While teaching an Urban Survival class this past weekend, the topic of storing your own drinkable water came up in conversation many times. How much water you should have on hand, how you bottle it, and where you store it are the three most common concerns.
So let us suppose for a moment that your town’s or region’s normal water supply has been cut off. You’ll be on your own for drinking, cooking, and some basic hygiene. In the realm of water, being prepared for emergencies means keeping water on hand, and also being ready to disinfect more water as needed.
How much water do you need on hand? One gallon per person per day is a good minimum for drinking water, but the wildcard is the number of days you are planning to be on your own without replenishing your supply. The 72-hour standard seems a little short if you are talking true preparedness. Enough water for a few weeks or months becomes unreasonable quickly, when you consider how much of your home would be filled with jugs or barrels of water. Five gallons per person will get you going, and if you are frugal with your water, five gallons could last one person for more than a week.
How do you store it? While not the cheapest solution, one option is to purchase several five-gallon water cooler jugs that are factory packed. These are prepared to be safe to drink after a year’s worth of storage time. For even longer turn-key water storage, you could invest in pouched or canned water. Most pouches are rated for 5-year storage and the canned water boasts a 30-year shelf life.
Or you could fill your own containers. This is surprisingly more sanitary if you are using a municipal water source, as the water is already treated with disinfectants. If you are using well water or spring water, you’ll need a little more disinfection at the time you are packaging.
Make sure you use food-grade water containers. Reliance Aqua-Tainers are storage jugs that hold 7 gallons, are BPA free, stack neatly and have a built-in spigot. You could also refill water cooler jugs or any other clean water-friendly containers. Avoid the use of milk jugs and other containers that could invite bacteria. If you’re pouring well water or spring water into your own containers, drip in two drops of bleach for each quart of water. This will disinfect the water and give you several months of safe storage, especially in cooler temps. Tap water that has already been treated could use a bit of disinfectant, so add just 1 drop of bleach per quart.
Store your water in a cool, dark, secure location and don’t forget about it. Use it for something practical every few months and refill your containers, just as you did originally. Over time, your water may “go bad” by growing bacteria and other organisms, but it never stops being water. You can simply treat stored water that is questionable by boiling for ten minutes; treating it with 2 drops of bleach per quart and waiting 1 hour before consuming it; or running it through a proper, store-bought water filter.
Got some good water storage tips? Let’s hear them in the comments.