Water Preparation and Storage

Following a SHTF situation, drinking water may not be available or safe to drink. As a result you may have to find a source of safe drinking water or know how to treat water for use in certain activities, such as drinking, making ice, washing hands, and brushing teeth. This post covers personal Water Preparation and Storage, advising you how to treat and store your water in the event of an emergency.

It is recommended you store at least 1 gallon of water per day (half for drinking and the other half for hygiene) for each person and each pet. This should be increased for hot climates, if a member of your group is pregnant or in poor health.
Store at least a 7day supply of water for each person and each pet (try to store a 14 day water supply if possible).

Before an emergency:

  • Stock up on water purification, sanitation and hygiene items.
  • Store your water containers and the rest of your kit where they are easily accessible.
  • Label your water containers clearly.
  • Take note of the expiry date for water purchased in stores (remembering to use and replace water nearing expiry).

Water Containers (Cleaning and Storage)

  • Commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply.
  • When storing your household water supply, use of food-grade water storage containers.
  • Before filling you water storage containers with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitise them:
    • Wash the container with a dishwashing liquid and water and rinse completely with clean water.
    • Sanitise the container by mixing 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water. Cover the container and shake it well so that the sanitising bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container. Wait at least 30 seconds and then pour the sanitising solution out of the container.
    • Let the empty sanitised container air-dry before use OR rinse the empty container with clean, safe water that already is available.

Avoid using the following containers to store safe water:

  • Containers that cannot be sealed tightly
  • Containers that can break, such as glass bottles
  • Containers that have been previously used for any toxic solid or liquid chemicals (includes old bleach containers)
  • Plastic or cardboard bottles, jugs, and containers used for milk or fruit juices

For proper water storage,

  • Label container as “drinking water” and include storage date.
  • Replace stored water that is not commercially bottled every six months.
  • Keep stored water in a place with a fairly constant cool temperature.
  • Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.
  • Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides are present.

Make Water Safe

Water often can be made safe to drink by boiling, adding disinfectants, or filtering.

IMPORTANT: Water contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals will not be made safe by boiling or disinfection. Use a different source of water if you know or suspect that water might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals.

Boiling

If you don’t have safe bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling is the surest method to make water safer to drink by killing disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

You can improve the flat taste of boiled water by pouring it from one container to another and then allowing it to stand for a few hours, OR by adding a pinch of salt for each quart or liter of boiled water.

If the water is cloudy,

  • Filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter OR allow it to settle.
  • Draw off the clear water.
  • Bring the clear water to a rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes).
  • Let the boiled water cool.
  • Store the boiled water in clean sanitized containers with tight covers.

If the water is clear,

  • Bring the clear water to a rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes).
  • Let the boiled water cool.
  • Store the boiled water in clean sanitized containers with tight covers.

Disinfectants

If you don’t have safe bottled water and if boiling is not practical, you often can make small quantities of filtered and settled water safer to drink by using a chemical disinfectant such as unscented household chlorine bleach. These disinfectants can kill most harmful or disease-causing  viruses and bacteria but are not as effective in controlling more resistant organisms such as the parasites Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

To disinfect water with unscented household liquid chlorine bleach:

  • Filter the water through a clean cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter OR allow it to settle.
  • Draw off the clear water.
  • Follow the instructions for disinfecting drinking water that are written on the label.
  • If the necessary instructions are not given, check the “Active Ingredient” part of the label to find the sodium hypochlorite percentage, and use the information in the following table as a guide. Typically unscented household liquid chlorine bleach will be 5.25%, 6%, or 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Add the following amount of bleach:
% Sodium Hypochlorite Drops per Quart/Liter/Gallon of Clear Water
If the water is cloudy, murky, colored, or very cold, double the amount of bleach added.
1% 10 drops per quart/liter – 40 drops per gallon
4-6% 2 drops per quart/liter – 8 drops per gallon
7-10% 1 drop per quart/liter – 4 drops per gallon
Unknown 10 drops per quart/liter – 40 drops per gallon
  • Stir the mixture well.
  • Let it stand for 30 minutes or longer before you use it.
  • Store the disinfected water in cleansanitized containers with tight covers.

To disinfect water with tablets that contain chlorine or iodine:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label or in the package.
    • Chlorine dioxide can be effective against Cryptosporidium if the manufacturer’s instructions are followed correctly.
    • Iodine and iodine-containing tablets (tetraglycine hydroperiodide) are not effective against Cryptosporidium.

Filters

Many portable water filters can remove disease-causing parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia from drinking water. If you are choosing a portable water filter, try to pick one that has a filter pore size small enough to remove both bacteria and parasites. Most portable water filters do not remove viruses.

Carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the water filter you intent to use. After filtering, add a disinfectant such as iodine, chlorine, or chlorine dioxide to the filtered water to kill any viruses and remaining bacteria. For more information about water filters, see the Water Treatment Resources section.

Distillation

You may also be able to make water safe by distilling it, or boiling water and collecting the steam in a clean container so it turns back into water.

Water Treatment Resources

To learn more about water filters and treatments that can remove microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites (such as Cryptosporidium), see the following resources:

  • A Guide to Water Filters

Finding Emergency Water Sources

Alternative sources of clean water can be found inside and outside the home. DO NOT DRINK water that has an unusual odor or color, or that you know or suspect might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals; use a different source of water.

The following are possible sources of water:

Inside the Home:

  • Water from your home’s water heater tank
  • Melted ice cubes made with water that was not contaminated
  • Liquid from canned fruit and vegetables

Listen to reports from local officials for advice on water precautions in your home. It may be necessary to shut off the main water valve to your home to prevent contaminants from entering your piping system.

Outside the Home

  • Rainwater
  • Streams, rivers, and other moving bodies of water
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Natural springs

Water from sources outside the home must be treated as described in Make Water Safe. DO NOT DRINK water that has an unusual odor or color, or that you know or suspect might be contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals; use a different source of water.

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