Water is an essential element to survival and necessary in every emergency supplies kit. It is said that the average person can survive only three (3) days without water. Following a disaster, clean drinking water may not be available. Regular water sources could be cut-off or compromised through contamination. If evacuating, water sources will take on many undesireable and contaminated forms. Building a supply of water is only the beginning of preparing for an emergency. After the initial supply is gone, knowing how to collect and decontaminate subsequent supplies is crucial. The search for potable (drinkable) water sources should always be a major priority.
INITIAL CONSIDERATIONS & ACTIONS:
Calculate initial water storage amounts to be 1 gallon of water per day per person for a minimum of 3 days. Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water. Water use may increase for a medical emergency and warm weather climates and can double in very hot temperatures.
If the local water supply or well is contaminated, turn off the water supply to the residence/business.
When a working faucet is not available, consider these options. Filtering and Purification methods should always be applied.
Residence / Office: Hot Water Heater, Toilet, Ice Trays, Bath Tub, Hot Tub, Sink, Garden Hose. At the very first alert of a serious Emergency, fill all of these water reservoirs then turn off the public water supply to prevent internal water storage contamination from the outside. Try to prevent contamination of water sources but ALWAYS treat and filter water before use.
Community: swimming pools, water drainage systems, pot holes.
Nature: Ocean, lakes, ponds, streams, puddles, some plant leaves, vines.
Morning Dew Collection from surfaces by soaking up with rags
PURIFICATION & FILTERING METHODS:
Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom or strain them through coffee filters or layers of clean cloth. Be sure to have necessary materials in each emergency supplies kit for the chosen water treatment method.
Stand-alone commercial water filtering (gravity, charcoal, etc.) systems (that DO NOT connect to your household water supply) may be good alternatives but their effectiveness should be researched before relying on them as a safe and reliable water treatment method. Click here to see related water treatment products.
Removes other contaminants (heavy metals, salts, & most other chemicals)
Distillation: Distillation involves boiling water and then collection of only the vapor that condenses. The condensed vapor will not include salt or most other impurities. Fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled. Distillation removes a broad range of contaminants, which will stay behind in the liquid phase vessel, but some contaminants can be carried into the condensate. Distillation does purify water, but it can't remove all contaminants. Organics such as herbicides and pesticides, with boiling points lower than 100°C, cannot be removed efficiently and can actually become concentrated in the product water. So, don't confuse distilled water with 100% pure water. Careful maintenance is necessary to improve purity.
Boiling is the safest method of treating water. Protozoa and most bacteria (but not all) are killed at the first bubble. It takes about three minutes of full boil to kill the remaining bacteria. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil. Some water will evaporate but puttng a lid on the container will reduce evaporation. Let the water cool before drinking. Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers. This also will improve the taste of stored water. Boiling water does not eliminate chemical pollutants (including chlorine), poor taste or foul odors. The water can still contain particles. So filtering (through a handkerchief, for example) may be necessary.
Chlorination (bleach): You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Because the potency of bleach diminishes with time, use bleach from a newly opened or unopened bottle. Add 16 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 or 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
Iodine: Tincture liquid, crystals, tablets. Can be toxic if you use more than directed.
[Activated] Charcoal Filter: is effective on water & airborne contaminates. Scraped from burnt [hard] wood or purchased, crush & sandwich a thick layer between 2 cloth pieces to breathe thorough or strain water.
Commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable emergency water supply
Keep bottled water in its original container and do not open until you need to use it
Observe the expiration or "use by" date (about 18 months shelf life)
Personal water containers require special considerations
Do not use glass containers because they can break and are heavy
Use 2-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers
Do Not Use containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them
Before use, thoroughly clean containers with dishwashing soap & water & rinse completely
Sanitize: add a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household bleach to a quart of water
Swish sanitizing solution in the container so that it touches all surfaces
After sanitizing, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water
Fill container to the top with regular tap water*
Label the container with a 6-month "use by" date and Replace the water every six (6) months
Store all water in a cool, dark place
Reusing Expired Water: Consider water as a very valuable resource. Don't waste the drinking water, that has expired, by dumping it down the drain. Just because it should not be used for internal consumption, reuse it for washing the body, clothes or dishes, flushing the toilet, watering the garden, filling the car radiator or anything else that uses water. Always think about alternate uses for anything you are about to throw away.
* If the tap water has been commercially treated from a water utility with chlorine, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using. A slight chlorine odor should be noticeable in the water, if not, add another dose of bleach and allow the water to stand another 15 minutes. Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger.