How should I store water for emergencies?

Many circumstances can lead to power outages. For those whose water supply depends on electricity, it is probably prudent to have some drinking water stored. An emergency supply of water will ensure that if there is a lack of water due to a power outage, a blizzard, or other emergency you will be prepared.

How much water?

A normally active person needs to drink two quarts of water each day. Because additional water is needed for food preparation and hygiene, you should store a minimum of one gallon of drinking water per person, per day.

Extra water needed for flushing the toilet depends on the type (and age) of the unit. Newer toilets require about 2 gallons/flush but units older than 15 years often require 5 or more gallons. Drinking water quality is not necessary here, so precautions are not necessary to protect its quality.

How many daysí supply of water are needed? Thatís hard to say. It seems prudent to prepare for at least 2 or 3 days without power or without water.

How to Store Emergency Water Supplies

The Federal Emergency Management Agency gives the following instructions for ensuring the purity of stored water:

You can store your water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances, because tiny amounts may remain. Sound food-grade plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, work well. You can also purchase food-grade plastic jugs, buckets or drums.

Water primarily for flushing toilets could be stored in 5-gallon buckets or jugs, barrels, drums, or containers you have available such as laundry tubs or bathtubs.

If you will be storing your water for more than a week or so, treat it with a preservative, such as chlorine bleach, to prevent the growth of microorganisms. Use liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite and no soap. Some bleach containers warn, "Not For Personal Use." You can disregard these warnings if the label states sodium hypochlorite is the only active ingredient and if you use only the small quantities required. Add four drops of bleach per quart of water (or two scant teaspoons per 10 gallons), and stir. Seal your water containers tightly, label them and store them in a cool, dark place.

Purifying water

If you have access to water, but it is not of drinking water quality, you can often purify the water. In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.

There are many ways to purify water. None are perfect. Four easy purification methods are outlined below. These measures will kill microbes but will not remove other contaminants.

Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes, 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 it back and forth between two containers. This will also improve the taste of stored water.

Chlorination uses liquid chlorine bleach to kill microorganisms. Add two drops of bleach per quart of water (four drops if the water is cloudy), stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not taste and smell of chlorine at that point, add another dose and let stand another 15 minutes.

Purification tablets release chlorine or iodine. They are inexpensive and available at most sporting goods stores and some drugstores. Follow the package directions. Usually one tablet is enough for one quart of water. Double the dose for cloudy water.

Portable filtration units are available at sporting and other stores. They are intended for use by hikers, and are usually effective at removing suspended solids and bacteria.