Do you know what the five most common contaminants in water are?
I’ll provide you with the answer at the end. In the meantime, I want to remind you how important it is to have plenty of clean drinking water stored in your home.
Unfortunately, most people do not do this. They may have survival food stockpiled – which, of course, is a great idea – but most don’t have a good supply of water.
Natural and manmade disasters have the potential to contaminate the water coming out from your taps. In fact, if the crisis is bad enough, nothing might come out of your faucets for a while.
How much do I need?
How much water should you stockpile? Figure on one gallon per day per person in your home for drinking. And another half-gallon per person for washing and cleaning.
That might seem like a lot. But when you consider that the average American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing, teeth brushing, hand washing, cooking and flushing the toilet, it’s really not.
If you have pets, you need to include them in the equation as you determine how much water you should store.
Some people feel that three days’ worth of water is enough. But many emergencies go on longer than that. I’d aim for at least two weeks. Or better yet, as much as you have room for.
Where should it come from?
What kind of water should you store? While there’s no guarantee that bottled water you purchase at the store is pure, it’s generally better than tap water.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this. “Unopened, commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable source of water in an emergency.” But be sure to observe expiration dates.
Another option is to purify your tap water and keep it in durable containers. This is a much more economical way to stockpile water. And it really only needs to be done for the water you’re planning to drink.
Either way, make sure to keep your water out of sunlight, which can promote algae and bacteria growth. Store it in a cool, dark place away from chemicals. Make sure you use airtight lids.
And your water should be kept in an area where it won’t get knocked over. Avoid high places. As well as areas that might be difficult to access if there were a natural or manmade disaster. Keep it locked away if you think looting is a possibility.
When should I drink it?
How will you know when it’s time to dip into your water stockpile? An obvious time would be when your taps stop working.
Not so obvious could be when tap water becomes unsafe to drink. This can occur following flooding. But you can’t always tell just by looking at it.
Listen closely to what local officials are saying. They may give a boil order. You can also disinfect tap water with chlorine bleach.
But if you’re unsure about the quality of the tap water, use some of your stockpiled water. That’s what it’s there for.
7 more water storage tips
Here are a few more tips for storing water at home.
- Use multiple sizes of containers. You’re going to want to store a good quantity of water. But don’t store it all in large containers. Keep in mind that water is heavy and some family members may not be able to safely handle larger containers. Plus, you might need to be mobile, so make sure you have several different sizes for water storage.
- Choose food-grade barrels. Most people use blue, polyethylene plastic water storage barrels for large quantities. These will differentiate your water from other items such as fuel. And they won’t taint your water with toxins.
- Clean your containers. Dilute one teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water. Then wash the insides, lids and lips of your containers. Cover the container and shake it well. Let it sit for 30 seconds, then rinse the container completely before filling with your water. Never store water in a container that has been used to store other materials.
- Label and date containers. This is more important than you might think. It might not be you who has to access this water in an emergency. Mark the fill date and make it clear what is in the container, as well as the source (tap, filtered, ground water, etc.).
- Don’t let it freeze. This is one many people forget about. Freezing not only means your water could be useless before it thaws, but it will probably crack its container if it freezes solid.
- Use filters. You may need to filter your water before you store it. You should also have a plan for filtering water in an emergency in case your water becomes contaminated.
- Replace your water annually. If you properly seal and store your water, it should last for at least a year. Six months is safer. But proper storage can be difficult, especially for large quantities. Periodically dump your water, wash your containers and fill them back up.
As promised, here are the five most common water contaminants:
- Nitrates. These are chemicals found in fertilizer, manure, and liquid waste coming from septic tanks and plumbing systems.
- Arsenic. This is a metallic substance found organically in small amounts within nature. It’s also found in industrial hazardous waste.
- Microorganisms, bacteria and viruses. Many of these are harmless. But some such as E. coli and legionella can be dangerous.
- Aluminum. This can be found in the earth’s soil and air, so naturally it shows up in water as well. It’s linked to a number of health issues.
- Fluoride. In 2015, the U.S. Public Health Service finally lowered its recommended levels of fluoride in drinking water. Evidence has grown that risks from consuming fluoridated water may outweigh any benefits.
Clean water is absolutely essential for our survival. Make sure you have plenty of it ready for drinking and other uses during a crisis.