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Home Around the House General Tips Finding & Purifying Emergency Water Supplies

Finding & Purifying Emergency Water Supplies


Even Gever the Dog doesn't want to drink dirty water.

In the event of an emergency, many people plan ahead with stores of non-perishable food, but often neglect to include water. While a human being can last weeks without food, even the healthiest person cannot last more than a few days without water. Experts say that enough food and water should be on hand for at least three days of self-sufficiency. With one gallon of water a day the recommended intake to ensure proper hydration, that often means people don’t get the water they need once water supplies are cut.

Be mindful of news from the radio and television during a disaster, as authorities may indicate that tap water supplies have been contaminated and are not safe to use. To prevent this, it is a good idea to shut off your own water main before an event, to ensure that contaminated water does not get into your pipes, and remains drinkable, should you need it.

You should store at least three gallons of bottled water, per person, and per pet in your home. This will ensure a minimum supply of three days. If you do not have bottle water handy, and a storm or major weather even is imminent, you can use food grade water containers (such as those available from a sporting goods store) to store water SHORT TERM. In a real pinch, you can even fill up sinks and tubs with water if you have a drain plug, though a thorough washing (and rinsing) is in order.


Alternatively, you can buy water in a pre-prepared emergency kit, which offers a very portable alternative to bottled water, and is very well suited for the trunk of a car.

A last method is to freeze water into ice trays or plastic containers for long-term storage in one’s freezer. This method is excellent, as ice has a potable shelf life that lasts as long as it remains frozen.  Just be sure to leave two to three inches of airspace to allow expansion of the ice.


  • Don’t ration water. We recommend storing a gallon a day per person as a general rule and for a margin of safety. A normally active person needs two quarts of water a day. Under no circumstances should you drink less.
  • Don’t keep any stored water for more than six months.
  • Don’t store water in any container that can’t be sealed airtight.
  • Don’t use bottled water past it’s expiration date.
  • Don’t use breakable containers, such as glass.
  • Don’t use a container that has ever held a toxic substance.
  • Don’t use plastic milk containers. They break down over time and are difficult to clean
  • Don’y use water in your pipes or water heater if there’s any chance that the water has been contaminated. It’s also not safe to bathe with it. It is OK to use it to flush toilets.
  • Don’t store water on the floor of your basement. Flooding can contaminate it.
  • Don’t trust home filtration systems of any kind to clean your water, be it a reverse osmosis (RO), activated carbon or a water softener unit


Alternate Sources
You may find yourself in situations where bottled water isn’t available. Don’t panic. Just keep your head cool, and remember that three quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered with the stuff.

Inside a home or office, the first place you can look is a water heater.  Make certain that the electricity or gas is turned off, first. Then, drain the water into a container through the drain spout.

Water can also often be had from within your pipes. When your water supply is cut off, you may lack the water pressure to get the water out, but it can be done. Open a faucet on the top floor of your home, and then, open another at the lowest point in your home to collect the water into a storage container.

Most often overlooked, is the storage tank of the toilet. Mind you, we aren’t talking about the bowl, and while Fido may be perfectly inclined to drink from that, we don’t recommend that even for him.  As long as the tank does NOT have any chemicals in it (blue water is usually a dead giveaway) the water should be perfectly safe to drink, provided you use a purification method mentioned later.

In the days before the kitchen sink, and even wells, humans got their water from a variety of sources: rivers, streams and other moving bodies of water, springs, ponds and lakes, and yes, even rain, and snow collecting in your gutters. Provided that this water is not polluted with chemicals or industrial pollutants, it can be treated to be drinkable.


Treating Water
1. Collect water in a storage container and allow it to sit, letting sediments sink to the bottom.
2. Pour the water into another container, using a coffee filter or piece of cloth.
3. Bring the water to a complete boil, and let it boil for a whole minute. This is sufficient for elevations at sea level until 2000 feet. At higher elevations will want to boil it an extra minute for every additional 2000 feet. Don’t over boil the water however, as it concentrates non-volatile chemical additives.
4. Let the water cool for 30 minutes, and then re-oxygenate the water by pouring it back and forth from other containers. This will improve the taste!
5. Now you will want to add common household chlorine bleach to disinfect and kill organisms that boiling could not kill. Add 8 drops  (1/8 teaspoon) for ever 2 liters of water or 16 drops (1/4 teaspoon) for every gallon. Do not use a bleach with added fragrances or soaps.
6. Let the water stand for 30 minutes to allow the chlorine to do its work. There should be a slight smell of chlorine. If there isn’t, add another round of drops and wait another 30 minutes.  
7. Once you have a slight chlorine smell, you can drink it. If the chlorine taste is too strong, you can oxygenate the water and dissipate the chlorine by pouring it back and forth between containers. This will dissipate some the chlorine back into gas and out of the water.

Following this guide should ensure that you have healthy potable water in the event of a disaster. Water is in abundance on this planet, so don’t panic, or worse, forgo drinking water. One need to only know where to look for it and treat it properly,


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