Storing water for emergencies is one of the most important things you can do. Most people can survive for several days or weeks without food but only a few days without water. If possible, store one gallon per day per person for two weeks. Don't forget to include your pets.
Store one gallon per day per person for two weeks
Having clean water is essential for drinking, cooking and washing your hands. Store one gallon a day for each person for two weeks, if possible. After a major earthquake, it may take two weeks or more for emergency supplies to arrive. Until then, each of us will depend on our own supplies. Buying bottled water is the easiest and safest way to store water. Follow these tips and guidelines to stay hydrated.
Hydration dos and don'ts
- Do drink the amount of water you need, using water you know is not contaminated first.
- Do limit your physical activity if possible. The more active you are, the more water your body uses.
- Do pay special attention to the hydration of children, older adults, those who are ill and pets as they can become dehydrated more easily.
- Don’t drink sugary drinks, alcohol, caffeine or carbonated beverages. They dehydrate the body and increase your need for water.
- Don’t eat overly salted foods like potato chips, pretzels or salted nuts. They will make you thirstier.
- Don’t treat water which has been contaminated with chemicals or oils. None of the safe water treatments can make it safe for drinking.
How to purify water
Use only safe or purified water to cook, mix baby formula or other drinks, wash baby bottles or your dishes, brush your teeth and wash your hands! There is no way to clean or purify water contaminated with oil or chemicals.
Option 1: Boiling In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute. Some of the water will evaporate so don’t leave it boiling any longer. Let the water cool before using.
Option 2: Bleach Treat water with unscented liquid bleach that is 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use gel, scented or ultra-strength bleach. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or eight drops from an eye dropper) to each gallon of water. Let stand 30 minutes before using. If the water looks cloudy, repeat the process and let it stand for 15 minutes. If the water doesn’t smell of bleach, discard it.
Emergency clean water sources
An earthquake or water system issue can leave you without running water. Storing water is the best way to be prepared. If you need water in an emergency and cannot purchase it, below are tips for safely collecting water.
Hot water tank
Your hot water tank holds 30 to 80 gallons of safe drinking water. Act now to keep it safe in an earthquake by strapping it to the wall. After a major earthquake or flood, protect the water in your water heater from contamination by turning off your home's incoming water valve.
To access water from your water heater in an emergency, follow these steps:
- Turn off the gas or electricity before accessing the water heater.
- Turn off your water heater's water supply.
- Let air into your water heater. You can do this by opening a relief valve located on the side of your tank or by turning on a hot water faucet in the house.
- Connect a food-grade hose to the drain valve at the lower portion of the tank. Turn the handle or use a screwdriver to slowly open the drain valve. Collect the water, filtering out any sediment using a clean dishcloth or t-shirt.
Outdoor water sources
Other possible sources of water are rainwater, swimming pools, ponds, lakes or moving streams and rivers. Never use water with oil spills or other chemical contaminants. If the water looks safe, collect and disinfect. Be sure to use a clean cloth to filter it before boiling or using bleach as described in the How to purify water section.
Bottle water for storage
Bottled water you buy is the easiest and safest way to store water. Bottling water at home can be cheaper but is more work and you need to change the water every six months. Follow these steps to safely bottle your own water.
Choose a container made to hold water. Do not use any that held milk or juice. Use dish soap and clean water to wash it well, including the cap. Rinse well with clean water. Next prepare a bleach solution with one teaspoon of unscented bleach to four cups of water and pour into your container. Cover tightly with the lid and shake well for 30 seconds, making sure the bleach covers all surfaces of your container. Empty and air dry. When you fill your container, make sure not to touch the inside of the bottle or cap. Fill with water to the very top. If you are using water you have boiled or disinfected, you will need to add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach to each gallon. Make sure the cap is on tight. Label and date the container so you know when you filled it.
Store your water in an easy-to-access place that is dark and cool. Change water every six months and repeat the container cleaning steps above.