Updated: Mar 14, 2020
Lets face it. Most of us don't give a second thought about our access to water. We get so used to just turning on a tap and having drinkable water, that we often forget that emergencies can occur in which tap water is not available. Most water pumps are electric. If an emergency occurs that causes a large scale power outage, the pumps no longer work. Other emergencies can occur such as chemical spills and source contamination. In this guide we will be discussing how to store water safely and what NOT to do.
Ideally, you should have a professional water storage system in place, but in reality most of us do not have the money or space. It's important to know how you can store water safely in an emergency situation.
1. Not all plastic containers are the same. Some plastics release more toxic VOC's into the water, especially if it is exposed to sunlight, than others. Ideally you want a UV protected container made of plastics #1 #2 and #4. You should be able to tell what kind of plastic the container is made out of by an imprint, usually at the bottom of the container. If unsure what type of plastic it is, try going online and searching for "what number plastic is _____ made of" The longer you plan to store the water the more important this becomes because VOC's build up in the water over time.
2. Water does not "go bad" in storage but it CAN be contaminated by microbes, and a moist dark environment makes "bugs" very happy. Make sure that whatever container you are using is thoroughly cleaned with hot water, dish soap and thoroughly rinsed. Even then the container is not completely sterile. If you live somewhere with chlorinated water then great! You can put it into the container and store for up to 6 months. However if you do not have chlorinated water or you plan on running it through a filter first, then you need to add it yourself. Add 1/8th of a teaspoon of unscented chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water. This is the amount recommended by CDC and the FDA. This is a completely safe amount to drink even for babies and small children. It is important not to skip this step as your water can become contaminated and cause serious, life threatening illnessess.
3. Make sure that containers are tightly sealed and kept out of sunlight if not UV protected. A tight fitting lid is important to prevent contamination. Note: Even clear plastic bottles of soda and bottled water can release VOC's in the sun if left for an extended period of time.
4. DO NOT use any container that has been used to store toxic chemicals such as, gas, cleaning solutions, or any other toxic substance. You can use plastic cat litter containers, soda bottles, washed out cooking oil container's and just about anything used to store food or drink for a living creature.
5. Metal containers can be used to store water as long as they are lined to prevent rust. In an emergency, trash bags can be used to line metal containers. Other containers like trash cans and even cardboard boxes can be lined with plastic trash bags. It is not recommended for long term storage but can be used for up to a month in an emergency situation. The black trash bags are the most recomended. Again make sure if you use this method that the containers are kept out of the sun as plastic garbage bags WILL release VOC's.
6. In a sudden emergency, clean out your bathtub and sinks with a chlorine based cleaner, rinse well and fill. This is not a long term solution but if you know that a situation where you will lose water is immanent, this method can be used until a more permanent solution is found.
7. Store your filled water containers out of the sunlight and in as cool of a place as possible. This minimizes the amount of VOC's released and help retard the growth of microbes
8. When storing large quantities of water make sure to rotate the supply so that you are drinking the oldest water first. Disinfected, uncontaminated water stored in a proper container can last for at least 6 months.
For information on how much water to store for you or your family, please read the guide, "How much is enough, Rationing" This will tell you the minimum amount of water you need to store for you and your family for the amount of time you are planning to need it. How to get water from natural sources such as rivers and lakes will be covered in a guide regarding emergency survival, soon to come.