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WATER AND YOUR EMERGENCY KIT

by Shaun Partlow, PR CERT

 

There are many other choices and ideas on how to go about creating your disaster-supply kit. And, of course, there is much more to a good disaster kit that what I'll put here. 

It's pretty easy to calculate your water needs for your disaster-preparedness kit.

Your water needs can be reduced by smart  food and sanitation choices.

Your water needs can be reduced by smart  food and sanitation choices.

The amount of water per person is often listed as one gallon per day, but that number is calculated as needing 2 quarts (or liters) for cooking and cleaning. If you've taken my advice and chosen to use MREs instead of freeze-dried camp food or canned food, MREs eliminate most of that need since there is no need for water to heat and no clean up. If you, additionally, use gel hand sanitizer (have plenty of that on hand!) I estimate you could reduce your need to 2 to 3 liters of water per person per day. 

A good emergency kit should have supplies for a minimum of 72 hours. If you can reduce your water, you can reduce the space and work to store it and extend far past the three-day minimum with less storage and upkeep needs. 

But once you've got the right amount for your family, how are you going to store it? 

Safely storing water is crucially important, because it doesn't matter how much of it you've got if it's not safe to drink.

Here's my tips on how to safely store water.

STAY HYDRATED!

There's a lot of debate about this, but you can use clear plastic such as the Alhambra bottles to store your water. There is disagreement about whether you need to add chlorine if you are using city tap water that has already been chlorinated.

Alhambra and similar spring water is presumably not chlorinated, so keep that in mind.

Clear spring-water bottles work, but the water inside is not chlorinated.

Clear spring-water bottles work, but the water inside is not chlorinated.

Sealing your water for storage, however, is essential  — no loose caps or loosely attached plastic.

How long can you store the water? Six months to five years or more, depending on which resource you read.

HOW TO STORE YOUR WATER

The New Zealand government instructs this for water storage:

  • Wash bottles thoroughly in hot water.
  • Fill each bottle with tap water until it overflows.
  • Add five drops of household bleach per litre of water (or half a teaspoon for 10 litres) and put in storage. Do not drink for at least 30 minutes after disinfecting.
  • Do not use bleaches that contain added scent or perfume, soaps, or other additives — they can make people sick.
  • Label each bottle with dates showing when the bottles were filled and when they need to be refilled.
  • Check the bottles every 12 months. If the water is not clear, throw it out and refill clean bottles with clean water and bleach.
  • Store bottles away from direct sunlight in a cool dark place. Keep them in two separate places and where there is not likely to be flooding.

I like these steps because they give you the common sense instructions to look and see if the water is still clear. If it is, no need to change it. It will taste flat, by the way, if it has been stored a while.

Waterbricks aren't cheap, but they stack well.

Waterbricks aren't cheap, but they stack well.

Water can be rotated every year and, as long as it was clear, no need to wash out the bottles — just add the few drops of bleach.

If you want to invest in something more than spring-water bottles, you can also use stackable food grade water storage containers, such as Waterbrick or containers from camping supply places like REI this or this. The second of these two links are not stackable when filled, but they go well on sturdy shelving.

There are resources for much larger containers if you like.