Emergency Preparedness -- Water

You can’t have too much water. It’s used for many things other than drinking, such as cooking, hygiene, possible first aid needs, pets, etc. So how much do you need?

General rule: 1 gallon per person, per day minimum. Consider doubling that amount. If possible, store enough for 2-3 weeks. Remember to include water for pets.

  • Water will likely be the first relief item that will be brought in, but don’t count on seeing any of it for at least a couple of weeks, so you’ll be on your own until then. And even then, everyone will need it, so it’ll be in short supply for a while.

Use containers designed to hold water

  • Bottled water has no expiration date

  • Avoid storing water in containers that have held other things

    • Milk jugs are designed for short term use and do not hold up for long term water storage

    • Exceptions are 2-litre pop bottles; be sure to clean & sterilize before filling

  • BPA free 5 to 7 gallon containers are made specifically to store water and are widely available in retail stores

  • Water storage barrels are BPA free and offer a larger volume with minimal footprint; however, there is little portability, so water needs to be hand pumped into smaller containers for use

  • Smaller containers are easier to handle

    • Water weighs 8.3 lbs per gallon

Store in a cool, dry place where it won’t be subject to freezing, high heat or sunlight

  • Storing water takes space.

  • Store in more than one location, i.e. garage, closet, under bed

How long can it be stored? There is a lot of information available, and not all is consistent

  • Some recommend using bleach to preserve it; rotate it out every 6 to 12 months

  • Products are sold specifically to treat water for long term storage, up to five years, i.e. Aquamira, Water Preserver Concentrate,

    • However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or can’t rotate it out before then

How do I know it’s safe to drink?

Purifying or boiling water will only remove bacteria and viruses. If you suspect the water is unsafe because of chemicals, oils, poisonous substances, sewage or other contaminants, do not drink the water. Don't drink water that is dark colored, has an odor or contains solid materials

Boiling is the best method to kill disease-causing organisms. Bring it to a full rolling boil for one minute, let cool

Water Purification Tablets are an excellent way to ensure safer drinking water without having to rely on a heat source to boil water.

Disinfect it with liquid bleach

  • Use regular bleach with 5.25% - 6% sodium hydrochloride (read labels!) Avoid scented and splashless bleach products

  • Bleach has a shelf life; six months is the recommended shelf life to use as a disinfectant

  • How much is needed? The Clorox Company says it takes two drops per liter or quart and eight drops per gallon. For cloudy or murky water, they recommend doubling the amount. “Cloudy” and “murky” are subjective terms, so the KISS principle is recommended: use 4 drops per liter/quart and 16 drops per gallon for all water

  • A quarter teaspoon rounds to 25 drops; 16 drops is about 2/3rds of a quarter teaspoon

    • Tape an eyedropper or quarter teaspoon measure to your bleach container

To use bleach as a disinfectant:

1. If there are any particles visible in the water, filter through fine cloth. Cheese cloth, a t-shirt, and coffee filters are good options. Pour the water into a sanitized container.

2. Add the proper amount of bleach for your container size and mix well.

3. Wait 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes, you detect the smell of bleach in the water, it’s okay for use.

4. If no bleach smell, add bleach again and wait another 30 minutes. If you smell bleach, it’s okay. If you still have no bleach smell, find another water source.

5. Bleach is extremely caustic and can do severe damage to internal organs in an undiluted form but it is not poisonous and is safe to drink in your water up to the point where you can’t tolerate the taste.

A Water Filter / Drinking Straw enables you to filter water from almost any source and make it drinkable. You can store only so much water, and we are surrounded by creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes that could all be used as water sources, in addition to rain barrels or other catchment devices. A proper filter can render water from these sources free of harmful bacteria and protozoa and make it potable.

  • Keep a water straw in your vehicle(s) as well

Sources of Water

There are numerous sources around us:

  • Your water heater has 40-50 gallons of fresh water in it all the time.

    • Turn off the water heater after a disaster and close the intake valve at the top.

    • It helps to have a short length of hose with an in-line shut-off valve to attach to the spigot on the water heater. Most of them are plastic and not made to be turned on and off.

    • Filter any sediment through cheesecloth or a t-shirt

  • Rain water, using a tarp and buckets, or a rain barrel

  • Swimming pools

  • Water from natural sources, such as streams, rivers, lakes and ponds

Unless you are 100% confident that you did not contaminate the water in the process of storing it, you need to disinfect before drinking. If in doubt, disinfect.

Questions? Contact info@CERTClarkCountyWA.com