No one wants to imagine facing a disaster that makes fresh, clean drinking water inaccessible. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of emergencies that could disrupt your ability to draw safe water from your home’s faucets. Water is vital for daily life. We need it to drink, prepare our food, wash our clothes and dishes, clean our bodies and more. If it becomes unavailable due to a natural or manmade disaster or if your local water supply becomes contaminated, you have a serious emergency on your hands.
That’s why experts recommend always keeping a sufficient supply of water in your home. According to Ready.gov, that means storing no less than one gallon of water per person for a minimum of three days.
There are a few different options for gathering and safely storing water. Keep reading to learn more.
Storing Water from Your Own Supply
If the water you currently use comes from a public supplier or you have your own well, you can safely store it in clean plastic bottles with screw-on lids. Soda bottles and milk jugs work well. Begin by thoroughly washing each container with warm, soapy water. Next, sanitize with a solution consisting of one teaspoon of bleach to one gallon of water. Allow this solution to soak for two minutes and then empty and rinse thoroughly.
Fill each bottle or jug directly from the faucet. Put the cap on tightly and then label the container with the date stored and “Drinking Water.” Store the sealed containers in a dark place where they will remain cool and dry. If you have not used the water within six months, empty the jugs and repeat the process.
When you are facing an imminent emergency and are unable to get water from your own faucet, you need to get a bit more creative about finding it. First, there are all sorts of unexpected places in your home where you can find water. In an emergency, water from your water heater, plumbing pipes or even the ice cubes from your freezer is better than nothing.
There are also all sorts of outdoor sources for obtaining water. If you go this route, though, you will need to purify the water prior to drinking it or using it for cooking (more on water purification later). You may be able to source water from natural streams, rivers, ponds or lakes. Always stay away from floodwater, though, as it is likely to be contaminated with sewage.
When searching for a source of water, flowing water is preferable to stagnant water. Rivers and streams typically contain less harmful contaminants than ponds or lakes. Avoid things like mud puddles. Take a close look at the water. If it appears to have an oily slick on top, do not use it. Avoid saltwater, too. If you come across a source of water that seems clean but you are unable to identify any sort of wildlife around it, it may be best to avoid. It could be contaminated by something that you are unable to see or smell.
Rain is always a great source of water. Just make sure you purify it and store it correctly. There are many ways to gather and store rainwater.
Simple Water Purification Methods
After gathering water from an outdoor source, you need to purify it prior to drinking. Boiling is the easiest method; however, this does not remove synthetic chemicals or sediment. In a pinch, however, you can filter water through a plain white t-shirt to remove dirt. To purify using this method, bring water to a full, rolling boil for at least one to three minutes. Let cool and then store using the method detailed above. To give your boiled water a better flavor, pour it back and forth between two sanitized containers several times. This restores the oxygen.
You can also purify water using liquid bleach. If you choose to use this method, be sure to use regular bleach. Bleaches that are color-safe, scented or have additional cleaning agents are not safe to use for this purpose. All you need is regular household bleach that contains 5.25 percent hypochlorite.
To purify water using bleach, add 16 drops (or roughly an eighth of a teaspoon) to a gallon of water. Mix thoroughly and let the water stand for at least 30 minutes prior to use. When you smell the treated water, it should have a slight bleach odor. If not, repeat treatment and let stand for no less than 15 minutes. If the water still does not have a slight chlorine odor, discard and find another water source. If it does, bottle and store as outlined above.
Water Filtration and Purification Products
There are also several water filtration and purification products on the market that can be used to treat contaminated water in survival situations. Water purification straws allow you to instantly treat water and they’re small enough to fit in your pocket. Gravity-fed water filters are also popular choices. They don’t require any electricity and they come in a wide range of sizes to suit your individual needs. Unlike the bleaching or boiling methods, these products are also designed to filter out sediment.
On average, people need to drink about three-quarters of a gallon of fluid daily. Sick people, nursing mothers and children sometimes need more. People also tend to need more during hot weather. Keep this in mind when determining how much water you should store.
When facing an emergency situation, do not ration water until authorities tell you to do so. It is smarter to drink as much water as you need in a given day and find more the next day than to try to ration a small amount of water out over an extended period of time. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages when your water supply has been compromised as they can speed up dehydration. Saltwater and urine are not drinkable in emergencies for the same reason.
If you need to gather water from an outside source, be sure to follow the purification advice listed above. When using the bleaching or boiling methods, filter the water through a piece of cloth, such as a t-shirt, to remove larger contaminants.
Water is vital to life. With the tips above, you can ensure that you and your family have the safe drinking water you need in the event of an emergency.