOUR EMERGENCY WATER SUPPLY
It is recommended that you purchase commercially bottled water in order to prepare the safest and most reliable emergency water supply. Keep bottled water in its original container and do not open until you need to use it. Observe the expiration or “use by” date. Store in cool, dark place.
If you are going to bottle your own water…
It is recommended that you purchase food grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supplies stores to use for water storage. Before filling with water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely so there is no residual soap. If you choose to use your own storage containers, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them. Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them. Cardboard containers also leak easily and are not designed for long-term storage of liquids. Also, do not use glass containers, because they can break and are heavy.
Note: Water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every six months.
Safe Water Sources – Indoors
Safe water sources in your home include the water in your hot-water tank, pipes, and ice cubes. You should not use water from toilet flush tanks or bowls, radiators, waterbeds, or swimming pools/spas, except as an emergency source, and only after it is treated properly using one of the water treatment methods described below.
You will need to protect the water sources already in your home from contamination if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines or if local officials advise you of a problem. To shut off incoming water, locate the main valve and turn it to the closed position. Be sure you and other family members know beforehand how to perform this important procedure.
To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your home at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the home.
To use the water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off, and open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve at the tank and turning on a hot-water faucet. Refill the tank before turning the gas or electricity back on. If the gas is turned off, a professional will be needed to turn it back on.
Emergency Water Sources – Outdoors
If you need to find water outside your home, you can use these sources. Be sure to treat the water according to the instructions that follow.
- Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
- Ponds and lakes
- Natural springs
Avoid water with floating material, an odor, or dark color. Use saltwater only if you distill it first. You should not drink flood water.
Water Treatment Methods
The instructions below are for treating water of uncertain quality in rare emergency situations in the absence of instructions from local authorities when no other reliable clean water source is available and you have used all of your stored water. If you store enough water in advance, you may not need to treat water using these or other methods.
In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms (germs, bacteria, and viruses) that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and hepatitis. You should treat all water of uncertain quality before using it for drinking, food preparation, or hygiene.
There are many ways to treat water, though none are perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods.
Boiling or chlorination will kill most microorganisms but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals. Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel, clean cloth, or coffee filter.
Boiling is the safest method of treating water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute, 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 the water back and forth between two clean containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle.
You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle. Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of bleach, discard it and find another source of water.
Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products (sold in camping or surplus stores) that do not contain 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
While the two methods described above will kill most microorganisms in water, distillation will remove microorganisms that resist these methods, as well as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals.
Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water), and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
In addition to the above methods, there are commercially available products that can be used to filter water. One example are “water straws” that can filter out bacteria and parasites from untreated water. More information about these products is available online. These are recommended for certain types of situations, so make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to understand their proper uses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has recommendations for disinfecting drinking water here. Remember, the more prepared you are ahead of time, the greater your chances for survival during an emergency. Start collecting your emergency water supply today!