One of the most important and yet most neglected areas of emergency food storage is water! Most home emergency food storage theory and practices are heavily reliant on dried foods like rice, beans, wheat, freeze dried fruit or vegetables and powdered milk. If you live in an urban environment where water and rain is abundant you could get away with storing small amounts of water but will you have enough?
What will you do if the water becomes polluted with nuclear fallout? Or massive earth changes force you and your family to stay inside? Don’t rely on your current environment for you future post emergency water needs. You’ll be living in a very different world!
If you live in an apartment or don’t have a yard, you’ll have to store water inside your home. Water takes up a lot of space and so storing it all will be quite tricky. It will be best to get a few long-term water storage containers and place them in your garage or closet. If purchasing a few barrels is out of the question, you can use another container such as water bottles. If the disaster is imminent and you don’t have proper stockpile of water, store water in every container you can find including milk jugs, pots, buckets, the sink and bathtub. If you live in an environment vulnerable to freezing temperatures be sure to leave enough air space to handle the expansion of freezing water.
How much water will you need to store? Well it’s recommended that everyone has at least 4 to 6 liters per day just for drinking but if you also factor in sanitation and cooking needs you’re looking at roughly 10 liters per person per day! That’s the bare minimum so if you have a family of 5 and you’re looking to store enough water for 20 days… you’re looking at 1000 liters or 264 gallons! Will you have enough room for all that stored water? Just to put things in perspective, the average North American uses about 350 liters per day! Will you be able to handle a mere 10 liters?
Despite your massive amounts of stored water, it’s still unreliable. You can’t completely rely on it since your home can burn down or collapse. You may find yourself completely depleted of water supplies. If that’s the case, your best defense is to have a really good water filter (I recommend a Katadyn filter) that can remove organisms and parasites from dirty water. Equipped with a good water filter, you can safely use disgusting water found in gutters, puddles, and other questionable sources. If your city is located near the ocean, it would also be advisable to get a desalinization filter system
For the optimal storage of water you’ll have to keep your drinking water safe from contamination. Also because sunlight has an adverse affect on plastic, water should be stored away from direct exposure to sunlight. Preventing contamination can be done by carefully storing in clean, noncorrosive, tightly capped containers or bottles. If you have money to burn you could just buy water from the stores, it will stay pure for months and the expiration date is clearly marked on it. If you decide to bottle your own water, follow these steps to sanitize your water bottles and containers:
- Preferably you’ll want one gallon containers made of heavy opaque plastic with screw on caps. Plastic milk jugs are not recommended since they break down rapidly.
- Wash the bottles and containers you’ve acquired with soapy water and rinse them thoroughly.
- Fill just one of the containers 3/4 up with water.
- Add 3/4 of a cup (750 ml) of bleach to the water.
- Shake the container well, and turn it upside down so the cap of the container will be sterilized as well.
- Let the bleach/water solution stand for about two to three minutes.
- Then pour the solution into another clean container and repeat step 5. If the containers are clean you can re-use the same liquid solution for several containers.
- Fill the empty, sterilized bottles with purified water and cap them tightly.
- Label the containers “Water – Purified” and mark down the date of preparation.
There are several other methods to sterilize your containers. Aside from bleach, you can also use a vinegar solution and if no bleach or vinegar is available, a saline solution (salt water) will be adequate.
Over time the water will start tasting flat and it might even gain a disagreeable odor and appearance. The water may look contaminated but it doesn’t mean the water is harmful. The chemicals used for purification and sterilization could’ve just broken down or the water lost some of its oxygen. If you’ve followed the steps above you can be pretty confident that the water is safe to drink. If the water tastes flat, aerate it. If the water has a bad odor or appearance, boil it before drinking just to be safe. Inspect your water supply every month and look for small leakages and other undesirable conditions that may have developed.
The shelf life of water most largely depends on the original level of purification and the temperature at which it’s stored. Treated water out of the tap (which has been chlorinated) has a shelf life of about 10 years. Water that has been stored for an extended period of time should be boiled just to be sure. Purified water should be safe for drinking for many years if stored in clean, food-safe containers with secure caps.
One major problem for some survivors will be winter. If your winters go below freezing temperatures your water storage containers are liable to burst since water expands when turning into ice. If the temperature goes below freezing and the source of heat to your shelter is cut off, your emergency water supply can entirely be destroyed. An easy remedy to this is to empty out 1/4 the water from each container and loosen up the caps and seals to allow air to escape.