Water Storage & Safety

We all need safe, clean water to survive and planning ahead can mean the difference between life and death in many emergency situations. Learning about water safety and water storage is truly important since we all take for granted having a reliable and on-demand supply ready and waiting for us whenever we want it. We need to know about general safety precautions, water storage techniques and what kind of walter filters to have during an unexpected shortage or contamination issue with our current supply.

If your normal supply is cut off or limited, you’ll be very glad to know you have water storage for just such a situation. Always have a reserve. However you decide to store water, remember, you will need at least one gallon, per person, per day for drinking food preparation and hygiene.

There are several different ways to improve water safety and quality and the best choice will depend on your individual circumstances. Depending on your source for water, you will find some methods simply aren’t practical.

The easiest way for most people to maintain small water storage supplies is to buy one-gallon sealed plastic jugs* from the grocery. It’s best if they can be kept in dark cool places such as in a basement. Check expiration dates and rotate your supply regularly. Most people can keep an adequate supply on hand for short term emergencies this way.

If your water storage needs are greater than an average size family and one-gallon jugs just aren’t practical, you will need to anticipate and prepare for your own specific needs. Carefully consider the quantity you need. If you store large quantities of water, be sure to test and protect it regularly. Water safety cannot be emphasized enough as drinking unprotected or unsafe water will often end up being worse than we think.

In most residential dwellings, you can also use the water in hot-water heaters, toilet tanks, (not toilet bowls!), and the water that rests in your household pipes as a backup supply. Always be certain the water is safe to use first and has not been contaminated. In many natural disasters it’s best to turn off the incoming water supply to the house or building before disaster strikes if at all possible. Do this by turning off the valve located directly next to, or in-line with your water meter if you are on city or municipal water. This helps prevent any contaminated water from entering your plumbing.

You should also have a back flow preventer valve installed on outside lawn/irrigation systems if they are connected to the same source as your drinking water. If you suspect that contaminated water has entered your plumbing system and you are at all concerned about water safety, sterilize any water you intend to use first.

If you live in an apartment building or any other multi-home dwelling, be aware of any potential situation that may be present with your building's water supply. Ask your landlord when the last time the water was tested. If seriously concerned, call your local health department and request an inspection for water safety. Older buildings may have water safety issues with dissolved metals and other contaminants present due to the age of the plumbing and/or delivery system.

If you use well water for cooking, drinking, and bathing, be absolutely certain to have your well(s) tested at least once each year. Be aware of any activities on neighboring land that might threaten your well. Many factors can lead to a well becoming contaminated. Animal waste, pesticides, fertilizers, contaminated storm runoff or other pollutants can be the end of a good well. Remember, have a certified and licensed professional test your water supply regularly. You can also test it yourself. Here's one of the best well water test kits we've found.

As we mentioned, you have some built-in water storage available to you in most dwellings. To use the water in your water heater and plumbing, open a faucet in the highest level in your home and collect water from lower level faucets. Drain water heaters from the valve/spicket/knob at the bottom of the unit.

Most swimming pool water can be used in an emergency but follow these steps; First remove the chlorine floater or any chlorine distribution system that you use. Don’t drink it if you’ve recently shocked the pool or have high chlorine or chemical levels - test it first. If you have a pool, you most likely have a testing kit. If you rely on a service to maintain your pool, purchase an inexpensive test kit and learn how to use it. It's very simple!

If your electricity is still working, run the pool pump for three to four hours first if possible to help remove some of the larger particles. Then filter, and sterilize by boiling or adding liquid chlorine as per the instructions on this page. Reminder: Do not drink pool water if the chlorine or other chemical levels are too high!

Step one of purification for water safety is to filter the water first to remove as many pathogens as possible. There are several types of filtration devices available. One simple step you can take is to purchase a Pitcher style container to keep in the fridge like this large capacity ultimate pitcher. They use charcoal filtration which helps eliminate some contaminants and can improve poor taste and reduce odor plus they help you to have a small quantity water storage in the fridge at all times. Other portable systems include ‘point-of use’ devices which are widely available and used by military, outdoorsmen and many others who need portable filtration and a reliable way to ensure water safety.

There are also whole-house systems, sink-top and under counter appliances, faucet filtration units and refrigerator water line filters. They use a variety of methods including reverse osmosis and charcoal filtration to help with water safety and quality.

It’s a good idea to have portable ‘point of use’ water filters on hand for emergencies. Most sporting goods stores carry them and they can help you choose the type that’s right for you. Be sure to consider the quantity of water you may need which will dictate the best solution. One small personal size unit is not going to filter enough water for an entire family. We’ll look at the best water filtration and purification products available for water safety at a later time but let’s learn about some basics first.

Boiling- Usually the most reliable way to sterilize water and help ensure water safety. Try to filter the water first then boil for at least five minutes. At higher elevations, it is necessary to boil water longer than five minutes. Let it cool before putting into clean containers. Try to store in cool, dark areas in airtight containers. Use within a few days time. Sterilization and water storage will be an on-going process during any lengthy emergency. Remember not to boil more than you can safely store and use in a short period of time.

Bleach - Use regular, unscented, no-additive liquid bleach only - eight drops per gallon. Mix thoroughly, let stand for 30 minutes, mix again, and let stand for 5 minutes before using. Use common sense here. If you have a bucket of brown dirty water, you need to filter it first until it is as clear as you can get it, then use the bleach. Using simple household bleach is a common and reliable practice for improved water safety.

Silver tablets can also destroy most bacteria - pharmacies and other online stores sell them but they can be expensive. If you choose this or an Iodine method be sure to follow the directions exactly.

Iodine tincture - In an emergency and when you cannot boil water or use liquid bleach to sterilize water, you may use Iodine ONLY if it is labeled 2% Iodine tincture. Carefully add 26-28 drops per gallon. Mix well. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Do not use for long periods of time. Pregnant women and anyone with thyroid problems should not use this method unless there is an extreme water shortage and no other option.

Ultraviolet light – It is used to purify and improve water safety and water storage supplies but can have drawbacks. If the UV light cannot penetrate the entire container of water, it will not purify it. An example would be if there are lots of dissolved solids present, the light wouldn’t be able to sufficiently penetrate all the water. It can work effectively if the water is clear but water should be filtered first to remove as many particulates and pathogens as possible then treated with UV light. Afterwards, don’t expose treated water to direct light, especially sunlight, or it can reverse the positive effects of UV Light purification.

In summary, if at all possible, try to filter water first using one or more of the various filtration products available. Next, sterilize it by boiling, liquid bleach, or other method. This two-step process ensures you’ve done all you can to make the water as safe as possible. Water safety and water storage are considered critical need components of all preparedness plans and should be some of your most important considerations.

Remember that in many emergency situations water storage and water safety are of primary concern so be prepared and buy at least one portable type filtration unit to have on hand. This is important advice you should take very seriously.

*The FDA has suggested that some plastic containers such as the ones water is stored and sold in may leach potentially harmful chemicals into the water. Most of this research points to plastic bottles and containers that have been subjected to high heat and/or sunlight. (Don’t drink that bottle of water left in your car from yesterday!) Don‘t store water in any high-temperature or sun-lit area.

more to come on Water Storage and Safety

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