How-to Maintain a Water Supply in Emergency Situations
In a civil emergency or the aftermath of a severe weather event, the municipal water supply could become polluted or otherwise unusable. Even if you have a well, you need electricity in order to pump the water. It is a good idea to plan for an emergency drinking water supply for your household. Establishing an emergency water supply requires just a little planning and some inexpensive supplies, but the peace of mind that it provides is invaluable.
How Much Water You Need
The general rule for how big of an emergency supply of water to maintain is 1 gallon per person or pet, per day. If you live in a hot climate, or your household includes a pregnant or nursing mother or someone with an illness, you may need more water. At minimum, you should have a three-day supply of emergency water. As you build up your emergency supplies, aim for a two-week supply of emergency drinking water for your household. In addition to the water, also store 1 gallon of unscented sodium hypochlorite, or laundry bleach, at a concentration of 5 to 8.25 percent. This bleach can be used to disinfect rainwater.
Purchasing Bottled Water
A simple way to have an emergency supply of water is to buy bottled water. It can be in 1 or 5-gallon containers. Store it with your other emergency supplies in a place where floodwater would not damage it. Rotate the supply every six months. Buying bottled water is typically the priciest option for maintaining an emergency water supply, but it is convenient and does not require any other materials or supplies.
Storing Your Own Water
Purchase food-grade plastic buckets. Sanitize them with diluted bleach. Once dry, you can add safe tap water. Seal the containers. Label the outside of the containers with the date that the water was collected. Replace this water every six months. Keep in mind that in an emergency, your water heater’s tank of water and the water in the toilet tanks can be used. Shut off the connection to the water main so these vessels do not get refilled with contaminated water.
Another way to maintain emergency water is to catch rainwater. You could get a non-BPA plastic drum and place it at the end of your cleaned and sanitized rain gutter or downspout. The drum will collect water as it comes off your roof during a rainstorm. The drum should have a cover so debris and mosquitoes do not get into it. You will need to disinfect the rainwater with bleach before using it. You need 16 drops of bleach per 1 gallon of water. If the water looks cloudy, pour it through a coffee filter before drinking it. If the water tastes flat, rapidly pour it from one container to another a few times to aerate it. Add a pinch of salt to enhance the taste. During an emergency, you can use a clean plastic container to catch rainwater as it falls from the sky, then boil it at a rolling boil for one minute, allow it to cool, then drink it.
Distillation of Tap Water
When you have exhausted your supply of commercially bottled water and treated rainwater, you may need to use tap water. Even if the authorities have issued a boil advisory, you can use the water by distilling it. Boiling the water for at least one minute gets rid of most of the microbes that cause disease. Distillation is a process that also removes salts and chemicals, which could be important in the case of an earthquake, chemical leak or flood that has contaminated the city’s water supply. To distill water, collect a pot of tap water. Fill it halfway. Tie a cup onto the handle of the pot’s lid so the cup is right side up when the lid is on the pot. The cup should be inside of the pot, but it should not be in or touching the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes with the lid on. The water that turns into steam will condense into the cup. The distilled water is free of heavy chemicals, salt and microbes.
By having a plan in place, you will have an emergency supply of water should the need arise.
Abby is a contributing writer for Affordable American Containers.